10 Tech Acronyms You Must Know

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In the tech field, there's a lot of jargon that's totally unfamiliar to those who don't call themselves geeks.

The technology industry loves its acronyms. Terms like HTML, GUI, SSL, HTTP, Wi-Fi, RAM, and LAN have been so common for so long that even the average user understands many of them right away. But with hundreds – possibly even thousands – of IT acronyms being thrown around (not to mention more being added all the time) it can be hard to keep track of them all. Here are the top 10 tech acronyms you should know now.

RFID – Radio Frequency Identification

Call it an "intelligent label," or even a "super bar code." RFID tags are readable codes that can contain more information than Universal Product Code (UPC) labels, or even QR codes. You may have seen these small, typically square tags already. They’re clear plastic with what looks like circuit boards etched onto them, and can be found inside DVD packaging and other products.

RFID tags have the ability to "talk" to a networked system and convey data. They are primarily used to track things – retail merchandise, vehicles, pets, airline passengers and even Alzheimer’s patients. There are passive, semi-passive and active RFID tags. In the not-too-distant future, we may even see talking tags. Even the U.S. government uses RFID tags. In fact, they’re embedded in each and every U.S. passport.

Awareness of RFID technology is essential for anyone working in technology. It’s also related to our next acronym …

NFC – Near Field Communication

If you’ve ever tapped a credit card against a terminal to make a payment, or tapped your smartphone on a shelf label to get product information, you’ve used near field communication (NFC) technology. This contactless form of transferring data uses RFID standards, making the two terms closely related.

NFC-enabled devices can read passive information stored in RFID tags. However, this technology is actually a step ahead. Whereas RFID can only store information, NFC can both send and receive it. So, two smartphones equipped with NFC technology can "talk" to each other, with both devices participating in the "conversation."


The primary use for NFC right now is contactless or mobile payments. In the future, this technology may be used for enterprise access or verification, public services and transit systems, device-to-device collaboration for business and gaming, and more. (Read more about mobile payment in Cache, Text or Direct Bill: The Truth About Mobile Payment Systems.)

SMO – Social Media Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an established strategy for Internet marketers that aims to increase websites’ rankings on search engines. That acronym’s old news though. Now, with social networks invading every aspect of our lives, their influence is heavily impacting search engine results, giving rise to a newer term: social media optimization (SMO).

SMO is not synonymous with SEO, although it’s often considered one aspect of an overall sound SEO strategy. Businesses using SMO are looking to optimize their websites and syndicated content for fast, hopefully viral distribution through social sharing. This increases their perceived authority, which in turn gives them more weight in search engine rankings.

ESN – Enterprise Social Networking

Another term arising from the popularity of social media, enterprise social networking (ESN), is actually separate from "regular" social media. This term refers to internalized social network activity on platforms like Yammer, Jive, or Convo, which is limited to communication between company staff, vendors, partners and customers.

REEF – Retainable Evaluator Execution Framework

Big data is big news, and like everything that’s important in tech, Microsoft has jumped on board. The Retainable Evaluator Execution Framework (REEF) is big data technology from Microsoft that the company has open sourced for developers. REEF runs on top of YARN (a "joke" acronym that stands for Yet Another Resource Negotiator), the next-generation resource manager from Hadoop. (Want to stay on top of big data developments? Check out the Big Data Experts to Follow On Twitter.)

NoSQL – Not only Structured Query Language

A departure from traditional databases, NoSQL is a cloud-friendly, non-relational database that offers high performance, availability and scalability. Designed to handle the messy and unpredictable data that has become normal in today’s digital world, NoSQL isn’t built on tables, and doesn’t use traditional SQL. Instead, it supports BigTables, graph databases, and key-value and document stores. (Get the lowdown on NoSQL in NoSQL 101.)

SDE – Software-Defined Everything

Software-defined everything (SDE) is a catch-all term refers to a broad group of tech functionalities that rely on software, rather than traditional hardware, to perform. Software-defined networking (SDN) was the first component to come into popular use, a technology that allows networks to be controlled from a centralized software dashboard rather than physical hardware. It was followed by software-defined storage (SDS) and software-defined data centers (SDDC).

Software-defined everything (SDE) is the movement toward a broader trend that aims to make computing faster, more widely available and more affordable.

AaaS – Analytics as a Service

The -aaS family of acronyms refers to the on-demand services that have replaced the more traditional one-time, high-investment technologies of the past. This group started with Software as a Service (SaaS), which offers many types of software from newly developed to enterprise-grade staples as a monthly, cloud-hosted service instead of an installation on physical machines.

Analytics as a Service (AaaS) joins SaaS, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Platform as a Service (PaaS) to give businesses a more competitive chance at implementing data insights without having to invest in full-blown analytics platforms – or hire consultants.

IoT – the Internet of Things

Like something straight out of science fiction, the Internet of Things (IoT) allows "things" (people, animals, and objects) to transmit information automatically over a network, without interacting with a computer or another person. A few examples of the IoT include tire pressure sensors in vehicles, biochip transponders implanted in farm animals, and heart monitor implants for humans. Basically, the IoT promotes everyday connectivity between everything.

This data is transmitted using unique IP address identifiers. With increase in address space following IPv6, there are enough identifiers for every atom on the planet, with plenty left to spare.

NBIC – Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology, Cognitive Science

This mouthful of a term, sometimes shortened to Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno (but mostly called NBIC), is the current overall term that refers to the latest emerging and converging technologies. NBIC covers developments that affect biomedical informatics and improve human performance. This convergence has the potential to transform humanity, such as the use of 3-D printing to create working artificial limbs. (Learn more in From Mind to Matter: Is There Anything a 3-D Printer Can’t Do?)

In the tech field, you not only need to understand, well, technology, you also need to know the jargon that’s totally unfamiliar to those who don’t call themselves geeks. Of course, these acronyms may be common language in no time. Many of them already are. So, how many of them did you know?


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Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy

Melissa Rudy is a versatile copywriter with over 12 years of experience creating compelling and polished content for online, print and mobile channels. Her expertise includes content creation for websites, blog posts, press releases, product descriptions, newsletters and more. He has a strong background in e-commerce, retail and social media. From 2003 to 2008, Melissa worked at Frontgate/Cornerstone in web content management roles. In that role, she coordinated online presentations for thousands of products, edited text for the web, managed daily website operations, and oversaw all online content to ensure accuracy and usability. He also created text for websites, emails…