Cheat sheet for the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is not a ways down the road, it’s banging on the door.

According to Gartner, there will be about 4.9 billion connected units in use this year; by 2020, that number will grow to 26 billion. Another study said that nearly 20 percent of the planet’s developers are working in some capacity on projects related to the Internet of Things.

That kind of far-reaching, fast-growing technology has a lot of people seriously worried about privacy and security. Eugene Kaspersky even calls IoT the Internet of Threats because of the potentially catastrophic danger of the ever increasing number of smart devices connected to the Internet.

If you’re late to the IoT buzz, here’s a short list of things you should know about the coming super network.

What it is
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the emerging interconnectivity of  embedded devices – including those attached to the power grid – using Internet protocols.  Examples include smart outlets capable of tracking electricity usage, Wi-Fi thermostats, which can be adjusted from anywhere within range, and even pacemakers.

How it communicates
Machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies allow IoT devices such as sensors and industrial systems to communicate with each other autonomously via the Internet.

Needs standards
Proposed standards include the IoTivity project, developed by the Open Interconnect Consortium, the AllJoyn proposed IoT standard from the AllSeen Alliance consortium, whose members include Microsoft, Lenovo, Qualcomm and Cisco.  Many proprietary automation frameworks also exist including Apple’s HomeKit and Belkin’s WeMo platforms as well as standards from Google and the Industrial Internet Consortium.

Depends on IPv6
IoT devices are designed to be interconnected via IPv6, which will allow more streamlined route aggregation across the Internet. IPv6 also offers improved mobility, security and address management.

Low-power everything
The IoT is built to facilitate transmission of information from low-power devices like sensors over the Internet. Because such devices have limited processing abilities, they need to use low-power transmissions to connect to wireless networks and optimize battery life. 

Wireless too
Not all Iot devices are wired to the Internet. Many can connect to each other or the Internet through various wireless transports such as RF, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellphone networks such as 2G, 3G and 4G, ultrawide band and ZigBee.

Challenges at home
For some, the inability of in-home devices to talk to each other creates a messy basket of remotes, where each appliance has its own wireless remote to control its functions. 

Public-sector use cases
A recent study by Cisco identified areas in which the IoT could provide tangible public benefits, including: online smart parking systems, home healthcare systems, variable road pricing, telework, connected learning and military systems.

Recent government action
Congress has decided to jump into the IoT issue through the creation of the Congressional Caucus on the Internet of Things.  Chaired by Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the IoT Caucus will seek to monitor public policy concerns within the  the IoT realm, including the impact of electronic connectivity on individual citizens as well as businesses in  the health care, and transportation sectors. And the Federal Trade Commission recently issued a report summarizing a workshop it held on the privacy and security of the Internet of Things.


About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.


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