Tech Speak: Internet of Things (or, IoT)

internet of things

You probably thought the ginormous Internet couldn’t get any bigger. And you figured the proliferation of connected devices in your life had reached critical mass? Well, stand back, because we’re just getting started.

Coined in 1999 by British Entrepreneur Kevin Ashton, the term “Internet of Things,” often abbreviated IoT, refers to the trend toward everyday objects—your coffeemaker, your porch light, your purse—being empowered with wi-fi transmitters. Think of it as if they have tiny “brains” of their own, so they can share data (with you, and each other) and receive instruction via the Internet (or an app on your phone). We’re still in the infancy stage of this new ecosystem, but as the tech matures, the world of objects around us will increasingly be divided into “smart”… everything else.

Does this mean you’ll be watching cat videos on your crock pot? Not exactly. But you might just tell Siri to back the car out of the garage (while opening your garage door first, ideally.) And when you drive away, your connected home devices (like a smart thermostat, lighting system, or door lock) will know that you’ve left the area, thanks to the geo-fencing tech in your phone, and react accordingly by turning off unneeded lights, turning off the AC, and locking your doors. Meanwhile, your thermos might tell you it’s time to hydrate (like the Pryme Vessyl pictured above) or that your second macchiato of the morning has pushed you over your caffeine limit, a fact your FitBit helpfully corroborates by taking your pulse.

And it doesn’t stop with consumer goods. The grand vision for IoT encompasses entire smart cities—millions of sensors sharing data with cloud-based systems that can crunch that data and issue instructions for making things go faster, smoother, more efficient, safer, and so on. Imagine if every stoplight in the city could see how traffic was flowing and respond accordingly; think how much that could streamline your morning commute. If the cars on the road could take a cue from the central traffic hub and reroute our paths to avoid slowdowns, even better.

Nearly every kind of technology—and an awful lot of things that you might not even consider “technology,” like running shoes and window panes—is, or soon will be, sharing data across a vast network of objects, all in service of understanding how we live, how our lives work, and how all of it might be optimized.

Terrified, yet? Sound like Big Brother? Well, there are privacy concerns, to be sure. You don’t necessarily want every object in your life collecting data on how you live. But the life-improving potential is pretty epic, too. So many of our problems are due not to a shortage of resources, but of information. As the everyday objects around us get smarter, we can count on the way we live to get a little smarter, too. And, privacy issues to be dealt with aside, that can only be a good thing.

That’s your tech speak lesson for today! Click here if you’d like to learn more tech lingo, like Firmware, Bitcoin, NFC, VoIP or Cookies.

How much of this IoT do you see in your life already? Tell me in the comments section.
Photo courtesy of Pryme Vessyl



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