Here’s a fun question: What is IoT? If you haven’t seen the acronym before, IoT is common shorthand for the Internet of Things. Incredibly, it is still difficult to answer the question of “what is IoT,” even today! It seems people are often caught up in the ‘internet’ part of IoT.
Now, if you were to ask a random group of people on the street to describe the internet in the broadest way they could, you would likely hear them describe it as the thing they use to check their e-mail, go on social media, watch videos, check the news, etc. While they are certainly correct with an answer like that, they would also be correct if they gave an answer that the internet could be used to report water quality in the reservoir to the town, the radiation level recorded at the nuclear power plant, or what’s controlling the stoplights. That is where we start with responding to the question, what is IoT?
What is IoT? – Interconnectivity
To answer the question, “what is IoT” in a sentence: it’s the collection of devices that have an on/off connection to the internet, including but (and this is the important bit) especially not limited to, our laptops and smartphones. How many devices have this connection? Well, according to analyst firm Gartner, by the year 2020, there will be over 26 billion devices with internet connectivity. If you are the type of person who enjoys math, you might have taken that number of devices and divided it by the world population (about 7 billion) and got an average of about 4 internet connected devices per person.
That’s seems like a pretty large number of devices connected to the internet, right? I mean, as far as “what is IoT,” it seems like a surprisingly large web of interconnected devices. In reality however, if you stop and think about it, those numbers seem a little conservative for the Internet of Things.
Think about how many devices you alone might own which connect to the internet. Smartphone, your laptop/desktop, a gaming console, perhaps even a smart watch. 20 or so years ago, some of these things either didn’t exist or existed purely without internet connectivity. The internet has gone from it’s infancy and obscurity to widespread use in the historical blink of an eye. In this phase of the information age, put succinctly by Jacob Morgan at Forbes, “anything that can be connected, will be connected.” citation
Where is the Internet of Things Headed?
You might have a few questions at this point – Questions like: exactly how far is this technology going to expand? Does it have any limits? Some luddites might be reading this and shaking their heads, doubting the further penetration of the internet into our lives. To that ideology, I present the wifi enabled crock pot, the Bluetooth and camera equipped pepper spray, or maybe the onesie that records your babies breathing rate and sleeping position and reports it to your phone.
This is not an exhaustive list of things that are available right now, of course, but it is one heck of a start. So, clearly, I think it goes without saying that the internet is quickly encroaching on every aspect of human life. If you are one of those individuals who happens to be worried about the rise of the terminators, here is my advice: the underground bunker should have been built yesterday.
In all seriousness, though, this is an absolutely fantastic time to be a human being. Thanks to this technology, we are living longer, we are generally much healthier, and more than ever, we are better connected to our fellow man (or woman!) – the list of benefits is quite extensive. The internet has simplified the way we do so many different things that it’s expansion into previously uncharted territory is a natural and quite predictable outcome.
What is IoT in terms of Authentication?
Lastly, I would like to touch upon one thing that we in this industry love- authentication. I certainly cannot stress enough that having a good password is incredibly important.
In the not so distant future, passwords will quickly become a thing of the past. Thanks to those of us asking questions like “what is IoT” and “what can it do for us,” authentication is experiencing a necessary revolution as well. Slowly but surely, the password is looking to be on the way out. One of the more prominent and potentially useful authentication methods on the rise is the use of biometrics and biometric authentication (which I will discuss at more at length in another blog article).
Biometric authentication takes something that is physically unique to us (like our fingerprints or our retinas), and uses that as our verification for authentication. In terms of keeping our data secure, it really can’t get any better than that, and the Internet of Things, and all related studies, are making consumer biometrics more and more accessible as time marches on.
In closing, the Internet of Things is playing a major role in activities that go beyond just checking our e-mail or browsing the web. Our world is becoming, quite frankly, much smaller and more heavily reliant on the internet to control nearly everything that we take for granted – from the stoplights on the road, to the quality of the water that we drink.
So, what is IoT? It is the gateway to innovation, utility, and a better quality of life for all. Here’s to the future.
Think you have a better answer to the question, “What is IoT?” Let me know in the comments below!