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Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, commonly abbreviated "IoT," is an umbrella term that refers to anything connected to the Internet. It includes traditional computing devices, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, but also includes a growing list of other devices that have recently become Internet enabled. Examples include home appliances, automobiles, wearable electronics, security cameras, and many other things.

In order for a device to be part of the Internet of Things, it must be able to communicate with other devices. Therefore, it requires some type of built-in wired or wireless communication. Most IoT devices are Wi-Fi enabled, but Bluetooth can also be used to transfer data to nearby devices. Anything that connects directly to the Internet must have a unique IP address, which is one of the reasons the adoption of IPv6 has been so important.

IoT devices are commonly called "smart devices," since they are able to communicate with other things. For example, you can't control a traditional oven when you are away from home. However, a smart oven that is connected to the cloud can be accessed remotely via a web interface or an app. You can check the status of the oven and start preheating it before you get home. Other smart home devices, such as smart thermostats, light fixtures, wall outlets, and window treatments are considered part of the IoT since they can be accessed and controlled over the Internet.

Along with the capacity to communicate, many IoT devices also include an array of sensors that provide useful information. For example, a wearable device may include sensors that track your heart rate and activity level. It can automatically upload your data to your personal account on the Internet. A security system might include motion detectors that send you an alert if any suspicious activity is recorded. Lighting systems can be automated using sensors that detect how dark it is outside.

While the Internet of Things is still in its infancy, it provides promising opportunities for the future. For example, connecting medical devices to the Internet will make it easier for doctors to track patients' health, providing more consistent data and requiring fewer appointments. Agricultural products will be able to self-adjust based on weather forecasts, creating more efficient farming methods. Internet-connected cars will communicate with each other, providing better traffic information and paving the way for self-driving cars. In time, the Internet of Things will become less of an abstract idea and more of a way of life.

Updated: January 16, 2015

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