Generally, overly technical answers to that question only produce more confusion and questions. In part to be able to have conversations about what I do for a living with family, friends and strangers, I’ve worked hard to boil the Internet of Things down to the simplest explanation possible that still does justice to the concept. Here’s everything you need to know about the internet of things.
“What Is IoT?”
If you just Google “what is IoT?”, many of the answers are unnecessarily technical. Case in point:
“The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.” —An unnecessarily technical explanation of IoT
If you just read that and thought, “ok…what?”, you’re not alone. Most people neither want nor to need to dive into the nitty-gritty of IoT. So in this post, I’ll provide you with a simple explanation of the Internet of Things and how it may impact you. This can also serve as a resource to share with others who need an introduction to IoT (like friends, family members, or customers).
Before we jump in, note that “The Internet of Things” and “IoT” can and will be used interchangeably. And a quick tip: avoid saying “the IoT.”
The Internet of Things (IoT) Explained: Simply and Non-Technically
How are you reading this post right now? It might be on desktop, on mobile, maybe a tablet, but whatever device you’re using, it’s most definitely connected to the internet.
An internet connection is a wonderful thing, it give us all sorts of benefits that just weren’t possible before. If you’re old enough, think of your cellphone before it was a smartphone. You could call and you could text sure, but now you can read any book, watch any movie, or listen to any song all in the palm of your hand. And that’s just to name a few of the incredible things your smartphone can do.
The point is that connecting things to the internet yields many amazing benefits. We’ve all seen these benefits with our smartphones, laptops, and tablets, but this is true for everything else too. And yes, I do mean everything.
The Internet of Things is actually a pretty simple concept, it means taking all the things in the world and connecting them to the internet.
I think that confusion arises not because the concept is so narrow and tightly defined, but rather because it’s so broad and loosely defined. It can be hard to nail down the concept in your head when there are so many examples and possibilities in IoT.
To help clarify, I think it’s important to understand the benefits of connecting things to the internet. Why would we even want to connect everything to the internet?
Why IoT Matters
When something is connected to the internet, that means that it can send information or receive information, or both. This ability to send and/or receive information makes things smart, and smart is good.
Let’s use smartphones (smartphones) again as an example. Right now you can listen to just about any song in the world, but it’s not because your phone actually has every song in the world stored on it. It’s because every song in the world is stored somewhere else, but your phone can send information (asking for that song) and then receive information (streaming that song on your phone).
To be smart, a thing doesn’t need to have super storage or a super computer inside of it. All a thing has to do is connect to super storage or to a super computer. Being connected is awesome.
In the Internet of Things, all the things that are being connected to the internet can be put into three categories:
Things that collect information and then send it.Things that receive information and then act on it.Things that do both.