The Internet of Things (IoT, also Cloud of Things or CoT) refers to the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing like devices within the existing Internet infrastructure. Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communications (M2M) and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a Smart Grid.
Things, in the IoT, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, automobiles with built-in sensors, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue. Current market examples include smart thermostats such as the nest and washer/dryers that utilize WiFi for remote monitoring.
Due to the ubiquitous nature of connected objects in the IoT, an unprecedented number of devices are expected to be connected to the Internet. According to Gartner, there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. ABI Research estimates that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things (Internet of Everything) by 2020. It is, as such, clear that the IoT will consist of a very large number of devices being connected to the Internet.
Integration with the Internet implies that devices will utilize an IP address as a unique identifier. However, due to the limited address space of IPv4 (which allows for 4.3 billion unique addresses), objects in the IoT will have to use IPv6 to accommodate the extremely large address space required. Consequently the global adoption of IPv6 in the coming years will be critical for the successful development of the IoT in the future.
The embedded computing nature of many IoT devices means that low-cost computing platforms are likely to be used. In fact, to minimize the impact of such devices on the environment and energy consumption, low-power radios are likely to be used for connection to the Internet. Such low-power radios do not use WiFi, or well established Cellular Network technologies, and remain an actively developing research area. Besides the plethora of new application areas for Internet connected automation to expand into, IoT is also expected to generate large amounts of data from diverse locations that is aggregated and very high-velocity, thereby increasing the need to better index, store and process such data.
Diverse applications call for different deployment scenarios and requirement, which have usually been handled in a proprietary implementation. However, since the IoT is connected to the Internet, most of the devices comprising IoT services will need to operate utilizing standardized technologies. Prominent standardization bodies, such as the IETF, IPSO Alliance and ETSI, are working on developing protocols, systems, architectures and frameworks to enable the Iot.
Although the concept wasn't named until 1999, the Internet of Things has been in development for decades. The first Internet appliance, for example, was a Coke machine at Carnegie Melon University in the early 1980s. Kevin Ashton, cofounder and executive director of the Auto-ID Center at MIT, first mentioned the Internet of Things in a presentation he made to Procter & Gamble.
The widespread adoption of the Internet of Things will take time, but the time line is advancing thanks to improvements in underlying technologies. Advances in wireless networking technology and the greater standardization of communications protocols make it possible to collect data from these sensors almost anywhere at any time. Ever-smaller silicon chips for this purpose are gaining new capabilities, while costs, following the pattern of Moore’s Law, are falling. Massive increases in storage and computing power, some of it available via cloud computing, make number crunching possible at very large scale and at declining cost.