The Internet of Things is a system of computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without the assistance of computers interacting with humans or other computers.
A "thing" in the Internet of Things (IoT) can be a person with an implanted electronic device, an animal with a transponder chip, a car fitted with technology that senses when a driver is exiting their lane, or any other object that can be assigned an IP address and has the ability to transfer data over a network.
IoT has progressed as a result of the coming together of wireless technology, micro-electromechanical systems, microservices and the internet. As these systems come together, the walls of information silos between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) come tumbling down. Without these walls, OT and IT are free to generate data. As humans, we can analyze this computer generated data to improve our existing systems.
The concept of IoT first emerged in 1999. Kevin Ashton used it to describe the idea that "if we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things...we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost".
In Ashton's mind, if computers could learn these things, then the world would run more efficiently. Ashton argues that computers need "their own means of gathering information". Humans are by nature imperfect. We have limited time, attention and accuracy. Because of these imperfections, we are inefficient at capturing data in the real world. Empowering computers to capture data on their own could eliminate that inefficiency.
Today, the technology exists to assign IP addresses to every "thing" on the planet in the form of Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6). Many industries are implementing practical applications of IoT to improve their efficiency. The auto industry has made several improvements that allow cars to sense hazards on the road and automatically engage the brakes, and even to park themselves.
It can be argued that technology is most useful when it "disappears". This disappearance is not literal, but implies that it becomes so interwoven with daily life that we go about our days without ever considering that it is present and operating. Waking up to a made pot of coffee and the lights turned on is made possible by the Internet of Things.
This idea of a network of connected, self-teaching everyday items is no longer just a theory. With the help of increasingly smaller sensors, humans have developed the ability to make everyday objects into things that can make observations and learn patterns.
As a result of these advances, businesses such as Samsung and Google have invested a great deal of capital in the Internet of Things, and plan to invest even more in the future. Samsung recently announced that it plans to invest $1.2 billion by the year 2020.
With this exciting advance in technology and growing network of "things" connected by the internet, data security becomes an increased risk. But proponents of IoT point to this security risk as an incredible opportunity and challenge for data security software businesses to create improved security systems. Financial institutions and other businesses that handle personal information have increased security by necessity. As the Internet of Things evolves, the thought is that so will the data security industry.