Last edited 18 Nov 2021

Internet of things IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the application of unique identifiers to physical objects that enables them to be connected to a network allowing the transfer of data to and from those objects.

The ability to connect objects via the Internet has existed since the 1980s, and the phrase 'Internet of Things' was first coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 who wrote; 'If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things - using data they gathered without any help from us - we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best'.

However, it is only with the recent growth of Internet Protocol (IP) address space (through the development of Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)), the emergence of wireless networks and the production of embedded technologies that can sense and communicate, that the potential of the Internet of things has become truly realisable.

IoT objects can be people, animals, vehicles, plant, appliances, building components and so on. The allocation of an IP address to these objects means that they have the potential to communicate with other objects on the network (often machine-to-machine or M2M communication). Such objects are sometimes described as 'smart' objects, for example, a smart meter, smart phone and so on.

Internet-enabled devices are influencing the development of manufacturing processes, communications technologies, energy distribution, transport networks, healthcare and so on.

The high number of components used in the construction and operation of buildings means that the potential for IoT application is very significant:

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