whats ‘Internet of Things’ !

The buzzword “Internet of things” (IoT) is becoming an increasingly inter-disciplinary trend in communications where both digital and physical realms come together, deeply impacting not only our way of living but also how we see the smart objects around us.

With the current advance in embedded technology, the cost of internet-connected devices is negligible and predicting the number of connected devices will be over 26 billion by 2020. Opening door for a new type of internet where physical objects are the main part of the puzzle with new programming and interaction opportunities.

So, what is IoT ?!. IoT is a giant network of things !, internet connected things that including smartphones, coffee makers, TVs, washing machines, lamps, thermostats, wearable devices and anything else you can think of. Such smart things that can communicate, sense and take decisions introduces set of relationships not only between people and things but also between thing and thing. Why we need such connectivity between things ?!. Imagine your mobile communicates with your coffee machine for morning coffee, your smart fridge is texting you some required items and your thermostat is adjusting your home when you are on way back !.

Such endless scenarios can transform the space around us to be a “Smart Space”, where the surrounding “things” are working on your preferences. Smart space can be on a limited scale named “Smart home” and on a broader scale named “Smart cities”. The reality is that the IoT allows for virtually endless opportunities and connections to take place, many of which we can’t even think of or fully understand the impact of today. It’s not hard to see how and why the IoT is such a hot topic today; it certainly opens the door to a lot of opportunities but also to many challenges, especially security. As objects become embedded with sensors and gain the ability to communicate, the new information networks promise to create new business models, improve business processes, and reduce costs and risks.

IoT vs M2M vs IoE

Current advancement and innovations in technologies of tomorrow usually lack widely accepted standard definitions that shape and govern the evolution of technology. This section covers the main ideas and proposed definitions behind the current buzzwords of communication technologies. Starting with “machine-to-machine” (M2M) then moving to “Internet of Things” (IoT), and recently with the new buzzword of “Internet of Everything” (IoE) coming on the scene. Although these acronyms are sometimes used interchangeably, but the concepts behind them are different. There are no clear boundaries between these overlapping multi-disciplinary technology terms; and these concepts will continue to evolve in response to technology innovation, changing consumer trends and varied marketing tactics. IoE is considered a superset of IoT, while M2M is considered a subset of IoT.

M2M is basically referred to technologies that enable point to point communication between machines without human intervention enabling data transmission across a network of machines. Examples include telemetry, traffic control, robotics, and other applications involving device-to-device communications. M2M more recently is about connecting a device to the cloud, managing that device, and collecting machine and sensor data.  

The term was the first of the three terms to come about. While it’s not clear who popularized the acronym, the roots of M2M communication date back as far as the early 1970’s, when Theodore Paraskevakos invented an apparatus for use in a telephone system for automatically transmitting information from a calling telephone to a called telephone. M2M once referred to any connected machine that could “talk” to another machine, but it is now typically used to refer to machine communications using cellular or satellite networks. Axeda defines M2M as the communication between a machine or device and a remote computer.  M2M is about

IoT was coined in 1999 by British entrepreneur “Kevin Ashton” describing connectivity among physical objects and how data could be transferred between an object and the internet.  Machines were already connected by that time; however, the potential of the idea gained momentum by advancing embedded sensing and processing technologies into physical objects. Currently, these devices can communicate, sense, generate data and interact. The main focus is on gathering data, making sensor-driven decisions, automating processes, and driving business value from connected things. 

IoT goes beyond M2M where things can connect to systems, people, and other things; while M2M and IoT both refer to devices communicating with each other, M2M refers to point to point instances of communication, and IoT refers to a higher perspective with advanced communication stacks. Though M2M solutions offer remote access to machine data, these data are traditionally targeted at point solutions in service management applications. Integration of device and sensor data with big data, analytics, and other enterprise applications is a core concept behind the emerging Internet of Things.

IoE is primarily a Cisco-driven marketing term defined by Cisco as “the networked connection of people, process, data, and things” and cisco then refered to IoT to be simply a networked connection of physical objects, leaving out the people and process attributes that make up the IoE. The global benefit of IoE is through transforming the Internet era standard vision of internet (started with networked computers which then progressed through the Internet era) to a new form where people, data and objects are talking to each others, creating unprecedented opportunities for organizations, individuals, communities, and countries to realize dramatically greater value from such connections.

IoE is formed of four key elements that shapes all sorts of defined connections. 1) People (e.g. end-users, social networks) are considered the end-nodes connected across the internet to share information and activities. 2) Things (e.g. devices, sensors, actuators) are considered the physical objects with network connection capability and able to generate data and receive information from network entities. 3)Data (e.g. sensor data, device logs) considered as the main engine of network to be analyzed and processed into useful information to enable intelligent decisions and control mechanisms. 4) Processes: Leveraging connectivity among data, things and people to add value. Examples include the use of smart fitness devices and social networks to advertise relevant healthcare offerings to prospective customers.

Summarizing the different prospectives and definitions for this high trend of technologies, Discover-IoT then handles the different aspects of IoT. Discover IoT gives focus on IoT software and hardware platforms (e.g. Amazon IoT, Microsoft Azure and IBM Watson); different communication and messaging protocols (e.g. MQTT and CoAP) besides IoT news and Do-It-Your-self projects to help building the basic blocks for smart spaces (e.g. Arduino, Rasberry-Pi, IFTTT) !