What in the World is The Internet of Things?

In the past year or two, you may have noticed the phrase the ‘internet of things’ being used in news reports or articles. When I first heard that terminology, I wasn’t quite certain what it meant. Now that the Internet of Things (IoT) is a reality, I’d like to help you understand it and take a glimpse into what it will mean for us in the future.

When I was studying computer science in the late seventies, Professor LeBlanc told us about something that sounded incredible at the time. It was a network of government and academic computers, separated by many miles, that could communicate and exchange information with each other. It was called the ARPANET, and he said that one day we would all be able to share information through computers instantaneously.

It would be ten years before I heard the new word ‘internet,’ and I never could have imagined in 1979 how it would impact life in the 21st century.

The evolution of the internet has depended on technological advances in both hardware and software to create ever smaller, faster and smarter devices. You’ve seen this change too, whether it’s with your computer, your smartphone or the telecom company that provides your connection to the World Wide Web.

The theory behind the IoT is that we can do more than just connect computers and smartphones for sharing information. Now that the hardware is small enough and wireless networking is fast enough, we can connect, control and communicate with all kinds of systems and objects in our homes, offices and even cities.

According to Wikipedia, the Internet of Things (IoT) can be classified into five categories: smart wearable, smart home, smart city, smart environment, and smart enterprise. More than just providing  improved efficiencies in each of these categories, the IoT captures information that can alert us to problems so that we make more timely and smarter decisions.

For most of us, the prospect of a smart home is exciting and promises the biggest impact to our daily lives. You can already remotely monitor and control your security system, appliances, heating and air conditioning, door locks, irrigation, smoke detectors, DVR’s, music, garage doors, lights and water heaters! Other than cost, the slow migration to fully smart homes is because each manufacturer’s system has its own app or website for controlling their own devices. It’s bad enough having three remotes for my TV system, but using fifteen or twenty different apps to control my smart home is ridiculous!

Which is why the Internet of Things in your home is not yet an attractive option for most people – but it’s coming soon. One day, there will be a single app to remotely view or control all of your smart home systems. And even better, when you are in your house, you will be able to conversationally “talk” to your house and give commands like, “I’m cold. Turn up the heat by two degrees.”, or “Lock the front door.”, or “Turn on the oven to 350 degrees.”

When that day comes, I’m hoping that all of my kitchen is smart and I can say, “Chop those vegetables and make dinner!”