Tech moves fast! Stay ahead of the curve with Techopedia!
Join nearly 200,000 subscribers who receive actionable tech insights from Techopedia.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a computing concept that describes the idea of everyday physical objects being connected to the internet and being able to identify themselves to other devices and send and receive data. The term is closely identified with radio frequency identification (RFID) as the method of communication, although it also may include other sensor technologies, wireless technologies or QR codes.
The IoT is significant because an object that can represent itself digitally becomes something greater than the object by itself. No longer does the object relate just to its user, but it is now connected to surrounding objects and database data. When many objects act in unison, they are known as having "ambient intelligence."
The Internet of Things is a difficult concept to define precisely. In fact, nearly any physical object can become a part of the IoT if it’s connected to the internet to communicate, be controlled, or exchange information. Anything from a webcam to a smart appliance that could be controlled with a smartphone app is an IoT device. Even larger objects such as self-driving cars or planes are becoming IoTs, or are at least enhanced by critical IoT components, such as the sensors and actuators mounted on larger ship or jet engines to ensure they are operating efficiently.
There are many different groups that have defined the Internet of Things, although its initial use has been attributed to Kevin Ashton, an expert on digital innovation. Each definition shares the idea that the first version of the internet was about data created by people, while the next version is about data created by things. In 2009, Ashton said it best in this quote from an article in the RFID Journal:
“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things – using data they gathered without any help from us – we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”
Most people think about being connected in terms of computers, tablets and smartphones. IoT describes a world where just about anything can be connected and communicate in an intelligent fashion. The IoT has moved far beyond its original emphasis on machine-to-machine (M2M) applications for manufacturing and business, and is now within everyone's reach. IoTs are growing at a staggeringly fast speed. There were more than 50 billion IoT devices as of 2020, which are expected to generate 4.4 zettabytes of data, compared to just 100 billion gigabytes in 2013. A 28.7 percent compound annual growth rate is expected in that number through 2025.
IoT devices can gather data from urban and public areas to affect the environment, public safety and resource management. Eventually, whole factories and even cities will become smart, interconnected pieces of the larger IoT system through the widespread implementation of regional sensors. In other words, with the Internet of Things, the physical world is becoming one big information system.