IoT: The Internet of Things.

What Is the Internet of Things? How Does IoT Work?

Internet of Things Definition

In simple terms, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the digitally connected universe of smart devices. These devices are embedded with internet connectivity, sensors and other hardware that allow communication and control via the web. 

What is IoT?
How Does IoT Work?
What is IoT?
what is iot: connected smart home example
What is IoT? It's when physical devices connect and share data one other "things" and people. The "smart home" is a great example IoT in action. Image: Shutterstock

Why IoT Is Important

The Internet of Things makes everyday devices “smarter” by enabling them to send data over the internet, communicating with people and other IoT-enabled devices.

Internet-of-Things Devices

Internet-of-Things devices are all around us, constantly transmitting data and “talking” with other internet-connected smart devices. IoT devices include smart home speakers, wearable health trackers and mobile-app-controlled thermostats.

The IoT can be found in an array of devices, industries and settings. From smart blackboards in school classrooms to medical devices that can detect signs of Parkinson’s disease, IoT is rapidly making the world smarter by connecting the physical and the digital.

The number of IoT-connected devices grew by 8 percent in 2021 and is projected to leap by another 22 percent through 2025, reaching 27 billion devices, according to market research platform IoT Analytics. Examples of the Internet of Things span industries, from manufacturing and automotive to healthcare and retail.

Read More About IoT24 Industrial Internet of Things Examples to Know


Internet of Things (IoT) | What is IoT | How it Works | IoT Explained | Video: Edureka


Examples of IoT

The connected “smart home” is a prime example of the Internet of Things in action. Internet-enabled thermostats, doorbells, smoke detectors and security alarms create a connected hub where data is shared between physical devices and users can remotely control the “things” in that hub via a mobile app or website. 

The Internet of Things isn’t just restricted to everyday items in the home. Its influence can be seen across industries, making its way into the automotive industry, for example, by facilitating connectivity for monitoring and optimizing vehicle performance. The healthcare industry also benefits from the IoT, giving providers tools to more efficiently and accurately track key health metrics like glucose levels.

IoT Applications

  • Thermostats and security systems for smart homes
  • Wearables for health and fitness tracking
  • Diagnostics for autonomous vehicles
  • Automation for smart factories
  • Lighting and traffic systems for smart cities
  • Crop monitoring
  • Retail supply chain tracking
  • Monitoring and diagnosing disease

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How Does IoT Work?

IoT Technologies

In a nutshell, IoT works like this: 

  1. Devices have hardware, like sensors, that collect data. 
  2. The data collected by the sensors is then shared via the cloud and integrated with software. 
  3. The software then analyzes and transmits the data to users via an app or website.

Smart devices connect to an IoT platform, described by the experts at IoT For All as “the support software that connects everything in an IoT system.” There are hundreds of IoT platforms and some are made by industry giants like Oracle and IBM. 

The Internet of Things is largely made possible by technologies that connect devices and enable them to communicate with one another. Connectivity options have a range of pros and cons, with some more suitable for certain use cases like smart homes while others may be more appropriate for IoT applications like industrial automation. These technologies can be divided into two categories: IoT data protocols that allow information to be exchanged between devices even without an internet connection, and IoT network protocols that link devices to one another and to the internet.

10 Common IoT Communication Protocols

  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • Zigbee
  • Cellular
  • LoRaWAN
  • Sigfox
  • MQTT
  • Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP)
  • Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP)
  • HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP)

Further Reading9 Companies Helping Create the IoT Smart City


IoT Security

Emerging technologies often come with a new and changing landscape of risks and threats. The Internet of Things is no different. Because the IoT can enable things like building lighting and HVAC, vehicle diagnostics and even power grids, protecting these critical systems and infrastructure elements is paramount.


IoT Risks

Common IoT attacks include privilege escalation, which exploits vulnerabilities like bugs or design flaws to get access, and firmware highjacking, which uses fake updates or drivers as a means to download malicious software.


IoT Precautions

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center recommends individuals and organizations take a number of precautions to minimize risk. One precaution is to stay away from Universal Plug and Play, which lets devices on the same network automatically discover and communicate with each other. Another is changing default passwords and router settings, and using a zero-trust model that limits access to what’s absolutely necessary and authenticates and verifies network interactions.


IoT Security Best Practices

  • Change default router settings
  • Pick a strong password
  • Don’t use Universal Plug and Play
  • Keep software and firmware updated
  • Implement a zero trust model
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