Internet of Things Definition
What is the meaning of IoT exactly?
The Internet of Things term has been used from marketing buzz all the way to research publications and conference titles. We thought it would be helpful along with a brief Internet of Things history to explore the variety of ways people have been defining the term in the wild.
Looking for background information? Visit our IoT Historical Timeline page here and the terms creation by Kevin Ashton in 1999.
Looking for a graphic overview of the term and its technologies? View our IoT Overview Infographic
Some IoT concepts have also been referred to as:
Physical Internet, Ubiquitous Computing, Ambient Intelligence, Machine to Machine (M2M), Industrial Internet, Web of Things, Connected Environments, Smart Cities, Spimes, Everyware, Pervasive Internet, Connected World, Wireless Sensor Networks, Situated Computing, Future Internet and Physical computing.
"A global network infrastructure, linking physical and virtual objects through the exploitation of data capture and communication capabilities. This infrastructure includes existing and evolving Internet and network developments. It will offer specific object-identification, sensor and connection capability as the basis for the development of independent cooperative services and applications. These will be characterised by a high degree of autonomous data capture, event transfer, network connectivity and interoperability."
- Full Text
Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine Communications (M2M)Challenges and opportunities: Final paper May 2013
By Technology Strategy Board - IoT Special Interest Group
"The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the revolution already under way that is seeing a growing number of internet enabled devices that can network and communicate with each other and with other web-enabled gadgets. IoT refers to a state where Things (e.g. objects, environments, vehicles and clothing) will have more and more information associated with them and may have the ability to sense, communicate, network and produce new information, becoming an integral part of the Internet."
- Full Paper (PDF)
Internet of Things: Strategic Research Roadmap
“Internet of Things (IoT) is an integrated part of Future Internet and could be defined as a dynamic global network infrastructure with self configuring capabilities based on standard and interoperable communication protocols where physical and virtual ‘things’ have identities, physical attributes, and virtual personalities and use intelligent interfaces, and are seamlessly integrated into the information network. In the IoT, ‘things’ are expected to become active participants in business, information and social processes where they are enabled to interact and communicate among themselves and with the environment by exchanging data and information ‘sensed’ about the environment, while reacting autonomously to the ‘real/physical world’ events and influencing it by running processes that trigger actions and create services with or without direct human intervention. Interfaces in the form of services facilitate interactions with these ‘smart things’ over the Internet, query and change their state and any information associated with them, taking into account security and privacy issues."
- Full Text
Internet of Things: An Integral Part of the Future Internet
By Stephen Haller, SAP Research
"A world where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into the information network, and where the physical objects can become active participants in business processes. Services are available to interact with these 'smart objects' over the Internet, query and change their state and any information associated with them, taking into account security and privacy issues."
- Full Text
Internet of Things in 2020 - Roadmap for the future
By INFSO D.4 NETWORKED ENTERPRISE & RFID INFSO G.2 MICRO & NANOSYSTEMS
“Things having identities and virtual personalities operating in smart spaces using intelligent interfaces to connect and communicate within social, environmental, and user contexts”
A different definition, that puts the focus on the seamless integration, could be formulated as: “Interconnected objects having an active role in what might be called the Future Internet”
The semantic origin of the expression is composed by two words and concepts: “Internet” and “Thing”, where “Internet” communication protocol, the Internet suite (TCP/IP)”, while “Thing” is “an object not precisely identifiable” Therefore, semantically, “Internet of Things” means “a world-wide network of interconnected objects uniquely addressable, based on standard communication protocols”
- Full Text
Disruptive Technologies Global Trends 2025
From the National Intelligence Council NIC
“Internet of Things” to refer to the general idea of things, especially everyday objects,that are readable, recognizable, locatable, addressable, and/or controllable via the Internet—whether via RFID, wireless LAN, wide-area network, or other means.Everyday objects includes not only the electronic devices we encounter everyday, and not only the products of higher technological development such as vehicles and equipment,but things that we do not ordinarily think of as electronic at all—such as food, clothing,and shelter; materials, parts, and subassemblies; commodities and luxury items;landmarks, boundaries, and monuments; and all the miscellany of commerce and culture."
- Full Text
Future Internet - FIS 2008: First Future Internet Symposium
Edited by John Domingue, Dieter Fensel, Paolo Traverso
"A world where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into the information network, and where the physical objects can become active participants in business processes. Services are available to interact with these 'smart objects' over the Internet, query their state and any information associated with them, taking into account security and privacy issues."
- Full Text (Paid Book)
Vision and Challenges for Realising the Internet of Things
CERP-IoT Edited by Harald Sundmaeker Patrick Guillemin Peter Friess and Sylvie Woelfflé
The Internet of Things links the objects of the real world with the virtual world, thus enabling anytime, any place connectivity for anything and not only for anyone. It refers to a world where physical objects and beings, as well as virtual data and environments, all interact with each other in the same space and time.
IETF - The Internet of Things - Concept and Problem Statement
Gyu Myoung Lee, Jungsoo Park, Ning Kong, Noel Crespi
"The basic idea is that IoT will connect objects around us (electronic, electrical, non electrical) to provide seamless communication and contextual services provided by them. Development of RFID tags, sensors, actuators, mobile phones make it possible to materialize IoT which interact and co-operate each other to make the service better and accessible anytime, from anywhere."
Future Internet Report
By UK Future Internet Strategy Group
"An evolving convergent Internet of things and services that is available anywhere, anytime as part of an all-pervasive omnipresent socio–economic fabric, made up of converged services, shared data and an advanced wireless and fixed infrastructure linking people and machines to provid eadvanced services to business and citizens."
From the Internet of Computers to the Internet of Things
By Friedemann Mattern and Christian Floerkemeier
"The Internet of Things represents a vision in which the Internet extends into the real world embracing everyday objects. Physical items are no longer disconnected from the virtual world, but can be controlled remotely and can act as physical access points to Internet services."
"The use of the word “Internet” in the catchy term “Internet of Things” which stands for the vision outlined above can be seen as either simply a metaphor – in the same way that people use the Web today........or it can be interpreted in a stricter technical sense, postulating that an IP protocol stack will be used by smart things (or at least by the “proxies”, their representatives on the network)."
Intelligent Products in Autonomous Logistics
By Farideh Ganji, Ernesto Morales Kluge and Bernd Scholz-Reiter
"IoT can be understood as an enabling framework for the interaction between a bundle of heterogeneous objects and also as a convergence of technologies."
By Society for brain integrity in Sweden
"It means that any physical thing can become a computer that is connected to the Internet and to other things. IoT is formed by numerous different connections between PCs, human to human, human to thing and between things. This creates a self-configuring network that is much more complex and dynamic than the conventional Internet. Data about things is collected and processed with very small computers (mostly RFID tags) that are connected to more powerful computers through networks."
AutoID Whitepaper - What is the Internet of Things? An Economic Perspective
by Prof. Dr. Elgar Fleisch
"The basic idea of the IOT is that virtually every physical thing in this world can also become a computer that is connected to the Internet"
"The Internet of Things comprises a digital overlay of information over the physical world. Objects and locations become part of the Internet of Things in two ways. Information may become associated with a specific location using GPS coordinates or a street address. Alternatively, embedding sensors and transmitters into objects enables them to be addressed by Internet protocols, and to sense and react to their environments, as well as communicate with users or with other objects."
"The physical world itself is becoming a type of information system. In what’s called the Internet of Things, sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects—from roadways to pacemakers—are linked through wired and wireless networks, often using the same Internet Protocol (IP) that connects the Internet."
"IoT is simply the point in time when more “things or objects” were connected to the Internet than people. In 2003, there were approximately 6.3 billion people living on the planet and 500 million devices connected to the Internet. By dividing the number of connected devices by the world population, we find that there was less than one (0.08) device for every person. Based on Cisco IBSG’s definition, IoT didn’t yet exist in 2003 because the number of connected things was relatively small given that ubiquitous devices such as smartphones were just being introduced...........................Refining these numbers further, Cisco IBSG estimates IoT was “born” sometime between 2008 and 2009."
The Internet of Things: A survey (Paid article)
By Luigi Atzori, Antonio Iera, Giacomo Morabito
"The basic idea of this concept is the pervasive presence around us of a variety of things or objects – such as Radio-Frequency IDentification (RFID) tags, sensors, actuators, mobile phones, etc. – which, through unique addressing schemes, are able to interact with each other and cooperate with their neighbors to reach common goals"
The Software Fabric for the Internet of Things
By Jan S. Rellermeyer, Michael Duller, Ken Gilmer,Damianos Maragkos, Dimitrios Papageorgiou, and Gustavo Alonso
The notion of an "Internet of Things" refers to the possibility of endowing everyday objects with the ability to identify themselves, communicate with other ob-jects, and possibly compute.
The Internet of Things: In a Connected World of Smart Objects (pdf)
By: Accenture & Bankinter Foundation of Innovation
The Internet of Things (IoT) consists of things that are connected to the Internet, anytime, anywhere. In its most technical sense, it consists of integrating sensors and devices into everyday objects that are connected to the Internet over fixed and wireless networks.
A new concept that develops on advances incommunications and IT by applying them to objects,enabling improved interaction. The IoT comprises anetwork of everyday objects interconnected over theInternet.
"The Internet of Things refers to a virtual representation of a broad variety of objects on the Interent and their integration into Internet or Web based systems and services. Based on interaction and commuication interfaces such as RFID, NFC, barcodes or 2D codes they expose information, features and functionalities which can be integrated into systems and services."
Architecting the Internet of Things
By Uckelmann, Dieter; Harrison, Mark; Michahelles, Florian (Eds.)
"A minimalist approach towards a definition may include nothing more than things, the Internet and a connection in between. Things are any identifiable physical object independent of the technology that is used for identification or providing status information of the objects and its surroundings. Internet in this case refers to everything that goes beyond an extranet, thus requiring access to information for more than a small group of people or businesses."
"the future Internet of Things links uniquely identifiable things to their virtual representations in the Internet containing or linking to additional information on their identity, status,location or any other business, social or privately relevant information at a financial or non-financial pay-off that exceeds the efforts of information provisioning and offers information access to non-predefined participants. The provided accurate and appropriate information may be accessed in the right quantity and condition, at the right time and place at the right price. The Internet of Things is not synonymous with ubiquitous / pervasive computing, the Internet Protocol (IP), communication technology, embedded devices, its applications, the Internet of People or the Intranet / Extranet of Things, yet it combines aspects and technologies of all of these approaches."
- Full Text (paid book)
The Internet of Things: 20th Tyrrhenian Workshop on Digital Communications
By Daniel Giusto, Antonio Iera, Giacomo Morabito, Luigi Atzori (Editors)
"The expression Internet of Things is wider than a single concept or technology. It is rather a new paradigm that involves a wide set of technologies, applications, and visions. Also, complete agreement on the definition is missing as it changes with relation to the point of view. It can focus on the virtual identity of the smart objects and their capabilities to interact intelligently with other objects, humans and environments or on the seamless integration between different kinds of objects and networks toward a service-oriented architecture of the future Internet."
- Full Text (paid book)
Internet of Things: Legal Perspectives
By Rolf H. Weber, Romana Weber
"A world where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into the information network, and where the physical objects can become active participants in business processes. Services are available to interact with these 'smart objects' over the Internet, query their state and any information associated with them, taking into account security and privacy issues"
- Full Text (paid book)
Internet of Things - Global Technological and Societal Trends From Smart Environments and Spaces to Green ICT
By Ovidiu Vermesan, Peter Friess (Editors)
"The Internet of Things could be conceptually defined as a dynamic global network infastructure with self configuring capabilities based on standard and interoperable communication protocols where physical and virtual "thing" have identities, physical attributes, and virtual personalities, use intelligent interfaces, and are seamlessly integrated into the information network."
- Full Text (paid book)
Getting Started with the Internet of Things
By Cuno Pfister
The Internet of Things is a global network of computers, sensors, and actuators connected through Internet protocols. (p. 29)
The Web of Things consists of RESTful web services that measure or manipulate physical properties. (p. 34)
From the book description:
What is the Internet of Things? It's billions of embedded computers, sensors, and actuators all connected online.
IoT Interview Series
See what people like Rob van Kranenburg, Christine Outram and Dominique Guinard have to say about the term Internet of Things in the 5 question format. - Interviews
Innovate 11 Presentation - Internet Of Things Panel
Nick Wainwright (HP Labs and Chair of the UK Future Internet Strategy Group)
Services + Data + Networks + Sensors = Internet of Things
E-Flux: Internet of Things
By Keller Easterling
"An “internet of things” describes a world embedded with so many digital devices that the space between them consists not of dark circuitry but rather the space of the city itself. The computer has escaped the box, and ordinary objects in space are carriers of digital signals."
"...is the combination of distributed information processing, pervasive wireless networking and automatic identification, deployed inexpensively and widely. The underlying technologies and the applications that are traditionally discussed don't matter much, because it is this combination of factors that deeply affects people and industries, and it does it by connecting people's immediate experiences to the power of digitally aggregated and analyzed information. In other words, the Internet to Things turns physical actions into knowledge in the cloud and knowledge in the cloud into physical action in a way that's never existed before."
Rick Bullotta - Co-Founder/CTO of ThingWorx
**From a Linkedin IoT group discussion April 2010:**
"The Internet of Things represents the intersection of people (meatspace), systems (cyberspace) and the physical world (atomspace). It represents the "connectedness" of these entities and the range of applications that it enables. It (will someday) represent a set of protocols for interacting with the information shadow (data, event streams) and capabilities (services) of the participants in the internetof things. It (will someday soon) represent a semantic model for the connected entities. It is enabled by and intersects with the ubicompmacro trends. It affects and influences the development of the future internet (a topic we'll be discussing at the International Research Forum in a couple weeks) - the effect on IP addressing, security/packet validity, different types of QOS needs, and higher level protocols could be substantial." - Full Discussion
Four Stages in the Internet of Things
By Kevin Kelly
"I think we can see a fourth stage beyond. That fourth stage is the drift towards linking up the things themselves. You want all the data about a thing to be embedded into the thing. You want location information embedded at, or in, the location itself. You actually want to connect not to the airline's computer, nor to the airline's flight page, nor to the flight data, but to the flight itself. Ideally, we would connect to the embedded processing and raw information in the airplane, in your particular seat, at the airport's slot -- the entire complex of items and services we call "the flight." What we ultimately want is an internet of things." - Full Article
What the Internet of Things is Not
By Tomas Sánchez López
The IoT is not ubiquitous/pervasive computing
The IoT is not the Internet Protocol
The IoT is not communication technologies
The IoT is not embedded devices
The IoT is not the applications
- Full Article
Between the Revolution of the Internet and the Metamorphosis of Objects
By Gérald Santucci
"The Internet of Things links the objects of the real world with the virtual world, thus enabling anytime, anyplace connectivity for anything and not only for anyone. It refers to a world where physical objects and beings, as well as virtual data and environments, all interact with each other in the same space and time." - Full Presentation
From an Internet of Things to an Internet of People: making sense of user-generated content
By Florian Michahelles
Real World + Information = Internet of Things
Technology Strategy Board Presentation:
By Maurizio Pilu
"Things that have more and more information associated with them, and are beginning to sense, communicate, network and produce new information"
Internet of Things Workshop Keynote presentation:
By Pilgrim Beart
"Real-world agents, autonomously expressing their capabilities and needs, and getting those needs met, to the benefit of us all"
*Note: Referenced he didn't really like the definition but wanted to use it as a way to spark the conversation.
Cisco chief futurist: The Internet of Things is here
By Dave Evans Cisco's Chief Futurist
“My premise here today is we’re seeing the first true evolution of the Internet. Why is that? Partly we’re seeing shift in architectural models. The new Internet, if you will, is becoming more mobile than fixed,” Evans said.
What is the Internet of Things? "At the core of this evolution of the Internet is the idea that the Internet becomes more sensory — more proactive and less reactive. It also takes into account that the world has hit a point where there are more devices connecting to the Internet than people doing so."
Inspiring the Internet of Things comic:
Alessandro Bassi interviewed by Stig Andersen
”I tend to see the Internet of Things as the interconnectivity of objects. It is the capability to uniquely identify and communicate with objects by electromagnetic means.”
Internet: Computers, connected through Internet protocols.
Display or manipulate documents.
Internet of Things: Computers, sensors and actuators connected through Internet protocols.
Measure or manipulate physical properties.
Arduino, Sensors and the Cloud
"A global network infrastructure, linking physical and virtual objects using cloud computing, data capture, and network communications. It allows devices to communicate with each other, access information on the Internet, store and retrieve data, and interact with users, creating smart, pervasive and always-connected environments."
"The Internet of Things is a network of Internet-enabled objects, which aims at increasing the ubiquity of the Internet by integrating every object for interaction via embedded systems and leads to a highly distributed network of devices communicating with human beings as well as other devices" - Full Text
"A world where physical things are reflected onto the web"
Internet- The world-wise network of interconnected computer networks, based on a standard communication protocol (TCP/IP).
Thing- An object not precisely identifiable.
Internet of Things- A world-wide network of interconnected objects uniquely addressable, based on standard communication protocol.
"The Internet of Things is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment."