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The Future is Now – What is the Internet of Things?

The Future is Now - What is the Internet of Things?
 
You are no doubt familiar with the Internet, that wondrous and now decades old invention that makes everything from booking a hotel room to catching up with old friends easier than ever. But are you as familiar with the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), a set of interrelated technologies that are moving the world of technology to a whole new level?
 
Even if you have heard the term Internet of Things, you may be wondering just what it means and how it will impact your life in the years to come. Just as the original Internet was actually a collection of interconnected networks operating around the world, the Internet of Things is not a single technology but a collection of different devices all working together to create a new and more wired future.
 
The Internet of Things encompasses a wide variety of technologies and devices, from wearable tech like the Apple watch and the Fitbit to the newest refrigerators and washing machines. Whether it is a bracelet that can monitor your heart rate and blood pressure in real time and send the results to your doctor or a fridge that can tell you when you're out of milk, these devices and appliances are all part of the IoT.
 
At the heart of the IoT revolution is the widespread, and in many parts of the country almost universal, availability of broadband Internet access. Without broadband access, the Internet of Things would be all but impossible - it is high speed communication that allows these separate but related technologies to talk to one another.
 
The availability of high-speed broadband communication allows a growing number of devices, from the aforementioned washing machines and refrigerators to microwave ovens, television sets and programmable thermostats, to communicate with their owners and with each other.
 
Even devices you might not realize now come equipped with an Internet connection. When you plug in your new DVR or security camera, the device instantly starts looking for the Internet. Once it connects to your wireless network, you can see real-time pictures of your home, record your favorite shows and do a host of other things right from the comfort of your couch.
 
Of course the internet of Things is not just confined to consumer goods and frivolous uses. You might find it useful to tape the latest episode of The Bachelor from the office, but it will not exactly change the world. What could change the world is the fact that the IoT also includes a host of business tech, from jet engine components that can monitor their own health and call in a technician to monitors that read road markings and automatically apply the brakes when they detect a pedestrian in the crosswalk.
 
The traditional Internet may be entering middle age, but the Internet of Things is just getting started. A recent analysis from the Gartner Group predicts that some 26 billion1 devices will be connected to the web by the year 2020. Some industry experts put the number of connected devices even higher, with some predicting as many as 100 IoT-connected devices by the start of the next decade. No matter which prediction turns out to be most accurate, one thing is certain - the Internet of Things is here to stay, and it is just getting started.
 
 
 
 
1 informationweek.com/mobile/mobile-devices/gartner-21-billion-iot-devices-to-invade-by-2020/d/d-id/1323081
 
 

Photo credit: kev-shine via Foter.com / CC BY

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