Internet of Things

What is the Internet of Things?

Internet of Things

All your Internet of Things queries answered in one handy place

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The “Internet of Things” isn’t a weird way to describe the nonsense happening on Reddit or rubbish shared on Twitter and Facebook; instead it’s the latest buzzword of the tech world in 2015.

IoT is a phrase which isn’t going away anytime soon. But just what is the Internet of Things?

Is it a collection of gimmicky gadgets rejected from Tomorrow’s World or Dragon’s Den?

No, no it’s not. Although, who could say no to a web-enabled toaster branding your bread with today’s latest news headline?

To help you understand just what the Internet of Things is, and how it could shape your life in the future, we’ve put together this handy hub.

Internet of Things: Definition

Put simply, the Internet of Things is nothing more than a network of connected devices that communicate via the internet.

Devices are autonomous in their communications, requiring no other machine or human to interact with it for information to be transferred. This means data can be sent back to a manufacturer, updates can be pushed to devices, and information will be continually fed to a user wherever they are in the world.

Internet of Things: Examples

Currently there are almost no devices out there which are fully IoT ready. Instead we have concept products and companies like Nest Labs, creating devices kicking off the connected home environment properly, but which don’t – yet – fully deliver on the Internet of Things vision.

Internet of Things - Nest Carbon Monoxide

Using Nest’s Thermostat or Carbon Monoxide and Fire detector as an example, you can adjust your home’s temperature via your smartphone. This means when you’re out you can make Nest warm your home in time for your arrival, or set it to provide warmth to dry clothes, or just manage your energy usage more accurately.

Nest’s products will also let you know when something’s gone wrong, allowing you to solve the problem sooner, rather than later. Obviously, this is the major selling point of Nest’s Carbon Monoxide detector, allowing you to call the appropriate services or evacuate anyone who’s in the home, even when you’re out and about.

Another example is the idea of a completely connected fridge. It would inform you of what groceries you need to purchase when it detects you’re near a supermarket, perhaps even ordering staples online automatically as soon as you’ve run out.

Internet of Things - Smart Fridge

Belkin has even developed a connected coffee maker, allowing you to start up a brew from the comfort of your bed. Using Wi-Fi and your smartphone, you can kick the coffee maker into action, and then get up when your fresh pot of coffee is ready to go.

The future for Internet of Things devices is huge. Projects like Raspberry Pi and its upcoming support for an IoT version of Windows 10 means the barrier of entry for developers has dropped even lower.

Internet of Things: Companies

The potential for Internet of Things devices is huge, which is why there’s a lot of companies already operating or with plans to operate in the sector.

While there’s an inordinate amount of small startups just pushing one product, there’s huge corporations trying to define what an IoT device really is. Some are working on building the infrastructure and operating systems to underpin it, others just want to make something cool for consumers.

Either way, it’s a bustling space.

IoT - Cisco:

Internet of Things - Cisco Systems Server Rack

Cisco’s work in the realms of IoT is all about providing a stable and scalable network infrastructure. Cisco aims to help businesses bring their IoT devices together, connect their networks to other IoT networks, and remove the worry of having to handle the strain of thousands of devices talking to each other all at once.

It’s dull networking stuff, but it’s the infrastructure that underpins the future of the Internet of Things, and that’s where Cisco is really focusing its efforts.

IoT - IBM:

Internet of Things - IBM

IBM is working hard at cracking the Internet of Things and building stable infrastructure and protocols for a connected workspace.

One major breakthrough for IBM came in 2013 when it announced it had developed hardware capable of supporting 13 million messages per second, clearly improving the speed of communication between devices exponentially.

Other work IBM has undertaken in the IoT sector has revolved around improving efficiency and providing solutions, rather than developing hardware.

IoT - Oracle:

Internet of Things - Oracle

Oracle is the second largest software maker in the world, so it’s clear they’re heavily investing in Internet of Things solutions.

Oracle has created an IoT platform designed to offer real-time response for device endpoints, offer end-to-end security and help with integration into IT systems. Like all of Oracle’s products, it’s built for businesses, and it’s clear Oracle wants to underpin IoT device management for anyone developing connected products.

IoT - Nest Labs:

Internet of Things - Nest Thermostat

Producing sensor-driven, Wi-Fi enabled, self-learning thermostats and smoke detectors, Nest Labs is pushing the IoT sector forward through home automation.

Founded by former Apple engineers, and bought by Google in 2014, Nest is growing more and has even taken the Google Glass project under its wing.

IoT - Microsoft:

Internet of Things - Windows 10 Microsoft

It’s clear Microsoft wants a slice of the lucrative IoT pie, but we’ve not heard many devices or announcements around how it envisions doing this.

However, we know from the announcement of Raspberry Pi 2, Microsoft is going to release a version of Windows designed specifically for Internet of Things devices.

IoT - Intel:

Internet of Things - Intel

Intel jumped into the Internet of Things space headfirst in 2013 when it opened up an entire business division devoted to it.

The “Internet of Things Solutions Group” is there to follow what’s happening in the sector and help Intel understand what it can do to drive business forward there.

Ultimately, its Quark chips deliver performance in a small-factor and using little power. It’s already deployed in some smartphones and tablets, but it’s really designed for use in IoT devices.

IoT - ARM:

Internet of Things - ARM

Chip designer ARM’s only investment in the Internet of Things has come through developing new microprocessors.

These energy efficient processors are intended to be used in a whole manner of devices without requiring a huge amount of power. This means items can run on batteries for days, or draw little power while they hum away sending and receiving information.

Essentially, ARM sees the future of IoT needing chips, and they want to be the company supplying them.

IoT - Huawei:

Internet of Things - Huawei

While this Chinese manufacturer is mostly known for building affordable tablets and phones, it jumped into the IoT space by acquiring Neul.

Neul is a Cambridge-based startup specialising in sensors for industrial applications. Huawei’s £15.3 million acquisition hasn’t materialised into anything specifically IoT just yet, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Neul’s sensors are in many of its products already.