What Is the Internet of Things?

Easton Smith
May 23, 2023
bullet4 min read

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All of our household appliances, gadgets, and tools that connect to the internet are part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Being part of a connected network can make devices smarter, more efficient, and can lead to new innovations.

There is a wide range of “things” in the IoT, from dishwashers to Playstations to cars. In this article we’ll talk more about the definition of the Internet of Things, the devices that use it, and how it will change going into the future.

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Internet of things definition

Now that we have smartphones and smart homes, the idea of an Internet of Things may seem obvious. But it wasn’t always that way.

Back in the 1980s there were a few people trying to remotely monitor vending machines, toasters, and other devices. But it wasn’t until 1999 that a computer scientist named Kevin Ashton coined the term “Internet of Things.” By the mid-2000s cell phone and internet technology had advanced enough to make the IoT really blow up.

Companies like LG began to offer smart refrigerators that could be controlled from afar. At the same time, businesses and governments were developing remote monitoring technology for security purposes. By the mid 2010s, smart thermostats and smart speakers were becoming common household items.

These days, almost every electronic device, from TVs to bicycles, is online. This means that the lines are really blurring between the Internet of Things and the “real world” itself. In a way, the true IoT meaning is constantly shifting as we connect more and more of our world to online networks.

What are examples of the Internet of Things?

We can’t list all of the devices that are part of the IoT. There are just too many. But here are a few of the most common examples (and a few weird examples just for fun).

Internet of things devices:

Yes, you saw that right: a company made a pair of flip flops that are connected to the internet (no, they aren’t actually useful).

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Why is the Internet of Things important?

The Internet of Things has so many functions that its importance to you will probably depend on where you live and what you do for a living.

The IoT is an integral element to many people’s jobs (I write this as someone who is able to work from home because of a series of connected devices). Uber drivers need to have GPS, Twitch streamers need online gaming systems, professional athletes use smart watches and other devices to monitor their performance. The list goes on and on.

But the Internet of Things uses go beyond that. The COVID-19 pandemic really drove home the utility of having an Internet of Things. Millions of students moved to online learning nearly overnight. That was only made possible by a huge network of connected devices.

Remote monitoring

The Internet of Things has impacted the medical industry perhaps more than any other. In medical settings having a connected heart monitor or fall detector can save lives. There are new advances in remote monitoring that are coming out every year, making it easier to age and home and handle minor illnesses without leaving the house.

“Industrial” Internet of Things

The “Industrial Internet of Things” (sometimes called the IIoT) refers to a set of technologies and devices that manufacturers can use to optimize their productions using remote sensors, machine learning, and real-time analytics.

The IIoT makes certain just-in-time manufacturing processes possible and can make supply lines more flexible.

Privacy, security, data concerns for the Internet of Things

One of the biggest issues that has arisen with the IoT is that of privacy. With all of our devices connected to the internet, what’s to stop companies and unwanted third parties from spying on us or stealing our information? Honestly, not much.

There have been some high profile cases of people’s devices capturing and sharing unwanted data, like the Roomba vacuum that somehow took a picture of a woman in the bathroom that ended up on Facebook.

Even less extreme invasions of privacy can be worrisome and for a long time there have not been adequate controls. This has started to change. Apple recently introduced options on the iPhone that allow you to limit the amount of data that is collected by apps, for instance.

One of the best ways to protect yourself as you introduce IoT devices into your life is to read the product reviews and descriptions carefully. Consider how IoT and the cloud interact (are your photos being automatically uploaded to a shared folder, for instance?). When you’re setting up your device, be sure to set up your privacy settings (rather than just assuming their preset).

The future of the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is big and getting bigger every day.

According to Finances Online, there are over 13 billion IoT connected devices in the world in 2023 and there could be as many as 25 billion in 2030.

This huge network brings in a lot of cash for companies. According to Statista, IoT devices are expected to bring in an annual revenue of more than $293 billion in 2023. That number may go up to over $621 billion by 2030.

But the future of the Internet of Things isn’t just financial. There are sure to be other developments in the way that technology works and the ways that it impacts our lives. This is especially true as more devices incorporate AI and machine learning tools, like ChatGPT.


Hopefully we’ve answered the question, what is the Internet of Things? But if you have other lingering questions that we didn’t address, look for the answers in this FAQ section. 

IoT stands for the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is a term that refers to all of the household appliances and devices that are connected to the internet.

The Internet of Things has impacted every facet of the economy.

IoT devices like web cameras have enabled people to work and go to school from home. GPS and other monitoring devices help truck drivers and Uber drivers find where they’re going. Medical devices can benefit greatly from online monitoring and controls.

On the manufacturing side, the Internet of Things allows companies to monitor their production and demand in real time, and make adjustments accordingly. Those are just a few of the many ways that the IoT impacts modern business practices.

Most IoT devices are very secure, especially ones that are purchased from reputable companies. However, there are always security concerns when your products are connected to a network or the cloud.

You can increase your security with IoT devices by paying close attention to your privacy settings and by reading user reviews.

Easton Smith
Written by
Easton Smith
Easton has worked as a freelance writer and researcher for several years, reviewing health, lifestyle, and technology products. He has probably read more Terms of Use contracts than any human alive. When he’s not sitting in front of a computer, Easton spends his time camping, climbing, and volunteering with humanitarian aid organizations.

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