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The thing with the Internet of Things

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What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has become one of the buzzwords of the moment in digital. Like programmatic and VR, it’s new, it’s exciting, but does anyone actually really know what it is, let alone how they can best utilise this technology?

For starters, the internet of things is not new. The term was first coined in 1999 by British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton as he presented to P&G. Back then it was a term used to describe the concept of using a wireless network to pick up data concerning real life situations and tangible items. The connection between digital and reality and using this connection to our advantage.

[blockquote style=”style2″]The interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. – Oxford Dictionary[/blockquote]
Ashton first got the idea from the stock management of lipsticks, connecting the idea of “radio-enabled” chips, or RFID, to the sales of lipstick and informing the retailer of what was on the shelves. This idea has gone on to become something entirely more.

Internet of things diagram
The internet of things can now be summarised as a network of physical things that are connected to the internet. Mashable has a very simple explanation of this, putting it down to three key elements – devices, data and connectivity.

The device portion is now an altogether more inclusive term, including objects such as thermostats and lighting, not just tablets and smartphones. Data is proving to be the element that is really getting peoples’ attention; harnessing the ability to inform decisions through data collected from devices where the possibilities for advertisers and brands as well as the consumer are limitless. Connectivity is, well, what connects these elements together.

According to We Are Social, the internet of things market is projected to be bigger than the PC, tablet and phone market combined by 2017, illustrating that it is going to be an increasingly important tool for both marketers and consumers.

Where are we now?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, where is the internet of things now? Well, it’s actually being used more than you might think. The IoT refers to more than devices that are remotely digitally controlled, it refers to devices that learn and adapt through the data they gather from you. A coffee machine that turns on when it detects you are waking up through your watch or smart mattress, a lightbulb that flashes when your oven has heated to the optimum temperature, these are all applications that exist with the IoT and are becoming more sophisticated all the time.


By now, you should have already heard of, or at least recognise the Nest thermostat, the technology that automatically adjusts with your life. Yet there is so much more in the pipeline.

At the moment, the IoT is predominantly used in the home and fitness sectors with fitness trackers and home devices lending themselves to the technology that adapts to you, but its uses are quickly being employed by many more industries.

Sectors are partnering up and realising the potential this has. Philips and sci-fi channel Syfy teamed up to utilise Philips’ smart bulbs during the broadcast of an episode of 12 Monkeys to create atmospheric lighting for the viewer. While hardly revolutionary or life changing, this kind of user experience will have people talking about both names.

2016 predictions

Personalisation has become the next big thing, in the world of the internet the consumer doesn’t want or, more importantly, need to see anything that doesn’t interest them for too long and this concept is swiftly moving into things as well as the realm of digital.

Next year, two things are set to happen to the IoT. The first of which being, it will obviously get bigger. As more brands realise that they could be utilising this potential we will see more devices using this information. Secondly there is sure to be a larger focus on security. There have already been rumblings around the security element of, previously inanimate, objects being connected to the internet and being the target of hackers but it is expected that this will become a far larger focus of concern next year.

What is for sure is that there is a plethora of potential waiting to be unlocked in this area and while the technology is by no means new, as with everything, what today’s creative and technological minds do with this moving forward is certainly an exciting prospect that we will want to be keeping an eye on.