The Internet of Things

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!

General Electric


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.

Texas Instruments


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!

Internet TV

What is Internet TV?

"Internet TV" is a general term that refers to video content that is made available over the Internet.  Some actual television channel companies offer this service as a way to watch live broadcasts over the Internet.  Others, however, take a more "on demand" approach, meaning that you can watch television shows — and even movies — whenever you choose to.  Internet TV services usually deliver content through the Adobe Flash Player, or through "streaming" technologies. 

"Streaming" basically means that you are able to watch a video as it loads, instead of waiting for the entire video to load before you can begin watching it.  The downside of this, however, is that you may experience interruptions if the pace at which the video loads can't keep up with the speed at which you watch it.  You may need to pause the video for a short while and let more of it load, and then continue watching.

Advantages of Internet TV

  • Less expensive — Generally, Internet TV services either are free or cost less than $15 per month, which means that a lot of people are using them as replacements for more expensive cable or satellite television subscriptions.  Plus, the selection of programming on Internet TV is often as good as it is on regular TV.

  • Accessible from virtually anywhere — With Internet TV, you don't have to worry about finding a TV that has the right box attached to it in order to get the channels that you want.  You can get the same service from pretty much anywhere that you can find a computer with an Internet connection (though there are some regional restrictions).

  • Available "on demand" — One of the major benefits of many popular Internet TV services is that they're "on demand".  This means that you can watch a movie or TV show when it fits your schedule, as opposed to having to be in front of a regular TV at a certain time or recording the show to watch it later.  And, unlike "pay-per-view" services, many Internet TV services allow you to watch a movie or TV show over and over as many times as you want.

Important Tip: Managing data usage with Internet TV

While we did mention that Internet TV is generally less expensive than modern cable or satellite TV options, it can become equally as expensive (if not more so) if you fall into the trap of using it without paying attention to your Internet "data cap".  Basically, your "data cap" is the amount of information that your Internet provider allows you to transmit back and forth over the Internet every month.  If you go over this limit, your Internet provider may charge you extra money on your next monthly bill.  

Watching Internet TV takes up quite a bit of your "data cap".  So if you're thinking about making Internet TV something that you use frequently, be sure to contact your Internet provider and ask them how much information you are allowed to transmit per month.  See our tutorial on Netflix Data Usage for more information, including guidelines on how much data Internet TV uses, and how you can set limits on the amount of data that it uses.

Best Internet TV options

There are some free Internet TV options out there, as well as ones that you must subscribe to and pay for if you want to use them.  Some of the more popular ones include:



One of the most popular Internet TV services, Netflix allows users to watch as many hit movies and TV shows as they want for between $8 and $12 a month.  Its library also features some original shows such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

Check out our Netflix Course if you'd like to learn how to use Netflix.



Hulu is another popular Internet TV service that focuses mainly on TV shows.  Users can watch a limited number of shows for free, or buy a monthly subscription (for about the same rate as Netflix) and get access to Hulu's full library.  Hulu tends to get episodes of current TV shows added to its library faster than other services, but it's only available in the United States.



A free Internet TV service that lets you watch movies and TV shows from Sony and its partners.  As a trade-off, users are shown commercials between movie and show segments, and available movies and shows change from month to month.

Amazon Instant Video


A branch of the online marketplace Amazon, Amazon Instant Video allows users to rent or purchase digital copies of movies, or purchase digital copies of television show episodes or seasons.  Subscribers to Amazon Prime, Amazon's paid perks service, get Amazon Instant Video for free.



As of the beginning of 2015, this Internet TV provider had over 18,000 movies and 5000 full-series television shows available for on-demand watching.  It is now owned by Wal-Mart.

Internet Phone

One of the neat things that you can do with the Internet is use it to make phone calls.  This is made possible by a set of technologies that adapt the functions of traditional telephones to modern computers and mobile devices.  Collectively, these technologies are known as “voice over Internet protocol” (or VoIP).

What is VoIP?

VoIP is a term used to describe the process of sending voice signals over the Internet, as well as the set of technologies that make it happen.  Basically, for VoIP to work on your computer, you need an Internet connection (obviously), a microphone (so you can send sound into your computer), a sound card (so your computer can process sounds coming into or out of it), and speakers (so you can hear the other person).  Many modern computers have most or all of these things on-board when you buy them.

VoIP works by taking the analog audio signal that’s produced when you speak into the microphone and processing it through your computer’s sound card.  This turns your voice into a digital signal that is easier for your computer to work with.  Your digital voice is then split into chunks (so it’s easier to move) and then sent over the Internet to the other person on the call.  When it reaches the other person’s computer, their computer’s sound card re-assembles your digital voice into an analog one that can be understood by human ears, and plays it out through the other person’s speakers.

Services that offer free Internet calls (via VoIP)

There are several popular services on the Internet that make VoIP easy to use, and most of them are in large part free to use.  However, many only allow you to make free Internet phone calls to other people on the Internet, and/or who use the same service.  While it is possible to use VoIP to make a call from the Internet to a traditional phone, or vice-versa, many services charge money for it. 

Here are three of the best-known free Internet calling services:



Skype allows users to make free phone and video calls to other people who use the service.  It also has support for text messaging, file sharing, group calls, and recorded messaging (both voice and video).  In addition, users can send phone calls to regular phones with Skype and vice-versa, but this costs money.  Skype is one of the most popular VoIP services because it is easy to set up and use.

If you’d like to learn more about how to use Skype, visit our Skype Course.



ooVoo is another VoIP service that offers many of the same functions as Skype.  Two of its unique features (besides its rather unique name) are that users can watch videos on YouTube together while having a voice chat, and can start and stop recording a phone or video call at any time.  Phone and video calls between ooVoo users are free, but ones between ooVoo and regular phones are not.

UPDATE: As of November 25th, 2017, ooVoo has shut down.



Viber is a VoIP service that is designed like a social network.  It offers many of the same features as Skype and ooVoo, but it also has functions like special “mood stickers” that you can buy or earn to show others how you’re feeling, as well as public chat rooms where you can discuss various topics.  Like many VoIP services, phone and video calls between Viber users are free, but ones between Viber and regular phones cost money, and are limited to certain mobile devices.

Top 10 Uses of the Internet

There are so many different things that the Internet has made capable, but what do people really use the Internet for the most?  We've compiled a list of 10 major ways that people around the world use the Internet (roughly in descending order of popularity).

1. Email and personal communication

Yup, one of the earliest functions of the Internet is still one of its most popular.  Many people on the Internet today use it to keep in touch with friends and family.  Sending emails back and forth is the most common form of communication (with email services like Gmail), but other people use the Internet to have phone calls or video chats via certain programs like Skype.

Our Gmail course:

Our Skype course:

2. Social networks and mass communication

One of the most popular new things to do on the Internet is to express oneself and make new friends via social networks.  Sure, there are plenty of dating websites around, but many of the most popular social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, are more general hang-out spots where one can let the world know what they're up to, and see what everyone else is doing.  There are also forums and chat rooms for having more in-depth discussions, or web logs ("blogs") for writing down — and maybe even broadcasting — what you're thinking or feeling.

Our Facebook course:

Our Twitter course:

3. General research

We've compared the World Wide Web to a library before, and perhaps unsurprisingly, that's how a lot of people use it.  Popular search engines like Google Search, Bing, and DuckDuckGo are used by millions of people daily to find places to get information on certain topics.  More specialized sites can be used to find maps of places and driving directions, weather forecasts, or health and medical information.  And, of course, the Internet is an invaluable tool for academics researching their latest dissertation… or perhaps just a grade-schooler looking to finish their year-end project.

Our Google Search course:

4. Information about hobbies and Interests

Needless to say, need-to-know info isn't the only thing that people look for on the Internet.  There are plenty of websites out there devoted to information about popular pastimes, such as sports, books, movies, TV, music, or video games.  Some games, shows, movies, bands, books, or people even have entire websites dedicated to them!  One might also use the Internet to search for information on a certain product or products that they want to buy, and then make comparisons in order to choose what's right for them.  An example is the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a website that provides information, ratings, reviews, and opportunities for discussion on various aspects of movies, television shows, and video games.

Our IMDb course:

5. News

One of the most notable features about the Internet is its immediacy, both in terms of how fast information is posted and spread, and how soon it can be accessed.  Many people nowadays don't bother to wait for the morning newspaper, or for the evening news broadcast on their radio or TV.  They simply find a news site on the Internet and get the day's top stories from there.  There are even some specialty news websites, such as the Huffington Post or the Drudge Report, that offer news relevant to specific audiences or from certain perspectives.

Our Huffington Post course:

6. Shopping

The Internet has made getting that must-have item more convenient than ever, thanks to the rise of e-commerce websites such as Amazon and eBay that ship products right to one's doorstep.  Some people even make a living by making and selling items on online marketplaces.  Another popular Internet use in this vein is for booking reservations, including for restaurants, concerts, movies, or travel accommodations.

Our Amazon course:

7.  Watching videos or listening to music

Whether it's watching short, 30-second clips of something funny or cute, or watching an entire movie or TV show episode, using video-streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix has become an immensely popular pastime on the Internet.  In addition, many people now use Internet radio stations such as Spotify to quickly find a blend of music that they enjoy, instead of going up and down the radio dial looking for a station with a specific music format.

Our Netflix course:

Our YouTube course:

8.  Playing games

What would a great technological innovation like the Internet be if one couldn't have fun with it?  There are all sorts of games nowadays that make use of the Internet.  Some are simple games that can be played right in one's web browser.  Others, though, are sold in stores and use the Internet to connect multiple players for a rich free-for-all, team battle, or even open-world experience.  There are even websites, such as Luminosity, that are dedicated to special games that are designed to actually help your brain to function better!

9. Banking

Many people choose to forgo making it out to the bank during operating hours and manage their finances from the comfort of their own home.  Of course, since there is a lot of sensitive information involved, banks use very tight security measures to make sure all of their clients' assets are safe.  There are even programs for mobile devices now that allow one to deposit a cheque just by taking a picture of it!  In addition, there are services such as PayPal that allow you to manage the things that you pay for (or get paid for) online; it is often used in conjunction with shopping websites.

10. Searching and applying for jobs

It's tough applying for a job or finding the right person for one's company, given the amount of legwork it entails.  That's why many prospective professionals or businesses looking to hire have turned to the Internet as a resource to apply or recruit.  From job-posting websites such as Monster and Workopolis to business-oriented social networks such as LinkedIn, the Internet is helping connect those who need a job done with those who can do it.

Our LinkedIn course: