Internet of Things

a.k.a. high-tech tagging, IoT

The "Internet of Things" is a term that describes real life objects (things) and their virtual representations on the Internet.

It refers to the use of monitoring technology to track objects, appliances, animals, and even people. Using tags, sensors, and chips paired with wireless technology, businesses and governments are gathering data about the location, status, and other features of objects, ranging from tools needed at a construction site to a patient’s whereabouts in a hospital to cars backed up on a highway. This is the Internet of Things, where wireless networks of objects are being created using RFID, Bluetooth, GPS, and other technologies, working in tandem with cloud computing environments, Web portals, and back end systems that seek out patterns of activity among the connected objects.

The concept of the Internet of Things, coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, became popular through the MIT Auto-ID Laboratory. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is seen as a prerequisite for the Internet of Things. The theory is that if all objects of daily life were equipped with radio tags, they could be identified and inventoried by computers. However, unique identification of things may be achieved through other means such barcodes or 2D-codes as well.

Thanks to ever cheaper electronics, improvements in wireless technologies, and the availability of DIY electronics (like the Arduino, a popular open source microcontroller which allows you to create interactive electronic objects) the Internet of Things has gone mainstream. Advocates say mapping data from ubiquitous sensors to our social graphs will provide valuable information about ourselves and our surroundings. People will find ways to use these streams of information to their advantage, in ways that we can't necessarily anticipate but that will also surely test our boundaries for privacy. Don't be surprised when your fridge joins Facebook!

It is anticipated that big data from scientific instruments, embedded sensors, and the  vast assortment of Internet-connected objects will eventually eclipse information produced by humans. It is also estimated by Business Insider that the Internet of Things will be the largest device market in the world and that by 2019, it will be more than double the size of the smartphone, PC, tablet, connected car, and the wearable tech market combined. 

Historical perspective: After the emergency at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in early 2011, government agencies and individuals set up Geiger counters to measure radiation. Like many sensors today, these Geiger counters post their measurements to the Web, which lets people pool the data and crowdsource the monitoring of radiation levels. Also in 2011, Carnegie Mellon University researchers developed sensors to monitor buildings, roads, and bridges, and a high-tech pedometer made by Fitbit monitors your movements and lets you share your exercise habits with your friends. In  2010,  toy maker Mattel unveiled an electronic tag that sends a tweet whenever a dog moves or barks.

NetLingo Classification: Net Technology