What’s IoT anyway? Get to know the Internet of Things

Alex Sheehan
Alex Sheehan
Sep 10, 2019

The Internet of Things is a funny, vague phrase. You kinda know what it means but you can’t really explain it if someone asks you.

More than 26 billion connected devices make up the Internet of Things. And it’s changing the way we interact with the world around us.

So, what is the Internet of Things, and how would you explain it to someone? Read on!

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things refers to the entire global collection of physical and wireless connections between networks and devices, as well as the devices and users themselves.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things is commonly abbreviated as IoT.

Essentially, IoT connects any device — or thing — and the person using it to the global network of internet connections. These devices could include your standard smartphone or computer, as well as smart home tech like TVs, thermostats, lawn sprinklers and even refrigerators.

The IoT is huge — and it’s growing exponentially. Every second, approximately 127 devices are newly connected to the internet. And according to some estimates, the IoT market will be valued at more than $3 trillion by 2026 and, per Statista, the year prior will see more than 75 billion connected devices globally.

The IoT is changing the way we interact with one another and the things around us. It’s evolving how we take care of everyday tasks and how we communicate with others. Rather than waking up and turning on the coffee pot, you can wake up every morning knowing there’s a freshly brewed pot waiting for you. Or, instead of driving your car yourself, let the vehicle do the parallel parking for you.

How does IoT work?

In general terms, IoT works by connecting devices and their users to a network — be it wireless or hardwired. These devices and users can then “talk” to one another, using algorithms, actions, triggers and automations to make things happen.

IoT is based on information-sharing. Devices on private networks can communicate with devices on other networks, allowing a data transfer that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible from device to device.

What are some Internet of Things examples?

We’ve already talked about a few connected devices above, but the number of IoT devices is practically infinite. And it’s ever-expanding.

  • Automated flows – This is when you have several devices that share information, and then depending on that information, they’ll perform specific tasks. One example is smart thermostats: You can set them up so that they trigger heat or A/C when certain weather conditions happen. Another idea? Automate your bathroom.
  • Smart cities – Cities like Dallas and San Diego, among others, are enhancing environments with smart lights, irrigation systems, information kiosks and enhanced emergency services.
  • Notifications – Similar to automated flows, these alerts can be triggered based on other data and devices. For example, your GPS navigation app might tell you on your phone or smart speaker that there’s traffic on your morning commute, so you need to leave early. Similarly, your fitness tracker might notice you’ve been inactive and ping you to get you moving.
  • Aviation – In airplanes, things like jet engines can be connected so pilots, maintenance staff and other professionals can keep an eye on performance. This allows airlines to more accurately predict maintenance and upgrade needs, as well as how to optimize routes.
  • Smart home tech – Smart home tech can be as simple as a single smart speaker or as advanced as a network of devices that work together. For example, you can set up a smart alarm and light bulbs to wake you up, with a connected coffee maker scheduled to brew just before your wake-up call. You can even set the thermostat to warm up in the morning to make it easier to get out of bed.

So, hopefully, you now have an answer ready for the next time someone asks you, “What is IoT?” And whenever you have questions on IoT or anything broadband, remember to reference our Resource Center or follow our experts on Facebook and Twitter.