Unsure about just what the Internet of Things is? Here’s a breakdown

The internet has become an integral part of our daily lives, and its has grown at lightning speed. From 1995 to 2016, the number of internet users grew from 44 million to 3.4 billion. If you take a second to really think about it, it actually wasn’t that long ago when going on the internet involved waiting for the phone line to be free, typing in your user name and password, hearing that horrible dial-up sound, and then feeling a sense of relief when you heard the male robot voice say “you’ve got mail.”

Broadband internet made things a lot easier. You could make a call and be on the web at the same time, and it no longer felt like an epic quest to do something like download a file. The internet became faster, more user-friendly, and more and more people started to see its advantages (outside of just porn and educational research). According to Speedtest.net, the average download speed over fixed broadband in the U.S. was 95.25 Mbps. and the upload speed was 32.88 Mbps between Q2 and Q3 of 2018.

Today, people are surprised to hear if another person doesn’t use the internet. As of 2018, roughly 9 out of 10 adults in the U.S. use the ‘net, and we don’t just use it on our computers. The Internet of Things has become a part of our daily lives as well.

You’ve probably heard of the “Internet of Things” or IoT, and you likely use IoT devices on a regular basis, but you may be wondering what the IoT is exactly. Is it the next evolution in the internet? We’re going to break it down.

What exactly is the Internet of Things?

virgin mobile tech disruptions internet of things concept home appliances connected to smartphone

By definition, the IoT is “the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.” In other words, the IoT is connecting your stuff to the internet or to other stuff so it can do new stuff outside of the stuff it can already do (like control your stuff remotely and receive alerts and status updates).

What are IoT devices?

Things like smart light switches, smart thermostats, smart locks, home security cameras, and smart appliances are IoT devices. Smart homes products, from robot vacuums to smart pressure cookers, are all IoT devices.

Think of it this way: If it can connect to the internet or to some other device or network of devices that connects to the internet, and it’s not a computing device that would be expected to have an internet connection in order to perform its primary functions, it probably fits the bill.

How do Voice Assistants like Alexa fit into the equation?

amazon deals echo ring security fire and kindle all new plus  2nd gen bundle with philips hue bulb 1

Devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home are IoT devices. However, Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa can control more smart home products than Google Assistant or Siri. Alexa is present in the Echo devices, as well as other gadgets like headphones and thermostats.

Amazon appears to be competing to have Alexa become an IoT operating system where smart home consumers go to control their lights, locks, vacuums, cameras, and appliances all in one place.

What’s next for the IoT?

Some estimates say that by 2025, there will be upwards of 21 billion IoT devices. Other estimates say that number will be even higher. As more and more IoT products hit the market, people start to have this expectation that our household items — vacuums, appliances, lights — will be able to connect to Wi-Fi, and that they’ll be able to do so seamlessly and affordably.

Google Duplex can already carry out real world conversations. As assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant evolve into true A.I., they’ll likely support more IoT devices and features on those devices. This is not to say that all of our homes will be like Tony Stark’s, controlled by a Jarvis-like assistant. But hey, you never know. Back when we were first connecting to dial-up internet, most of us didn’t think we’d have speakers like Alexa and voice-controlled robotic vacuum cleaners.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our favorites, with all the features you want.

Law Enforcement and Technology: What is the right balance?

Mobile technology is finally advancing out of the standard form we've become used to. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is one example of further innovation and possibly a redesign of how we communicate and interact with our devices. Will 5G…
Smart Home

Which is better, the original Echo or the Echo Dot? We compare them

Amazon Echo vs. Dot: Having Alexa answer your questions is nothing short of futuristic, but which device should you get? There are some big differences between the two, especially in size, sound, and cost.
Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.
Smart Home

Viral porch pirate videos freak people out, cause unrealistic concern

Viral porch pirate videos convince others crime is more prevalent than facts indicate. According to polls, even though FBI reports show property crime rates are at historic lows, more people worry about crime today than ever before.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.

Amazon slashes $77 off the iRobot Roomba 690 multisurface robot vacuum

This special offer comes just in time for you to get a head start on spring cleaning. The Roomba 690 robot vacuum sucks up dust, dirt and pet hair — all while you're away at the office.
Smart Home

Get sweaty with the best smart home fitness gadgets on the market

Are you looking for smart fitness devices that will really help your workouts, no matter where you like to exercise? These smart home gadgets are designed to help you analyze your workouts and keep track of how you are doing.
Smart Home

Our favorite coffee makers make flavorful cups of joe from the comforts of home

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.

Vivint’s Car Guard keeps tabs on your vehicle when you’re not in it

A simple plug-in that you can place in just about any vehicle, Vivint's new Car Guard will automatically detect if your car is bumped, towed, or stolen and will alert you about it.

Fibaro smart devices are now compatible with the Samsung SmartThings hub

Samsung SmartThings now supports even more devices with the integration of Fibaro, a company known for its smart home sensors. Several Fibaro devices are already compatible, with more on the way.
Emerging Tech

Tombot is the hyper-realistic dog robot that puts Spot to shame

Forget Boston Dynamics’ Spot! When it comes to robot dogs, the folks behind a new Kickstarter campaign have plans to stake their claim as makers of man’s (and woman’s) newest best friend.