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What Is the “Thing” in the IoT?

What Is a Thing in the IoT?Everyone talks about the Internet of Things. And sure, you know what the Internet is (youre soaking in it!). But what about those things? Is it any thing? Really? Lets break it down and look at what exactly is the thing in the Internet of Things.

In 1999, Kevin Ashton of MITs Auto-ID Center coined the phrase Internet of Things as a metaphor for having all objects in daily life equipped with identifiers so computers could manage and inventory them. So the things are basically any item that can have a sensor attached to it and can be tracked by computers.

Sensors Are Crucial for IoT

Any device that detects events or changes in its environment and then provides a corresponding output can be classified as a sensor. For IoT purposes, sensors are often integrated circuits, since the small size and low cost of these chips make them particularly useful. Commonly used IoT sensors include accelerometers, thermometers, gyroscopes, light sensors, MEMS sensors, and magnetometers, but particular industries or markets (such as healthcare) may have specialized sensors as well.

Sensors can transform an ordinary thing into part of the Internet of Things. Inventory tracking was assumed in the initial definition, and IoT supply chain management tools are making business more efficient. Public libraries were an early adopter (long before tablets and eBooks) when they put barcodes and RFID tags in books for tracking and to allow patrons to self-checkout. As more of varieties of tiny, inexpensive sensors readily available, the range of connected things has expanded across business and consumer applications.

We have smart homes filled with IoT-enabled appliances that automatically know if people are in the room. We drive connected cars that warn us when maintenance is needed and alert the authorities in case of an accident. Our doctors can track chronic diseases by having us wear unobtrusive monitors. Farmers can even put IoT-connected collars on cows wearing so they know the best time to milk them!

Beyond Things to Big Data

Of course, IoT needs more than just things to be connected. All these smart machines send out tons of data, whether its temperature, movement, or more complicated statistics such as heart rate and vital signs. A home automation system can generation thousands of data points in a day, and the Aeris IoT/M2M network manages traffic from nearly one billion IoT events each day. The more IoT data thats being transported, the more sophisticated analytics are needed to understand and interpret patterns within this data so it becomes useful.

New ways to process and store computing data has made it possible to apply analytics to problems faster and at a greater scale than ever before. Successful organizations take advantage of these tools and analyze the data their IoT deployments collect so they can gain insights into everything from how to streamline their manufacturing processes to how satisfied their customers are.

Once you have the things (and their sensors) connected, get ready to parse that data. Take a look at our analytics infographic and see how it all comes together.

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