What is IoT?

  • Internet of Things, or IoT for short, has many definitions and variations when you Google the term on the internet. It is best to go back to the definition by Kevin Ashton, who is credited for coining the term IoT. He states IoT as “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”. So, in essence, IoT is about machines/devices gathering useful data to make useful decisions, without the necessary intervention by humans. Some practical examples of this are:


    • A heat sensor monitoring the bearings of an industrial motor. As the bearing wear out, the heat increases. The sensor feeds back to a central system which automatically orders new bearings and assigns a work task to the engineering maintenance team (this is more specifically termed Industrial IoT, or IIoT)
    • A nitrate sensor on a farm, which monitors the level of nitrates and feeds this information, along with its GPS coordinates, to an automated fertilizer vehicle that can switch itself on, drive to the location in the field and administer the necessary mount of fertilizer
    • A sensor on a domestic electricity meter that feeds the meter reading back to a central server which then generates the necessary invoice, all without requiring somebody to drive to the residence to take down the reading


    So IoT has been around for years. We have been controlling corporate air conditioning systems with sensors and controllers, and adjusting room temperatures automatically since the 1990’s. What has made IoT the buzzword lately is because the number and types of IoT devices connecting together is increasing exponentially. Smart wearables such as smart watches, pet collars and IoT devices for vehicles (for vehicle tracking, automated driving) are connecting to the internet and predictions now are that there will be over 20 billion IoT devices connected to the internet by 2021. Along with this comes the challenges of connectivity and network security.