What is IoT and IoT devices

If you are searching for what is the internet of things and how its history begins, here your search end. In this article, you can find the history of the internet of things and how technology evolved.

What is IoT ?

Internet of Things (IoT) is an environment of connected physical objects or devices that are accessible through the internet. The ‘thing’ be a device or object in IoT could, for example, a person with a heart monitor or an automobile with built-in-sensors, i.e. objects that have been assigned an IP address and have the ability to collect and transfer data over a network without manual assistance or intervention. The embedded device technology in the objects helps them to interact with internal or the external environment according to the situation, which in turn affects the decisions taken.

IoT Evolution

To fully appreciate the journey that the Internet of Things has gone through, we must track its evolution since as far back as 1964. It was in 1964 that Karl Steinbuch, a German computer scientist, said – *”In a few decades of time, computers will be interwoven into almost every industrial product”*. 1990 was another major year in the history of IoT. In this year, John Romkey created a toaster which could be switched on and off over the Internet (first IoT device) at a popular American tech conference in October ’89. The toaster connected to the Internet and used an information base to turn the power on. In the same year, John Zsarnay and/or Lawrence Butcher at Carnegie Mellon University, hooked up a Coca-Cola dispensing machine to the Internet to identify which columns in the machine had the most chilled coke.

However, it was only in 1999 that Kevin Ashton coined the term “Internet of Things” as the title of a presentation for Procter & Gamble linking RFID tags in P&G’s supply chain to the new concept of the Internet. Kevin Ashton (born 1968) is a British technology pioneer. He co-founded the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which created a global standard system for RFID and other sensors. He is known for inventing the term “The Internet of Things” to describe a system where the Internet is connected to the physical world via ubiquitous sensors. In the same year, Neil Gershenfeld mentioned the concept in his book ‘When Things Start to Think’ and when he founded the Center for Bits and Atoms at the MIT Media Lab in 2001. Speaking on the subject, Professor Gershenfeld said : “in retrospect it looks like the rapid growth of the World Wide Web may have been just the trigger charge that is now setting off the real explosion, as things start to use the Net.” This statement clearly highlighted how even in the early 2000s it was becoming clear that the real power of the World Wide Web and the Internet lay in being able to connect things, and not just people, to each other.

A major landmark which sparked off the recent IoT hype was in 2008-09 as it was the point in time when more “things” than “people” were connected to the Internet. On the Internet, each entity is addressed via an Internet Protocol Address, or IP Address. The scheme of addressing used prior to 2011 was called IPv4, which used 32 bits for addressing. Thus, total number of entities (people or things) that could be connected to the Internet would be 2^32, i.e. 4,294,967,296 (around 4.3 billion). However, it was soon understood that this number would not be sufficient for the explosive growth which was happening in terms of the number of connected entities. Thus, the newer version, IPv6, was launched publicly in 2011 which uses 128 bits. Thus, IPv6 allows for 2^128 entities to be addressed, i.e. 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses. To understand the address space of IPv6 addressing, a statement by Steven Leibson, a technology expert and marketing pro, is helpful. He said “we could assign an IPV6 address to every atom on the surface of the earth, and still have enough addresses left to do another 100+ earths.”

Additionally, John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco Systems Inc spoke of the IoT and claimed: “It will be bigger than anything that’s ever been done in high tech, It will change the way people live, work and play”

IoT is one of the few technologies whose impact will pervade through all industries as well as reach us directly in our homes. Deployment of IoT in sectors like logistics, energy monitoring, military, industrial automation and cellular among many others has already begun. Further, IoT affects all aspects of the technology stack in terms of innovation at the hardware as well as software level.

Hence, it is clear that understanding the IoT and having practical hands-on experience is an indispensable skill any modern day Embedded Systems/Hardware/Software Developer should have in their arsenal. Through the following lessons, this course will grant you just that so that you can easily tackle any future project head-on.


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