What is IoT? Here Are The Definitions From Industry Experts

By Bernhard Mehl
March 22, 2018

By the end of 2016, there are expected to be 6.4 billion connected “things” throughout the world – a number that is up a whopping 30 percent from 2015. By 2020, we should expect the number of connected things to be up to 20.8 billion. This amounts to over 5.5 million new things connected every single day.

These “things” – or devices, machines, and objects – are connected to the Internet in our homes, workplaces, schools, cities, and cars, helping us live smarter, more efficient, and more streamlined lives.

The rise of IoT

As an IoT company, it’s important for us to keep our finger on the pulse of trends within all things IoT. One of the most interesting trends we’ve been tracking throughout the last couple months (thanks to Google Trends) is the significant spike in Google searches for “What is IoT.”

google trend what is iot

Searches for simply “IoT” are up significantly, too, solidifying that people throughout the world are starting to explore what exactly the IoT revolution is and how it is going to effect their lives.

google trends iot

When we took a step back, we realized it makes a lot of sense for individuals to begin explicitly questioning “What is IoT,” as IoT is a revolution that has become engrained in our day-to-day life seemingly right under our noses.

Whether it’s a fridge texting us to let us know we need to stop at the store on the way home, a thermostat being able to sense when aren’t in a room and respond with a temperature change, or a smartphone unlocking our office door, IoT has made its way into our lives as something that feels like an added “feature” to a product, when it is actually a revolutionary shift in a product’s capability.

What is IoT?

Because IoT has so many applications across a great deal of industries, it’s hard to settle on just one definition of IoT.

In order to get the best idea of what IoT is, we gathered definitions from industry leaders and experts at some of the most innovative and forward-thinking IoT companies and publications throughout the world. These individuals are at the heart of the IoT revolution, and are responsible for many of the IoT-enabled products you see and use today.

We simply asked them to answer the question “What is IoT?” in their own words, without any limit to how long or short the definition needs to be.The responses from these industry leaders and experts are below in no particular order.

To see a slideshow of the expert definitions, click here.

Q&A: What is IoT?

Michael Crawford What is IoT, Internet of Things

Michael Crawford

Partner, Q Advisors

IoT is a system of capturing, transmitting, managing and analyzing data in order to monitor events, identify relationships, predict outcomes and improve performances. It’s digital origami through which otherwise flat bits and bytes take on a useful and informative shape.

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Alex Davies

Alex Davies

Analyst and Editor, Rethink IoT

Adding connectivity, whether direct or indirect, to a previously unconnected object, and deriving a value from that connection.

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Vitaly Golomb What is IoT

Vitaly M. Golomb

Investments and Partnerships, HP Tech Ventures

Much like the letter “e” was attached to many new business models during the dot com wave; IoT is a term being used to describe some ineffable, Internet-connected future. The reality is, that devices will increasingly be pervasively connected to the Internet. We are going through the first wave of this phenomenon now.

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Bernhard Mehl

Bernhard Mehl

CEO, Kisi

Machines communicating with each other and their surrounding environments to help humans, other machines, and applications make smarter, more efficient decisions.

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Saverio Romeo What is IoT

Saverio Romeo

Principal Analyst, Beecham Research

The question “What is the IoT?”, inevitably, takes me to Mark Weiser’s seminal paper “The Computer for the 21st Century” published in 1991. The paper starts with the famous statement “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they become indistinguishable from it.” From there, the paper is a marvellous jump into the future, a jump into the days we are living and the ones will come! The Internet of Things vision fuses physical spaces and digital (or virtual) spaces through a plethora of devices that disappear in the context around us or in our body or in the objects that we use or may use. All this defines new lifestyles and new modi operandi that efficiently and sustainably led to better life conditions and new ideas.

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Dr. Mazlan Abbas What is IoT

Dr. Mazlan Abbas

CEO, REDtone IoT

The ultimate goal of IoT is to automate your digital lifestyle and propel your business.

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Daniel Burrus What is IoT

Daniel Burrus

Founder and CEO, Burrus Research, Inc.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a combination of networked sensors and machines that enable machine-to-machine communications. Enabling technologies include the Internet, advanced cloud services, wired and wireless networks, and data-gathering sensors, making the system instantaneous anywhere, anytime. Advantages of IoT include the ability to monitor and control, real-time asset management, faster response times, major cost savings and, perhaps the biggest advantage, the ability to predict and prevent. IoT will create one of the biggest disruptions and opportunities we have seen in every imaginable field.

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Joao Marques Lima

Joao Marques Lima

Journalist, Computer Business Review

The IoT is now moving away from the embryo stage into the real world. It is about connecting things (not only physical objects, people, animals, etc, but also services) to the internet. Simply put, if it has an IP address, an identifier and internet connection then it is an IoT-enabled product (hence all those giant stats we get bombarded with all the time). These products send out and receive data from different sources, with the cloud being a crucial part of the whole IoT ecosystem. This architecture generally also includes IoT software, sensors, gateways, and any other sort of hardware needed. Yet, IoT only makes sense if it can provide real value to the end-user, an operator or a manufacturer. A consumer example is a smart wallpaper that can call for the right emergency services in case of a home accident. Are we going to keep calling it IoT? Only the future will tell.

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Ali Sheikh What is IoT, Internet of Things

Ali Sheikh

Senior Associate, Konica Minolta BIC

The Internet of Things is a network that makes [dumb] physical devices smart by allowing these devices to communicate with each other and make various decisions without the need of human interaction.

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Scott Nelson What is IoT, Internet of Things

Scott Nelson

CEO/CTO, Reuleaux Technologies

The Internet of Things is a technology-business ecosystem wherein real world activity and situational data from things are collected from sensors and digital infrastructure, especially wireless infrastructure. This data is processed in a contextual understanding that enables companies to achieve greater value through improved operational performance, better customer service, and/or new solutions to customer needs.

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Jessica Groopman What is IoT Internet of Things

Jessica Groopman

Research Director and Principal Analyst, Harbor Research

The interconnection and interaction of the digital and physical worlds, wherein uniquely identifiable embedded technology connects and integrates physical ‘things’ (i.e. objects, people, devices, machines, infrastructure, systems, etc.) to information networks via existing and emerging Internet infrastructure. Put simply, IoT is a platform for connecting people, objects, and environments to inform and enable visibility, interactions, and innovation.

In two words:

Digital physical.

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Kurt Nehrenz What is IoT, Internet of Things

Kurt Nehrenz

Co-founder, VP Technology, BlueCats

The Internet of Things is an ecosystem currently under construction which will allow diverse and widespread information gathering and informed decision making. It is enabled by discrete, economical sensors who utilize long range, lightweight data transfer protocols, and low power cloud connected gateways which route an enormous amount of information to central systems which can raise alerts, analyze, and take action. This capability is driving efficiency savings and new opportunities through trend analysis and rapid reaction to the state of the endpoints in the connected ecosphere. The world changed when the Internet allowed people to maintain a constant state of connectivity – and the IOT revolution represents the same leap forward.

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Kayiita Johnson What is IoT, Internet of Things

Kayiita Johnson

Major Account Technical Sales Rep, Texas Instruments

The Internet of Things has the potential to be the next stage of the mobile revolution. In order for that to happen, there needs to be a continued commitment to innovation – not only from startups, but also from the big infrastructure players. Construction firms, Internet providers and governments of all jurisdiction sizes around the world must be committed to creating opportunities for IoT companies. IoT can be as meaningless as certain areas of the Internet, or as useful as others, and our goal is to enable the IoT companies making a lasting impact in the world, on companies and consumers.

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John Myers What is IoT, Internet of THings

John Myers

Managing Research Director, Enterprise Management Associates

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an interconnected web of sensor enabled devices that communication between each other and a series of intermediary collection points. This web of devices provides sensor information on device operation, status and location. However, the true value of the Internet of Things goes beyond the simple interconnected operational status iot communication protocols. The value of the Internet of things is the ability to collect, analyze and act upon the information that flows from and between devices to create optimized scenarios of interaction between the IoT devices. For example, in a connected car scenario, where there may or may not be a driver, IoT promises to reduce congestion and improve transportation safety by historical and realtime information based decision making.

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Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino What is IoT, Internet of Things

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

Founder, Designswarm

The Internet of things defines the potential new business services, products and interactions offered by embedding hardware technologies and connectivity (web/mobile/radio) in previously unconnected physical products & spaces.

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Murdoch Fitzgerald What is IoT, Internet of Things

Murdoch Fitzgerald

VP of Supplier Marketing, Arrow Electronics

IoT is a movement that is driving transformation and influencing business outcomes, all enabled by technology. Arrow Electronics is a technology partner creating IoT end to end solutions to solve business challenges.

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Nicholas Joshi What is IoT, Internet of things

Nicholas Joshi

Director of Customer Advocacy, MakerBot

The IoT revolution is the idea of all devices connected to one universal network. This concept will revolutionize how people interact with technology and ultimately, each other.

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Rob van Kranenburg What is IoT?

Rob van Kranenburg

Founder, Council

The Internet of Things is a horizontal operation affecting all domains, infrastructures and institutions much like the Internet has done with the browser (1993). It is driven by a combination of logistics (RFID, barcodes, NFC, QR codes, smart tags) that plans to tag every object on the planet, and IPv6 which will add IP functionality to anything that can hold software (from toothbrushes to cars and washing machines to lamps). It is not new. From the 70s ubicomp, pervasive computing and ambient intelligence brought us smart offices, gadgets and transport but as there was no Cloud all projects remained demos. From 2000 the Cloud enables IoT. That explains the speed and momentum it is gathering now. Operationally you can understand it if you look at what Google is doing with Glass, NEST, Google Car and Alphabet. It links up the data in health, home, mobility and city or Body Area Network, Local Area Network, Wide Area Network and Very Wide Area Network, or wearables, smart home, connected car and smart city. Their products are gateways linking up these networks so the end users always stays in the Google cloud. Only with such deep integration will the real benefits of IoT become apparent to us as citizens and end users: the best feedback on mental and physical health, the best real-time resource allocation (best deals) in home, mobility and public matters. Governments are beginning to see that such a model is the only way to guarantee public and inclusive services. The US is looking into Cyber Physical systems, China into its own China OS, Singapore is building a cybernetics as Smart Nation. We have seen technology affecting our daily lives in just about any operation, it will start changing the nature of politics soon. At that point it becomes clear that it is much more than a backend operation or adding analytics to big data, it is actually a new form of democracy itself. That is why we need public debate as well as the experts, the engineers, talking more responsibility for what they are building.

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Ken Herron What is IoT, Internet of Things

Ken Herron

Chief Marketing Officer, Unified Inbox

IoT is when I have my house, my office, and my car in my iPhone’s Contacts, and I can communicate with them (i.e., email, text, tweet, and WhatsApp) just as easily as I can a person.

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Toby Ruckert What is IoT, Internet of Things

Toby Ruckert

Founder and CEO, Unified Inbox

IoT is for Artificial Intelligence (AI) what the Internet was for e-commerce. One day we may ask whether new things were born from the internet or whether it was things that created a new type of internet. Perhaps both. We may then find it hard to separate between human, internet and machine. Ultimately IoT is ushering in a new era between nature, universe and technology.

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Davienne Dente What is IoT, Internet of Things

Davienne Dente

Senior Account Executive, T-Mobile@Work

The Promise of IoT is to enable everything that simplifies our lives, to communicate.  It’s the concept of a giant network giving us control or delivering information to us from multiple sources. It could be the simplest of objects like lightbulbs, or larger, such as appliances. It is allowing us to improve our experiences with things we already encounter in our day to day lives.  Wireless has become the primary means for “things” to communicate.  We are happy to be at the forefront of this technology, and excited about the future that is already here.

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Bernhard Mehl

Bernhard is the co-founder and CEO of Kisi. His philosophy, "security is awesome," is contagious among tech-enabled companies.

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