The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the internet, collecting and sharing data. Thanks to cheap processors and wireless networks, it's possible to turn anything, from a pill to an aeroplane to a self-driving car into part of the IoT. This adds a level of digital intelligence to devices that would be otherwise dumb, enabling them to communicate real-time data without a human being involved, effectively merging the digital and physical worlds.
Although it sounds like a game you’d play on your smartphone, the internet of things is the future. Many “things” are now being built with WiFi connectivity, meaning they can be connected to the Internet—and to each other. Hence, the Internet of Things, or IoT. IoT enables devices, home appliances, cars and much more to be connected to and exchange data over the Internet. And we’re only in the beginning stages of IoT: The number of IoT devices reached 8.4 billion in 2017 is expected to reach 30 billion devices by 2020.
The term IoT is mainly used for devices that wouldn't usually be generally expected to have an internet connection, and that can communicate with the network independently of human action. For this reason, a PC isn't generally considered an IoT device and neither is a smartphone -- even though the latter is crammed with sensors. A smartwatch or a fitness band or other wearable device might be counted as an IoT device.
As consumers, we’re already using and benefitting from IoT. We can lock our doors remotely if we forget to when we leave for work and preheat our ovens on our way home from work, all while tracking our fitness on our Fitbits and hailing a ride with Lyft. But businesses also have much to gain now and in the near future. The IoT can enable better safety, efficiency, and decision making for businesses as data is collected and analyzed. It can enable predictive maintenance, speed up medical care, improve customer service, and offer benefits we haven’t even imagined yet. However, despite this boon in the development and adoption of IoT, experts say not enough IT professionals are getting trained for IoT jobs.
For someone interested in a career in IoT, that means easy entry into the field if you’re motivated, with a range of options for getting started. Skills needed include IoT security, cloud computing knowledge, data analytics, automation, understanding of embedded systems, device knowledge, to name only a few. After all, it’s the Internet of Things, and those things are many and varied, meaning the skills needed are as well.
The IoT promises to make our environment -- our homes and offices and vehicles -- smarter, more measurable, and chattier. Smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home makes it easier to play music, set timers, or get information.Home security systems make it easier to monitor what's going on inside and outside, or to see and talk to visitors. Meanwhile, smart thermostats can help us heat our homes before we arrive back, and smart light bulbs can make it look like we're home even when we're out.
Looking beyond the home, sensors can help us to understand how noisy or polluted our environment might be. Autonomous vehicles and smart cities could change how we build and manage our public spaces.