What is the Internet of Things

From the Internet of people to the Internet of Things

The advent of the Internet changed the whole concept of communication and interactions amongst people. Also, the creation of the World Wide Web brought about the idea of a global village wherein everybody can relate to one another no matter where they find themselves via the Internet. In this era, it has become very simple and easy to communicate with anybody you want. This was not the case in the past. Before the Internet, the only way you could communicate or maintain contact with someone anywhere in the world was through letters and phones; not the mobile phone we have now by the way. Many people who used these means of communication can attest to the fact that it was not easy or convenient.

Sending a letter took many days or weeks to get to the target location, if at all it finally arrived. If you had an urgent situation or current news to share, by the time it gets to the recipient, the need for the correspondence would have become unnecessary and obsolete. The other alternative that people had to communicate was through the telephone. Let’s not forget that phones were not the mobile types we have now. Then, what people used were of different types, usually scarce and available in a few homes. Still, if you got access to one and needed to call someone, the issue of time zone differences became an impediment (Remsberg, 2010).

Therefore, to say that the Internet has brought people together in many ways is not an overstatement. From inception, the Internet has been a platform where people connect with people regularly. From the way everything worked, one could safely say that what we had was the Internet of People. The entire sources available over the web were used to enable many people all over the world to connect and remain connected. Firstly, Internet e-mail, faster and simpler to use once you created an address, replaced the use of regular mails. Secondly, online chat rooms became the next best thing that could happen to a people. If you log in into the chat room, you could talk to someone that resides thousands of miles away from your location (Remsberg, 2010). Also, people made new friends across countries and cultures via Internet chat rooms.

Apart from the chat rooms, platforms such as MySpace and Facebook have also become other tools which the Internet is using to connect billions of people all over the world. These days, you don’t only send emails or chat, but you can view people’s recent photographs, send instant messages and receive a prompt reply. Also, people of different cultures, age groups, backgrounds, etc. are regularly interacting and helping one another through the Internet.

Furthermore, some programs such as video conferences and Skype now permit people to use a webcam and talk to someone while seeing him or her in real time. So, it’s not just the chats, messages or pictures. Nowadays, you can be talking and seeing the other person half-way across the world through the Internet. Therefore, the Internet has always been about connecting people and enabling them to interact freely with one another not minding the location.

However, in recent times, another aspect of the connections which the Internet has made possible is emerging. When we talk about how the Internet has improved interaction through connections amongst people, the main thing you should wonder about is how did it happen? For there to be a connection, there will be the Internet, and then, the devices through which you can connect to it for a meeting to take place. For you to interact with someone living in another country there has to be something that you will use to connect through the Internet. If everybody on the Internet uses a “thing” to connect, that means there are many things or devices connected to the Internet to enable easy communication.

Therefore the connection of many things/devices on the Internet is what has led to the Internet of Things (IoT). In recent times, the focus is now shifting from how the Internet connects people all over the world to how it is connecting devices/things all over the world. What used to be the Internet of People is gradually moving towards IoT as engineers and programmers struggle to achieve a world where billions of things on the Internet can interact and pass information amongst one another.

What is the Internet of Things?

IoT is one of the most discussed topics today amongst people in different industries, especially in the IT world. The reason for the increasing interest is that the concept is expected to change the way we work and our ways of lives (Morgan, n.d.). If we begin to delve deeply into this area, the confusion may be too hard to clear. Therefore, let’s stick to the simplest explanation about the Internet of Things so that we can understand it faster.

The Internet of Things is a technology that centers on connecting many devices such as washing machines, lamps, cellphones, wearable devices, coffee makers to the Internet and one another as far as such a device has an on & off switch. The point here is that anything you use that has a control switch can be interconnected to other devices all over the world through the Internet.

From what Gartner, an analyst firm said, by 2020, the IoT will have more than 26 billion devices inside it. From this projection, we can see that the Internet of Things is one large network of things and people that are connected to one another(Morgan, n.d.). When this estimate is achieved, the Internet will be a platform that facilitates relationships between people to people, things to things and people to things.

Someone may ask, how does this affect me or how is IoT going to impact my lifestyle or work life? Let’s use this scenario to explain what will happen in the future. If every device around is connected and can communicate easily without human interference, great changes are likely to occur in our existence unlike the situation now. Imagine that your car can access your digital calendar and knows where you are going and can choose to drive through the best route available to get to your destination.

What if your car can communicate with the people in the office when you are running late and notify them that you are stuck in heavy traffic? How will that look like? Another scenario is that all the devices in your smart home can talk to one another, and your alarm clock will wake you up, notify the coffee maker to brew coffee while you take your bath. In the office, the equipment can automatically reorder more supplies or your wearable device can keep a record of how you performed in a full day and share the information with other things you use to work (Morgan, n.d.). These are what could happen when devices/things can interact without human intervention.

The simple truth about IoT is that it can create many connections and opportunities, but it could also pose many challenges. Yes! If everything we use at home and in the office or even our cars can communicate and work effectively, life will be easy and automated. However, security will be the biggest challenge because if there is a free flow of information, no one will be safe. What if someone can hack into a device in your home and from there gain access to important information not meant for public consumption?

Therefore, even though there is increased pressure on how to achieve the Internet of Things, the concerns for security is also very present in the minds of everyone. One thing to bear in mind is that the connection of devices in their billions will have both negative and positive impacts on individuals and companies. The good news is that since the concerns on security of information have been raised, measures are being established to mitigate the threats while implementing IoT. One thing we all need to do is to try hard to understand the Internet of Things and how it may affect our work and lives (Morgan, n.d.).

What are the Things on the Internet?

Given the endless discussions and speculations about IoT, it is not wrong to wonder or ask what the Things on the Internet of Things mean or see their examples. From the definition and explanation so far, it is clear that IoT is a concept that describes the connection of devices all over the world. Therefore someone can expect to hear that the Things on IoT mean the interconnected devices, but does it end there? The answer is no! There is more to describe the “Things’ than simply mentioning the devices. So, what is the right answer?

A Thing in the IoT is that physical object or entity with an embedded system, unique identity, capable of transferring data to other things over the Internet (Tech Target, 2019) Another way of describing Things in IoT is that they are those devices that can send information to other devices and also receive information from them. They can be seen as a micro-processor-based device or a micro-controller.

From the explanations above, it is evident that simple objects such as microwave, chairs, bulbs, T.V, Fan, Fridge, Sprinkler, etc. do not qualify as Things because there are no embedded systems in most of them. Also, some of them which have embedded systems may lack the capability of transmitting and receiving information through the Internet. Therefore, for a device to qualify as a Thing in IoT, it must have some features such as:

  1. Ability to identify and store information (MAC address, RFID tags)
  2. Information collection capabilities ( store sensor values, sensor networks)
  3. Ability to process information ( understand commands, filter data)
  4. Communication capabilities ( transmit info and receive messages)
  5. Actuation ( Switch control, motor control)

Now if this is the case, it means that our everyday objects can be transformed into Things by adding an embedded device that will provide the above features. Apart from items such as windows, chairs, bulbs, many others exist with embedded systems that qualify them as Things such as smart thermostats, smart TVs, smartphones (Inventrom, 2014).

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