What is the "Internet of things"?
The "Internet of things" is the concept of putting Internet-capable or otherwise electronic components inside something that doesn't normally have it. The idea behind the concept is to make that thing more useful by being able to monitor it, control it, or have it send back information in some way over the Internet.
"Internet of things" examples and devices
There are many different ways that the "Internet of things" is being used today, including:
Microchips embedded in the bodies or collars of pets or farm animals, so that their health can be monitored and they can be tracked if they run away or otherwise become lost
Computers worn as clothing or accessories, such as the Google Glass or the Apple iWatch
Sensors on certain transportation routes, such as bridges or railway crossings, that control gates for cars or ships, or allow monitoring of structural integrity
Mobile phone or tablet programs that allow for control of one's home utilities and mechanisms over the Internet, such as being able to arm or disarm an alarm, lock or unlock doors, or turn a certain set of lights on or off
Thermostats that use digital sensors to measure air temperature, and turn heating or cooling appliances on or off as needed
Implants that help monitor a person's blood pressure or heart rate, or even alert medical professionals to an emergency with that person
Sensors that help monitor a car while driving it, including rear-view cameras or obstacle alerts to help with backing up, lane transition alerts and blind-spot sensors to help with changing lanes, and assistance services such as OnStar to assist with emergencies such as accidents
"Internet of things" companies
Some of the biggest corporations that are developing "Internet of things" applications, or are at least very interested in doing so, may be familiar to you. They include:
Founded by the late Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976, this personal electronics company has become one of the world's leading technology innovators, and a great rival to fellow computer giant Microsoft. One of their latest "Internet of things" inventions is the Apple Watch, a watch that not only tells the time, but also has other features such as fitness tracking, phone and text messaging, and even a program that gives you directions if you're lost!
Created in 1996 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google has become one of the biggest providers of Internet-based applications in the world. In terms of the "Internet of things", their most notable contribution is the Google Glass, a pair of glasses that allows the user to use touch or voice commands to take pictures, get directions, start a phone call, and more!
A company that is mostly known for their home appliances, they do business in a lot of other areas, too! Some of the "Internet of things" applications that they're looking into include security software called "Achilles" to keep industrial equipment from being sabotaged, and brain research towards developing micro-implants that could restore motor functions in people with diseases or brain/spine trauma.
A company most famous for making modems and other equipment that allows people to connect over the Internet, Cisco is now working on its own "Internet of things" applications. Included among them are networks of sensors, wi-fi hotspots, and surveillance cameras to help people find parking spots, thereby reducing traffic jams. Other ideas they're looking into concern shopping, including employees with mobile payment equipment on-hand so that you never have to stand in a checkout line again.
You may have heard of this company from back in math class during your school days, as they are a major manufacturer of calculators. But now they're into the "Internet of things" game as well. One of their coolest inventions is called the SimpleLink SensorTag, which allows the user to collect data from the environment around them, and easily share it over the Internet. Along with different upgrade packs and development environments, it's an easy first step for anyone to create their very own "Internet of things" application!