At the end of the 1990s I was working on embedded devices that monitored the wear of wind turbine gears and which could be accessed remotely via a dial-up circuit switched modem connection. This eventually evolved into using the dial-up modem of the device to let it connect to the Internet so it could be accessed more cheaply when deployed on the other side of the world. That was 20 years ago and a prime use case of what is called the “Internet of Things” (IoT) today. But IoT seems to be a rather overused term today as it describes so many other applications, devices and business processes from unidirectional Bluetooth Low Energy beacons to making whole cities and factories become a part of the Internet. So I was looking for a simple statement to better grasp the term IoT and its overarching use.
Surprisingly enough the definition I liked most comes from an ITU spec from back in 2012, ITU-T Y.4000/Y.2060, ‘Overview of the Internet of things’. In there the general definition of IoT is as follows:
“A global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies.”
I very much like this ‘one sentence definition’ because in its core it says its about connecting physical and virtual things with each other and using existing and evolving network technologies to do so. The device I was working on 20 years ago fits as much into this description as the latest Bluetooth low energy sensor device or the smart city.
While ITU specs are often difficult to read I recommend the spec linked above, it contains interesting thoughts that are laid out in understandable language. Even more can be found in the Wikipedia article on the topic.