What is the Internet of Things?

Posted in Digital Data, laptop, Tech news  by Carol
November 2nd, 2015

internet of things

“The Internet of Things” (IoT) joined the rank of tech buzz phrases when Kevin Ashton (cofounder of MIT’s Auto ID Center) first mentioned it in a presentation he made to Procter & Gamble in 1999. One decade later, the forward-thinker continues to elaborate on the concept in an article he wrote for the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Journal:

“Today’s computers- and, therefore, the internet- are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the roughly 50 petabytes of data available on the Internet were first captured and created by human beings- by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture of scanning a bar code. Conventional diagrams of the Internet include servers and routers and so on, but they leave out the most numerous and important routers of all: people. The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy- all of which mean they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world.”

“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things- using data they gathered without any help from us- we could be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost,” he continued. “We need to empower computers with their own means of gathering information, so they can see, hear and smell the world for themselves, in all its random glory. RFID and sensor technology enable computers to observe, identify, and understand the world- without the limitations of human-entered data.”

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Let’s back up for a second. For the record, a “thing” in the Internet of Things, can be a person, an animal, a vehicle, or anything else man-made or otherwise that has been assigned an IP address (a unique string of numbers separated by periods that identifies each computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate over a network) and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network.

For example, take the latest health-craze product known as the Fitbit. The Fitbit is, among other things, a pedometer that tracks the amount of steps taken by the wearer in a day. That information is then immediately sent to the user’s Fitbit account, so the user can track the changes of his or her daily movement. The Fitbit therefore occupies a space in the Internet of Things as it constantly transfers data, over a network, to be accessed by other devices.

Ashton believes that products like the Fitbit scrape only the tip of the Internet of Things iceberg: “It’s not just a ‘bar code on steroids’ or a way to speed up toll roads, and we must never allow our vision to shrink to that scale. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so.”

That said, the Internet of Things has already come a long way from its humble beginnings; the first ever internet appliance was a lowly Coke machine at Carnegie Melon University. Its programmers manufactured it in the 1980’s with the intention of always knowing if it was stocked before they got up from their desks.

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