Smart locks, smart thermostats, smart cars — you’ve probably heard some of these terms lately, and you’re going to hear them even more as the year goes on. But what are these things exactly — and what makes them so smart? These devices are all part of an emerging category called the Internet of Things, or IoT for short. At its very basic level, IoT refers to the connection of everyday objects to the Internet and to one another, with the goal being to provide users with smarter, more efficient experiences. Some recent examples of IoT products include the Nest Protect smoke detector and August door locks.
But as with any new technology, IoT can be confusing and intimidating for the average consumer, especially as debates swirl around standardization, security and privacy, and company after company piles on to this fast-growing trend. We’ve compiled an FAQ on IoT to better explain how it works, how these products are being used in the real world, and some of the issues and challenges facing the category. There are number of companies and groups working on IoT products and standards, including Apple, SmartThings, the Internet of Things Consortium, AllSeen Alliance, the Open Interconnect Consortium and the Thread Group.
The broad idea behind these buzzwords is that a whole constellation of inanimate objects is being designed with built-in wireless connectivity, so that they can be monitored, controlled and linked over the Internet via a mobile app.” The types of objects span a wide range of categories, from wearables to light bulbs to home appliances (like the coffee maker, washing machine, and even your car) — really, anything. IoT is also being applied to vertical markets like the medical and health-care industry and to transportation systems.
How does IoT work?
First, there’s the underlying technology, the various wireless radios that allow these devices to connect to the Internet and to each other. These include more familiar standards like Wi-Fi, low-energy Bluetooth, NFC and RFID. Then there are the things themselves, whether they’re motion sensors, door locks or light bulbs. In some cases, there may also be a central hub that allows different devices to connect to one another.Finally, there are cloud services, which enable the collection and analysis of data so people can see what’s going on and take action via their mobile apps. While the idea of IoT has been around for years, it’s just beginning to enter the consumer space, and the category has yet to mature. But there are good products out there.