The Internet of Things refers to the growing network of non-computing devices that are engineered to be able to connect and exchange data over the internet. IoT expands the concept of internet connectivity beyond standard devices like laptops, smart phones, and desktops and tablets, to include a vast and growing inventory of everyday objects like cars, home appliances, wearables, security devices, and healthcare monitors. The concept has been talked about since 1982 when a modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University became the first appliance connected to the internet and was able to report on its own inventory and the temperature of its beverages. It is said that IoT was officially born around 2008 when it was determined that more objects than people were connected to the internet.
With this interconnection and ability to exchange data comes more direct integration of the physical and virtual world, and the result has been significant efficiency improvements and economic benefits. IoT applications are now found in consumer, commercial, industrial and infrastructure environments.
Consumer applications include smart home technologies that can adjust lighting, temperature, media and security systems. Wearable devices that monitor fitness, gauge alertness, and track health issues are popular IoT applications. Commercial applications are helping create buildings that reduce energy consumption and monitor the behaviors of the occupants. Industrial applications are widespread in manufacturing devices that support the rapid manufacturing of new products, dynamic response to product demands, and real-time optimization of manufacturing production and supply chain networks. Infrastructure applications monitor things like bridges, wind farms, and railway tracks for changes in structural integrity that can affect safety, and can help schedule repairs and maintenance.
The potential privacy issues related to IoT have led to governmental regulations in many countries that focus on protecting personal data, and ensuring that IoT providers will collect, store and process data securely and give users a choice about the data they will share with IoT companies.