Internet of Things vs Things on the Internet: what is the Internet of Things? - IoT explained - Examples of Internet of Things

We explain what is the internet of things. PLUS: examples of IoT vs things that are just on the internet. A guide to what 'internet of things' really means, in plain English. (See also: examples of IoT in the enterprise.)

What is the internet of things? IoT explained in plain English

What is the internet of things? IoT explained in plain English

The internet of things, most commonly referred to as the IoT, is 2016's buzzword of choice. IoT refers to an environment in which physical objects can communicate over the web. In which static devices, white goods, people and animals can send out and receive data over the web. Wherein each IoT device or object has a unique identifier, and can communicate- and be communicated to without human intervention.

Bascically, in the internet of things, objects use the web and unique identifiers such as RFID tags or processors in order to exist as part of the internet. But like 'cloud computing' some years ago, the term 'Internet of Things' has been misappropriated.

What the internet of things is not

What the internet of things is not

Just anything that connects to the web. That tablet you have embedded into the back of the car seat? Not IoT. The display on the front of your fridge? Not IoT unless it allows you to control the temperature and contents of your fridge via an app.

Just sticking something with a web connection on to a person, animal or object doesn't make it IoT. It requires that 'thing' to be uniquely identified on the internet, and to be able to transfer data in and out without requiring human interaction.

Unless it is a uniquely identified device that can act independently of humans, it is just a thing connected to the internet.

Examples of IoT in regular life: Home heating automation

Examples of IoT in regular life: Home heating automation

Home heating automation is internet of things, but only where it can learn and react to your behaviour. So the zoned Heat Genius that learns when to heat from your room occupancy *is* IoT, but some of the other 'smart' thermostats that you can control from your phone are not.

Examples of IoT in regular life: Personal shopping

Examples of IoT in regular life: Personal shopping

The Amazon Dash button is IoT, almost. In essence a button placed around the home connected to Wi-Fi. Pressing the Amazon Dash button will reorder items you need replacing and send the order confirmation to your phone. But the true IoT product will happen only when that button anticipates your needs and stocks your fridge according to its contents, your eating habits, and your recent occupancy.

Examples of IoT in medicine and health: The all-seeing eye

Examples of IoT in medicine and health: The all-seeing eye

Google has launched a partnership with Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical company to create a smart contact lens for people with diabetes. It isn't there yet, but the idea is that an individual lens would be able to track the wearer's levels of diabetes, and automatically consult with a health professional to provide care.

Examples of IoT in medicine and health: Sleep tracking

Examples of IoT in medicine and health: Sleep tracking

The Microsoft Band is close to making the wearer an IoT device, but principally in its sleep tracking. Right now it takes into consideration your heart rate and movement, as well as your target level of sleep, in order to wake you at the optimal moment. So far so thing on the internet. It will be truly IoT when it is able to take into consideration all ambient and health considerations, as well as your calender, and ensure that you achieve optimum sleep levels.

Examples of IoT in medicine and health: Getting fit fast

Examples of IoT in medicine and health: Getting fit fast

The vast majority of activity trackers or even GPS smartwatches like the Band are smart without being IoT. But Fitness First has invested in iBeacon technologies to track who exactly is entering their gyms and to send relevant information to them automatically.

Examples of IoT in the enterprise: Tracking jet engines

Examples of IoT in the enterprise: Tracking jet engines

Rolls Royce invested in jet engine sensors that produce real-time data. They can report back on the condition of the engine and even maintain it remotely. So when a plane goes missing, the first call is not to air sea rescue, but to the Rolls Royce factory. The chances are it has the best, most recent data.

Examples of IoT in the enterprise: The Internet of Cows

Examples of IoT in the enterprise: The Internet of Cows

Working with the National Trust, BT monitored cows' location in order to prevent theft. Do you like milk in your IoT?

Examples of IoT in the enterprise: Trash talking

Examples of IoT in the enterprise: Trash talking

Ever heard of the smart wheelie bin? The William Tracey Group is one of the UK's largest recycling management companies. Its strategy enables chipped wheelie bins, smart weighing arms on collection trucks and on-board computer to collect the data. Thus it can recycle smartly, without human intervention.

Things that aren\'t IoT (despite what you heard): The internet of lightbulbs

Things that aren't IoT (despite what you heard): The internet of lightbulbs

Just because you can control your lights via a phone, doesn't make that lightbulb IoT.

Things that aren\'t IoT (despite what you heard): Smart TVs

Things that aren't IoT (despite what you heard): Smart TVs

Your TV is attached to the internet. But it isn't a uniquely identified device that can act independently of humans. It is not an IoTV.

Things that aren\'t IoT (despite what you heard): In-car tech

Things that aren't IoT (despite what you heard): In-car tech

You may have a fancy in-car entertainment centre. It may even be able to talk to your smartphone. But it is a thing on the internet, not part of the internet of things. (See also: examples of IoT in the enterprise.)

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