There are many definitions of IoT. It just depends on how you look at it:
- the application perspective
- the technological perspective
- the industry context
- the benefits
Most IoT definitions emphasize different characteristics.
Here are some of the elements that the IoT definitions generally have in common.
Regardless of the source of the definition of IoT, Everyone talks about a network of devices, sensors or objects. It’s pretty clear that a dimension of networks and connectedness, we would even say hyper-connectedness, needs to be present in any decent IoT definition. The discussion then becomes if it’s “just” about the Internet or also about other networks.
Units, physical objects, sensors, devices, endpoints, "the physical world", the list is long. They are all terms to describe an important part of a network of "things". Some also add words as smart or intelligent to the devices. A little more accurate, it is correct to say that there are "things" that contain technology that gives them an additional ability to "do something", such as measuring temperature or humidity levels, capturing location data, recording sound, sensing movement, or capturing any other form of action and context, which can be registered and converted into data.
Data information is part of the intelligent notion of IoT, and approaches the essence of IoT.
Therefore, one should not define IoT by just describing all the characteristics ( "what It Is"), one must also look at the purpose - "why".
" Data information is an essential part of the IoT "equation".
"There is no IoT without (" big ") data, but only data information is not enough ..."
Data information as such maybe not without value, but it does not matter unless the information is used for a purpose and it makes sense, insight, intelligence or leads to an act. To explain this, the DIKW model (from data to information to knowledge to wisdom – and action) can be mentioned. In other words, the data collected from different IoT devices must be communicated and converted into useful information, knowledge, insight, wisdom or actions.
- Intelligence and action
It is not necessarily correct that most definitions of data intelligence are attributed only to networks and / or devices. The real intelligence and action sits in the analysis of the data and the smart usage of this data to solve a challenge, create a competitive benefit, automate a process, and improve something. There is no IoT without (" big ") data, and no matter what actions the IoT system is addressing or solving, there is also no useful IoT data distribution without understanding meaning intelligence, (big) data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing and so on.
There is always a degree of automation involved, irrespective of the scope of the IoT project. With subsequent costs and benefits, most IoT applications are about automation. Depending on the context, industrial automation, business process automation or automatic software update plays an important role. For example, autonomous vehicles whereby maintenance, upgrades and so forth are all about automation and software, powered by data which are fed by sensors and connected devices.
Community importance and cohesion is many times missing in the answers to the questions about what IoT is. Many become focused on technology in their responses and are not sure about the purposes and the intelligent results and changes that IoT can lead to. Some would say that IoT is not just about IoT, but it has to be seen through an IoT ecosystem perspective and that it is more about IoE (Internet of Everything). It can therefore be a bit confusing when some people only attributes the importance of IoT to devices associated with "personal" apps, because IoT is so much more and many of these apps are actually far from the original meaning of IoT.
The definition of ioT is in evolution in several ways:
- Some industry bodies update their IoT definitions and descriptions in fields that is still lacking standardization.
- Markets evolve and change views and definitions of IoT, because the impact of different market analysts or companies that are highly active in the "IoT Room" is very prevailing.
- There is a shift in the way some people think about IoT. Some define "things" based upon what they are and what they are not. Some can define "things" by focusing on the characteristics, while most people forget the most important question to answer in a IoT definition: why and how do we use “something”?
- Some look less at "things" and technologies for IoT and more on the broader reality and the context in which the IoT fits. The many use cases and focus on the outcome (services) will be more crucial.
Below is a list with some of today's various attempts IoT definitions.
- IoT is the interconnected sphere of physical devices connected to the Internet and other networks through unique identifiable IP addresses, where data is collected and communicated through sensors, electronics and software.
- IoT is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.
- IoT describes a range of applications, protocols, standards, architectures and data acquisition and analysis technologies whereby devices and items (appliances, clothes, animals,….) which are equipped with sensors, specifically designed software and /or other digital and electronical systems, are connected to the Internet and/or other networks via a unique IP address or URI, with a societal, industrial, business and/or human purpose in mind.
- Data is acquired, analyzed and combined into information and benefits. The IoT provides ways to utilize sources and different types of data into brand new business models and social improvements by providing better insight, shaping commitment and changing living.
- IoT is an umbrella term that distinguishes between Consumer Internet of Things (CIoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). IoT is a part of IoE (Internet of Everything) - all in a large, distributed world ("online") network. There is an overlap between CIoT and IIoT, and therefore they cover many applications.
If you would like to read more about the definition of IoT, we recommend the website of the IEEE:
Technological and social aspects of IoT. Towards a definition of IoT - IEEE - PDF.