ELI5: what is IoT?

Short for the ‘Internet of Things’, IoT is not a term that lends itself to immediate understanding.

But it’s not as complicated as it sounds. IoT is a popular category of technology that’s growing in use and changing the way we live.

Here, we dive a bit deeper into what makes IoT clever technology, with a handy ‘ELI5’ overview.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term used to describe tools and objects (things) that can connect to each other through the internet. These objects have sensors and software that allows them to collect and share data over a network.

It’s common to refer to an object with IoT functionality as a ‘smart’ object. For instance, a smart fridge, a smart clock, right through to your smartphone and so on.

In other words, IoT is all about using the internet to help our tools work smarter, via a series of integrations and data feedback loops. All sorts of technology tools can come under the IoT umbrella.

Perhaps the most well-known example of IoT tech is smart home technology.

But the internet of things also covers tools like connected security systems, wearable technology, and autonomous robots. An IoT device can be almost anything, as long as it has sensors and can connect to the internet.

What is it good for?

The idea of the internet of things is that it lets all your things ‘talk’ to each other so that they can work together. And, combined with automated systems, these things can then automate some of their tasks.

IoT lets us control and access our machines, devices and appliances through the internet. These devices often also have sensors that allow them to collect information, such as a motion detector on a smart doorbell.

The connectivity of the internet of things means that different devices can trigger automated actions.

For example, your alarm clock could tell your coffee machine it’s woken you up, and this could trigger your coffee machine to start brewing. Or your smart doorbell could share data with your lights and thermostat, so you never need to worry about leaving the heating on while you’re out.

As our technology use rises, IoT acts as a stepping-stone to greater automation possibilities. For example, AI combined with the internet of things would create the artificial intelligence of things (AIoT). This would allow our tools to analyse data and make automated suggestions.

The concerns around the internet of things

Another side of the ‘what is IoT’ question concerns its issues and hurdles.

The internet of things requires devices to collect and share data. As such, there are implications for privacy and security. Do you really want a data collector knowing every time you leave the house, for example?

Because your smart devices connect to a network, they become vulnerable to attacks on that network. This means that a major consideration to make when dealing with IoT connected devices is how we keep them secure. For instance, with good password practices and regular security tests and updates.

IoT security isn’t just about protecting the data that smart devices collect and use either. It’s also about safety. If a device can be accessed and controlled through a network, poor security could result in rogue appliances. No one wants a stranger in control of their alarm system, for instance.

IoT explained

The internet of things, sounds more complicated than it is. To sum up, it’s the name given to any device that can connect to others through the internet.

This allows tools and appliances to be operated remotely and opens the opportunity for automation.

So, what is IoT? It’s the connection between our tools for more efficient and beneficial use.

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