Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things (or IoT for short) refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure. The term Internet of Things was proposed by Kevin Ashton in 1999[1] though the concept has been discussed in the literature since at least 1991.[2] The concept of the Internet of Things first became popular through the Auto-ID Center at MIT and related market analysis publications.[3] Radio-frequency identification (RFID) was seen as a prerequisite for the Internet of Things in the early days. If all objects and people in daily life were equipped with identifiers, they could be managed and inventoried by computers.[4][5] Besides using RFID, the tagging of things may be achieved through such technologies as near field communication, barcodes, QR codes and digital watermarking.[6][7]

Equipping all objects in the world with minuscule identifying devices or machine-readable identifiers could transform daily life.[8][9] For instance, business may no longer run out of stock or generate waste products, as involved parties would know which products are required and consumed.[9][need quotation to verify] A person's ability to interact with objects could be altered remotely based on immediate or present needs, in accordance with existing end-user agreements.[4]

According to Gartner there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020.[10] According to ABI Research more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things (Internet of Everything) by 2020.[11] Cisco created a dynamic "connections counter" to track the estimated number of connected things from July 2013 until July 2020 (methodology included).[12] This concept, where devices connect to the internet/web via low-power radio, is the most active research area in IoT.

Original definition[edit]

Although Bill Joy had already mentioned D2D (Device to Device) communication as one of its Six Webs,[13] it wasn't until Kevin Ashton that the Internet of Things got a second look by industry.

In a seminal article for the RFID Journal, That 'Internet of Things' Thing he made the following assessment:

Today computers—and, therefore, the Internet—are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the roughly 50 petabytes (a petabyte is 1,024 terabytes) of data available on the Internet were first captured and created by human beings—by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture or scanning a bar code. Conventional diagrams of the Internet ... leave out the most numerous and important routers of all - people. The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy—all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world. And that's a big deal. We're physical, and so is our environment ... You can't eat bits, burn them to stay warm or put them in your gas tank. Ideas and information are important, but things matter much more. Yet today's information technology is so dependent on data originated by people that our computers know more about ideas than things. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so.[14]

—Kevin Ashton, That 'Internet of Things' Thing, RFID Journal, July 22, 2009

Today (as of November 2013), the research into the Internet of Things is still in its infancy. Therefore, there aren't any standard definitions for Internet of Things. With the potential for great mischief through hacking, security issues are pivotal to the success of systems-integration designs. Several IoT definitions formulated by different researchers are listed in a survey.[15]

Alternative definitions[edit]

Different definitions for the Internet of Things and contractions such as thingternet[16] have appeared. The term is evolving as the technology and implementation of the ideas move forward. Here are several partially overlapping definitions:

An action plan for the European Union to introduce the governance based on the Internet of Things.[17]
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.[18]
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.[19]
The network formed by things/objects having identities, virtual personalities operating in smart spaces using intelligent interfaces to connect and communicate with the users, social and environmental contexts.[20]
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 Internet of Things, ‘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.[21]
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 and pervasive computing, the Internet Protocol (IP), communication technology, embedded devices, its applications, the Internet of People or the Intranet / Extranet of Things, yet it relies on all of these approaches.[22] The association of intelligent virtual representations (e.g.: called avatars and embedded, hosted in the Cloud or centralized) and physical objects are sometimes called "cyberobjects".[23] Cyberobjects are then considered as autonomous actors of the value chains they are involved in: able to perceive, analyze and react in various contexts; although acting under the guidance of human beings as programmed. Cyberobjects can then be assistants, advisors, decision makers, etc.; and can be considered as true Agent (economics), helping to change existing economic or organization models. In such a scenario, the conception of avatars refers to artificial intelligence and Complex system.

Unique addressability of things[edit]

The original idea of the Auto-ID Center is based on RFID-tags and unique identification through the Electronic Product Code however this has evolved into objects having an IP address or URI.

An alternative view, from the world of the Semantic Web[24] focuses instead on making all things (not just those electronic, smart, or RFID-enabled) addressable by the existing naming protocols, such as URI. The objects themselves do not converse, but they may now be referred to by other agents, such as powerful centralized servers acting for their human owners.

The next generation of Internet applications using Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) would be able to communicate with devices attached to virtually all human-made objects because of the extremely large address space of the IPv6 protocol. This system would therefore be able to scale to the large numbers of objects envisaged.[25]

A combination of these ideas can be found in the current GS1/EPCglobal EPC Information Services[26] (EPCIS) specifications. This system is being used to identify objects in industries ranging from aerospace to fast moving consumer products and transportation logistics.[27]

Trends and characteristics[edit]

Technology Roadmap: Internet of Things


Ambient intelligence and autonomous control are not part of the original concept of the Internet of Things. Ambient intelligence and autonomous control do not necessarily require Internet structures, either. However, there is a shift in research to integrate the concepts of the Internet of Things and autonomous control.[28] In the future the Internet of Things may be a non-deterministic and open network in which auto-organized or intelligent entities (Web services, SOA components), virtual objects (avatars) will be interoperable and able to act independently (pursuing their own objectives or shared ones) depending on the context, circumstances or environments.

Embedded intelligence[29] presents an “AI-oriented” perspective of Internet of Things, which can be more clearly defined as: leveraging the capacity to collect and analyze the digital traces left by people when interacting with widely deployed smart things to discover the knowledge about human life, environment interaction, as well as social connection/behavior.


The system will likely be an example of event-driven architecture,[30] bottom-up made (based on the context of processes and operations, in real-time) and will consider any subsidiary level. Therefore, model driven and functional approaches will coexist with new ones able to treat exceptions and unusual evolution of processes (Multi-agent systems, B-ADSc, etc.).

In an Internet of Things, the meaning of an event will not necessarily be based on a deterministic or syntactic model but would instead be based on the context of the event itself: this will also be a semantic web.[31] Consequently, it will not necessarily need common standards that would not be able to address every context or use: some actors (services, components, avatars) will accordingly be self-referenced and, if ever needed, adaptive to existing common standards (predicting everything would be no more than defining a "global finality" for everything that is just not possible with any of the current top-down approaches and standardizations). Some researchers argue that sensor networks are the most essential components of the Internet of Things.[15]

Complex system[edit]

In semi-open or closed loops (i.e. value chains, whenever a global finality can be settled) it will therefore be considered and studied as a Complex system[23] due to the huge number of different links and interactions between autonomous actors, and its capacity to integrate new actors. At the overall stage (full open loop) it will likely be seen as a chaotic environment (since systems have always finality).

Size considerations[edit]

The Internet of objects would encode 50 to 100 trillion objects, and be able to follow the movement of those objects. Human beings in surveyed urban environments are each surrounded by 1000 to 5000 trackable objects.[32]

Time considerations[edit]

In this Internet of Things, made of billions of parallel and simultaneous events, time will no more be used as a common and linear dimension[33] but will depend on each entity (object, process, information system, etc.). This Internet of Things will be accordingly based on massive parallel IT systems (Parallel computing). See logical clocks for descriptions.

Space considerations[edit]

In an Internet of Things, the precise geographic location of a thing—and also the precise geographic dimensions of a thing—will be critical.[34] Currently, the Internet has been primarily used to manage information processed by people. Therefore, facts about a thing, such as its location in time and space, have been less critical to track because the person processing the information can decide whether or not that information was important to the action being taken, and if so, add the missing information (or decide to not take the action). (Note that some things in the Internet of Things will be sensors, and sensor location is usually important.[35]) The GeoWeb and Digital Earth are promising applications that become possible when things can become organized and connected by location. However, challenges that remain include the constraints of variable spatial scales, the need to handle massive amounts of data, and an indexing for fast search and neighbour operations. If in the Internet of Things, things are able to take actions on their own initiative, this human-centric mediation role is eliminated, and the time-space context that we as humans take for granted must be given a central role in this information ecosystem. Just as standards play a key role in the Internet and the Web, geospatial standards will play a key role in the Internet of Things.

Sub systems[edit]

Not all elements in an Internet of Things will necessarily run in a global space. Think, for instance, of domotics running inside a Smart House. While the same technologies are used as elsewhere, the system might only be running on and available via a local network.


Internet of Things frameworks might help support the interaction between "things" and allow for more complex structures like Distributed computing and the development of Distributed applications. Currently, some Internet of Things frameworks seem to focus on real time data logging solutions like Xively (formerly Cosm and before that Pachube): offering some basis to work with many "things" and have them interact. Future developments might lead to specific Software development environments to create the software to work with the hardware used in the Internet of Things. Companies such as ThingWorx,[36][37] Raco Wireless,[38][39] nPhase[40] and Carriots[41][42] are developing technology platforms to provide this type of functionality for the Internet of Things.

The XMPP standards foundation XSF is creating such a framework in an fully open standard that isn't tied to any company and not connected to any cloud services. This initiative is called[43] or Chatty Things. XMPP provides a set of needed building blocks and a proven distributed solution that can scale with high security levels. The extensions are published at XMPP/extensions

The independently developed MASH IoT Platform was presented at the 2013 IEEE IoT conference in Mountain View, CA. MASH’s focus is asset management (assets=people/property/information, management=monitoring/control/configuration). Support is provided for design thru deployment with an included IDE, Android client and runtime. Based on a component modeling approach MASH includes support for user defined things and is completely data-driven.[44]


Fields of applications include: waste management, urban planning, environmental sensing, social interaction gadgets, sustainable urban environment, continuous care, emergency response, intelligent shopping, smart product management, smart meters, home automation and smart events.[45][46]


Songdo, South Korea, the first of its kind fully equipped and wired ubiquitous, or smart city is near completion. Nearly everything in this digital metropolis of smart homes is planned to be wired, connected and turned into a constant stream of data that would be monitored and analyzed by an array of computers with little, or no human intervention. Thus, Internet of Things, or embedded intelligence in things, with "smart systems that are able to take over complex human perceptive and cognitive functions and frequently act unnoticeably in the background"[47] is a close reality.

While technologists tout the Internet of Things as one more step toward a better world, scholars and social observers have some reservations and doubts about approaching ubiquitous computing revolution. Peter-Paul Verbeek, a professor of philosophy of technology at the University of Twente, Netherlands, writes that technology already influences our moral decision making, which in turns affects human agency, privacy and autonomy.[48] He cautions against viewing technology merely as a human tool and advocates instead to consider it as an active agent.

A different criticism is that the Internet of Things is being developed rapidly without appropriate consideration of the profound security challenges involved and the regulatory changes that might be necessary.[49] In particular, as the Internet of Things spreads widely, cyber attacks are likely to become an increasingly physical (rather than simply virtual) threat.[50]

The U.S. National Intelligence Council in an unclassified report maintains that it would be hard to deny "access to networks of sensors and remotely-controlled objects by enemies of the United States, criminals, and mischief makers...An open market for aggregated sensor data could serve the interests of commerce and security no less than it helps criminals and spies identify vulnerable targets. Thus, massively parallel sensor fusion may undermine social cohesion if it proves to be fundamentally incompatible with Fourth-Amendment guarantees against unreasonable search."[51] In general, the intelligence community views Internet of Things as a rich source of data.[52]

See also[edit]

Companies and products[edit]


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  2. ^ Mattern, Friedemann; Christian Floerkemeier (2010). "From the Internet of Computers to the Internet of Things". Informatik- Spektrum 33 (2): 107–121. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Analyst Anish gaddam interviewed by Sue Bushell in Computerworld, on 24 July 2000 (“M-commerce key to ubiquitous internet”)
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  6. ^ Techvibes From M2M to The Internet of Things: Viewpoints From Europe 7 July 2011
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  27. ^ Miles, Stephen B. (2011). RFID Technology and Applications. London: Cambridge University Press. pp. 6–8. ISBN 978-0-521-16961-5. 
  28. ^ Uckelmann, Dieter; Isenberg, Marc-André; Teucke, Michael; Halfar, Harry; Scholz-Reiter, Bernd (2010). "An integrative approach on Autonomous Control and the Internet of Things". In Ranasinghe, Damith; Sheng, Quan; Zeadally, Sherali. Unique Radio Innovation for the 21st Century: Building Scalable and Global RFID Networks. Berlin, Germany: Springer. pp. 163–181. ISBN 978-3-642-03461-9. Retrieved 28 April 2011. 
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  30. ^ Philippe GAUTIER, « RFID et acquisition de données évènementielles : retours d'expérience chez Bénédicta », pages 94 à 96, Systèmes d'Information et Management - revue trimestrielle N°2 Vol. 12, 2007, ISSN 1260-4984 / ISBN 978-2-7472-1290-8, éditions ESKA. [2]
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  32. ^ Waldner, Jean-Baptiste (2007). Nanoinformatique et intelligence ambiante. Inventer l'Ordinateur du XXIeme Siècle. London: Hermes Science. pp. p254. ISBN 2-7462-1516-0. 
  33. ^ Janusz Bucki, "L'organisation et le temps" (in French)
  34. ^ Open Geospatial Consortium, "OGC Abstract Specification"
  35. ^ Mike Botts et al, "OGC Sensor Web Enablement: Overview And High Level Architecture"
  36. ^ Rizzo, Tony (12 March 2013). "ThingWorx Drives M2M and IoT Developer Efficiency with New Platform Release". TMCnet. 
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  41. ^ "What is Carriots". Carriots official site. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
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  43. ^ IoT systems IoT systems
  44. ^ "YouTube channel"
  45. ^ Sustainable smart city IoT applications: Heat and electricity management & Eco-conscious cruise control for public transportation [3]
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  47. ^ Internet of Things in 2020: A Roadmap for the future. EPoSS., 5 September 2008, P. 2.
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  49. ^ Christopher Clearfield Why The FTC Can't Regulate The Internet Of Things, Forbes, September 18, 2013
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  52. ^ Spencer Ackerman. CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher. Wired, March 15. 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]