A Simple Explanation – The Internet Of Things

Interconnected and the Internet of Things
‘Inter’ Connected

Whenever I hear the term “Internet of Things”  I actually smile (because it is my favorite thing) and almost laugh.  I have been around technology and computers long enough to have seen some terms become very popular but sound very odd.   For example, Java is a programming language.  It isn’t an acronym for some high level concept.  It is named after coffee because….well….most software programmers drink coffee.  It even has a variation known as Java Beans.  Then there are ‘cookies’.  You may recognize this term as we sometimes set our web browsers not to accept them. A cookie is a nice snack we have but in tech terms it is a piece of a website.  Actually….it is a file that is created and stored on your computer when you visit a website that helps the website understand you a little bit better (no…websites are not intelligent).  For example, it can store what other websites you visited and even some purchases.  But cookie stems from the fact people give out ‘cookies’ to other people as a nice treat.  How about this one…..the ‘mouse‘.  The mouse was named after its live counterpart due to the cable looking like a tail.  Silly but funny isn’t it?

So where does the term ‘internet’ originate. Is that some kind of made up term??  It is actually two words….inter and networking.  Networking is the concept of connecting computing devices via a wired or wireless medium.  ‘Inter’ implies to move between.  For over a decade now we also refer to the internet as the ‘cloud’.  So like clouds in the sky that are loosely shaped and unbounded, a network of computing devices can behave the same way.  Think of your home computing network.  You may have 3 computers, a smart television, and a tablet computing device for a total of five connected items on your network.  Then a friend stops by to drop off some cookies (not the internet kind) and they have a smartphone.  They ask if they can use your wifi and now you have six devices connected.  Your network shape just changed.  So whenever we as engineers or computer professionals needed to draw the internet as part of a technology design, we would draw a cloud.  No magic there.  

Now here comes the “Internet of Things” or as it is also referred to as IoT or Internet Version 3.0.  This is the latest evolution of the internet and it really is not difficult to understand.  It means that we are now creating smart devices that can connect to internet and another reason you want to learn how to code.  You can now be in your kitchen with your refrigerator that has a display connected to the internet and you can keep track of your shopping list.   You have internet enabled televisions and security systems too.  But it will go even further in the coming years.  As we add ‘intelligence’, which means software programming, these devices will become more ‘aware’ and assist us with common tasks.  

We already see Amazon.com now providing the internet enabled Dash Wand that can scan a bar code for an item in your kitchen and then have it ordered and sent to your home.  This will eventually be built into your refrigerator.  These connected devices and sensors will continue to find their way into our lives.  Some will require us to interact and some will be seamless and we won’t notice this internet of things around us.  

Magic Bands and the Internet of Things
Walt Disney World Magic Bands

If you have ever visited Walt Disney World recently you may have worn a ‘Magic Band‘.   These colorful and stylish wristbands are enabled with sensor technology that interact with various turn styles to gain access to rides, give you access to a room in your resort hotel, and even pay for goods and services.  These are also a variation on the internet of things as they are connected to the network operating in Walt Disney World.

One thing is for certain we will need young minds to see new ways to code these connected technologies and also help us maintain the human part of our world.  At the risk of dating myself….”the age of the Jetson’s” is right around the corner.

Does this internet of things excite you?
Let me know in the comments below.

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