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The Internet of Things (IoT, also Cloud of Things or CoT) refers to the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing-like devices within the existing Internet infrastructure. Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communications (M2M) and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a Smart Grid.
Things, in the IoT, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, automobiles with built-in sensors, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue. Current market examples include smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize wifi for remote monitoring.
Due to the ubiquitous nature of connected objects in the IoT, an unprecedented number of devices are expected to be connected to the Internet. According to Gartner, there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. ABI Research estimates that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things (Internet of Everything) by 2020. Per a recent survey and study done by Pew Research Internet Project, a large majority of the technology experts and engaged Internet users who responded—83 percent—agreed with the notion that the Internet/Cloud of Things and embedded and wearable computing will have widespread and beneficial effects by 2025. It is, as such, clear that the IoT will consist of a very large number of devices being connected to the Internet.
Integration with the Internet implies that devices will utilize an IP address as a unique identifier. However, due to the limited address space of IPv4 (which allows for 4.3 billion unique addresses), objects in the IoT will have to use IPv6 to accommodate the extremely large address space required.      Objects in the IoT will not only be devices with sensory capabilities, but also provide actuation capabilities (e.g., bulbs or locks controlled over the Internet). To a large extent, the future of the Internet of Things will not be possible without the support of IPv6; and consequently the global adoption of IPv6 in the coming years will be critical for the successful development of the IoT in the future.    
The embedded computing nature of many IoT devices means that low-cost computing platforms are likely to be used. In fact, to minimize the impact of such devices on the environment and energy consumption, low-power radios are likely to be used for connection to the Internet. Such low-power radios do not use WiFi, or well established Cellular Network technologies, and remain an actively developing research area. However, the IoT will not be composed only of embedded devices, since higher order computing devices will be needed to perform heavier duty tasks (routing, switching, data processing and etc.).
Besides the plethora of new application areas for Internet connected automation to expand into, IoT is also expected to generate large amounts of data from diverse locations that is aggregated and very high-velocity, thereby increasing the need to better index, store and process such data.
Diverse applications call for different deployment scenarios and requirement, which have usually been handled in a proprietary implementation. However, since the IoT is connected to the Internet, most of the devices comprising IoT services will need to operate utilizing standardized technologies. Prominent standardization bodies, such as the IETF, IPSO Alliance and ETSI, are working on developing protocols, systems, architectures and frameworks to enable the IoT.
The current vision of the Internet of Things has evolved due to a convergence of multiple technologies, ranging from wireless communication to the Internet and embedded systems to micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). This means that traditional fields of Embedded Systems, Wireless Sensor Networks, Control Systems, Automation (including Home and Building Automation), and others, all have contributions to enable the Internet of Things (IoT).
The general concept of a network of smart devices has been discussed since at least 1991. In 1994, Reza Raji described the concept in IEEE Spectrum as “[moving] small packets of data to a large set of nodes, so as to integrate and automate everything from home appliances to entire factories.”  However, it was not until 1999 that the field started gathering momentum. Bill Joy envisioned Device to Device (D2D) communication, as part of his "Six Webs" framework, presented at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 1999. The term Internet of Things was proposed by Kevin Ashton the same year.
In a seminal 2009 article for the RFID Journal, "That 'Internet of Things' Thing", Ashton 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.—Kevin Ashton, 'That 'Internet of Things' Thing', RFID Journal, July 22, 2009
The concept of the Internet of Things first became popular through the Auto-ID Center at MIT and related market analysis publications. 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. Besides using RFID, the tagging of things may be achieved through such technologies as near field communication, barcodes, QR codes and digital watermarking.
In its original interpretation, one of the first consequences of implementing the Internet of Things by equipping all objects in the world with minuscule identifying devices or machine-readable identifiers would be to transform daily life in several positive ways. For instance, instant and ceaseless inventory control would become ubiquitous. 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. For example, such technology could enable much more powerful control of content creators and owners over their creations by better applying copyright restrictions and digital restrictions management, so a customer buying a Blu-ray disc containing a movie could choose to pay a high price and be able to watch the movie for a whole year, pay a moderate price and have the right to watch the movie for a week, or pay a low fee every time she or he watches the movie.
The ability to network embedded devices with limited CPU, memory and power resources means that IoT finds applications in nearly every field. Such systems could be in charge of collecting information in settings ranging from natural ecosystems to buildings and factories, thereby finding applications in fields of environmental sensing and urban planning. On the other hand, IoT systems could also be responsible for performing actions, not just sensing things. Intelligent shopping systems, for example, could monitor specific users' purchasing habits in a store by tracking their specific mobile phones. These users could then be provided with special offers on their favorite products, or even location of items that they need, which their fridge has automatically conveyed to the phone.
However, the application of the IoT is not only restricted to these areas. Other specialized use cases of the IoT may also exist. An overview of some of the most prominent application areas is provided here.
Environmental monitoring applications of the IoT typically utilize sensors to assist in environmental protection by monitoring air or water quality, atmospheric or soil conditions, and can even include areas like monitoring the movements of wildlife and their habitats. Development of resource constrained devices connected to the Internet also means that other applications like earthquake or tsunami early-warning systems can also be used by emergency services to provide more effective aid. IoT devices in this application typically span a large geographic area and can also be mobile.
Monitoring and controlling operations of urban and rural infrastructures like bridges, railway tracks, on- and offshore- wind-farms is a key application of the IoT. The IoT infrastructure can be used for monitoring any events or changes in structural conditions that can compromise safety and increase risk. It can also be utilized for scheduling repair and maintenance activities in an efficient manner, by coordinating tasks between different service providers and users of these facilities. IoT devices can also be used to control critical infrastructure like bridges to provide access to ships. Usage of IoT devices for monitoring and operating infrastructure is likely to improve incident management and emergency response coordination, and quality of service, up-times and reduce costs of operation in all infrastructure related areas. Even areas such as waste management stand to benefit from automation and optimization that could be brought in by the IoT.
Network control and management of manufacturing equipment, asset and situation management, or manufacturing process control bring the IoT within the realm on industrial applications and smart manufacturing as well. The IoT intelligent systems enable rapid manufacturing of new products, dynamic response to product demands, and real-time optimization of manufacturing production and supply chain networks, by networking machinery, sensors and control systems together.
Digital control systems to automate process controls, operator tools and service information systems to optimize plant safety and security are within the purview of the IoT. But it also extends itself to asset management via predictive maintenance, statistical evaluation, and measurements to maximize reliability. Smart industrial management systems can also be integrated with the Smart Grid, thereby enabling real-time energy optimization. Measurements, automated controls, plant optimization, health and safety management, and other functions are provided by a large number of networked sensors.
Integration of sensing and actuation systems, connected to the Internet, is likely to optimize energy consumption as a whole. It is expected that IoT devices will be integrated into all forms of energy consuming devices (switches, power outlets, bulbs, televisions, etc.) and be able to communicate with the utility supply company in order to effectively balance power generation and supply. Such devices would also offer the opportunity for users to remotely control their devices, or centrally manage them via a cloud based interface, and enable advanced functions like scheduling (e.g., remotely powering on or off heating systems, controlling ovens, changing lighting conditions etc.). In fact, a few systems that allow remote control of electric outlets are already available in the market, e.g., Belkin's WeMo, Ambery Remote Power Switch, etc.
Besides home based energy management, the IoT is especially relevant to the Smart Grid since it provides systems to gather and act on energy and power-related information in an automated fashion with the goal to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity. Using Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) devices connected to the Internet backbone, electric utilities can not only collect data from end-user connections, but also manage other distribution automation devices like transformers and reclosers.
IoT devices can be used to enable remote health monitoring and emergency notification systems. These health monitoring devices can range from blood pressure and heart rate monitors to advanced devices capable of monitoring specialized implants, such as pacemakers or advanced hearing aids. Specialized sensors can also be equipped within living spaces to monitor the health and general well-being of senior citizens, while also ensuring that proper treatment is being administered and assisting people regain lost mobility via therapy as well. Other consumer devices to encourage healthy living, such as, connected scales or wearable heart monitors, are also a possibility with the IoT.
IoT devices can be used to monitor and control the mechanical, electrical and electronic systems used in various types of buildings (e.g., public and private, industrial, institutions, or residential). Home automation systems, like other building automation systems, are typically used to control lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, appliances, communication systems, entertainment and home security devices to improve convenience, comfort, energy efficiency, and security.
The IoT can assist in integration of communications, control, and information processing across various transportation systems. Application of the IoT extends to all aspects of transportation systems, i.e. the vehicle, the infrastructure, and the driver or user. Dynamic interaction between these components of a transport system enables inter and intra vehicular communication, smart traffic control, smart parking, electronic toll collection systems, logistic and fleet management, vehicle control, and safety and road assistance.
There are several planned or ongoing large scale deployments of the IoT, to enable better management of cities and systems. For example, Songdo, South Korea, the first of its kind fully equipped and wired smart city (also known as ubiquitous city), is near completion. Nearly everything in this city 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.
Another application is a currently undergoing project in Santander, Spain. For this deployment, two approaches have been adopted. This city of 180000 inhabitants, has already seen 18000 city application downloads for their smartphones. This application is connected to 10000 sensors that enable services like parking search, environmental monitoring, digital city agenda among others. City context information is utilized in this deployment so as to benefit merchants through a spark deals mechanism based on city behavior that aims at maximizing the impact of each notification.
Other examples of large scale deployments underway include the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City; work on improving air and water quality, reducing noise pollution, and increasing transportation efficiency in San Jose, California; and smart traffic management in western Singapore.
An alternative view, from the world of the Semantic Web 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.
A combination of these ideas can be found in the current GS1/EPCglobal EPC Information Services (EPCIS) specifications. This system is being used to identify objects in industries ranging from aerospace to fast moving consumer products and transportation logistics.
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. 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 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, 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. 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.
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 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).
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.
In an Internet of Things, the precise geographic location of a thing—and also the precise geographic dimensions of a thing—will be critical. 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.) 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.
According to the CEO of Cisco, the remote control market is expected to be a $USD 19 trillion market. Many IoT devices have a potential to take a piece of this market. Jean-Louis Gassée (Apple initial alumni team, and BeOS co-founder) has addressed this topic in an article on Monday Note, where he predicts that the most likely problem will be what he calls the "Basket of remotes" problem, where we'll have hundreds of applications to interface with hundreds of devices that don't share protocols for speaking with one another.
There are multiple approaches to solve this problem, one of them called the "predictive interaction", where cloud or fog based decision makers[clarification needed] will predict the user's next action and trigger some reaction.
For user interaction, new technology leaders are joining forces to create standards for communication between devices. While AllJoyn alliance is composed the top 20 World technology leaders, there are also big companies that promote their own protocol like CCF from Intel.
This problem is also a competitive advantage for some very technical startup companies with fast capabilities.
Manufacturers are becoming more conscious of this problem, and many companies have begun releasing their devices with open APIs. Many of these APIs are used by smaller companies looking to take advantage of quick integration.
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 Jasper Technologies, Inc. and 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, Raco Wireless, nPhase and Carriots 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 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.
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. He cautions against viewing technology merely as a human tool and advocates instead to consider it as an active agent.
Justin Brookman, of the Center for Democracy and Technology, expressed concern regarding the impact of IoT on consumer privacy, saying that "There are some people in the commercial space who say, ‘Oh, big data — well, let’s collect everything, keep it around forever, we’ll pay for somebody to think about security later.’ The question is whether we want to have some sort of policy framework in place to limit that."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) expressed concern regarding the ability of IoT to erode people's control over their own lives. The ACLU wrote that "There’s simply no way to forecast how these immense powers -- disproportionately accumulating in the hands of corporations seeking financial advantage and governments craving ever more control -- will be used. Chances are Big Data and the Internet of Things will make it harder for us to control our own lives, as we grow increasingly transparent to powerful corporations and government institutions that are becoming more opaque to us."
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. In particular, as the Internet of Things spreads widely, cyber attacks are likely to become an increasingly physical (rather than simply virtual) threat. In a January 2014 article in Forbes, cybersecurity columnist Joseph Steinberg listed many Internet-connected appliances that can already "spy on people in their own homes" including televisions, kitchen appliances, cameras, and thermostats. Computer-controlled devices in automobiles such as brakes, engine, locks, hood and truck releases, horn, heat, and dashboard have been shown to be vulnerable to attackers who have access to the onboard network. (These devices are currently not connected to external computer networks, and so are not vulnerable to Internet attacks.)
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." In general, the intelligence community views Internet of Things as a rich source of data.
Given widespread recognition of the evolving nature of the design and management of the Internet of Things, sustainable and secure deployment of Internet of Things solutions must design for "anarchic scalability." Application of the concept of anarchic scalability can be extended to physical systems (i.e. controlled real-world objects), by virtue of those systems being designed to account for uncertain management futures. This "hard anarchic scalabilty" thus provides a pathway forward to fully realize the potential of Internet of Things solutions by selectively constraining physical systems to allow for all management regimes without risking physical failure.
Brown University computer scientist Michael Littman has argued that successful execution of the Internet of Things requires consideration of the interface's usability as well as the technology itself. These interfaces need to be not only more user friendly but also better integrated: "If users need to learn different interfaces for their vacuums, their locks, their sprinklers, their lights, and their coffeemakers, it’s tough to say that their lives have been made any easier."
A concern regarding IoT technologies pertains to the environmental impacts of the manufacture, use, and eventual disposal of all these semiconductor-rich devices. Modern electronics are replete with a wide variety of heavy metals and rare-earth metals, as well as highly toxic synthetic chemicals. This makes them extremely difficult to properly recycle. Electronic components are often simply incinerated or dumped in regular landfills, thereby polluting soil, groundwater, surface water, and air. Such contamination also translates into chronic human-health concerns. Furthermore, the environmental cost of mining the rare-earth metals that are integral to modern electronic components continues to grow. With production of electronic equipment growing globally yet little of the metals (from end-of-life equipment) being recovered for reuse, the environmental impacts can be expected to increase.
Also, because the concept of IoT entails adding electronics to mundane devices (for example, simple light switches), and because the major driver for replacement of electronic components is often technological obsolescence rather than actual failure to function, it is reasonable to expect that items that previously were kept in service for many decades would see an accelerated replacement cycle, if they were part of the IoT. For example, a traditional house built with 30 light switches and 30 electrical outlets might stand for 50 years, with all those components still being original at the end of that period. But a modern house built with the same number of switches and outlets set up for IoT might see each switch and outlet replaced at five-year intervals, in order to keep up-to-date with technological changes. This translates into a ten-fold increase in waste requiring disposal.
While IoT devices can serve as energy-conservation equipment, it is important to keep in mind that everyday good habits can bring the same benefits. Practical, fundamental considerations such as these are often overlooked by marketers eager to induce consumers to purchase IoT items that may never have been needed in the first place.