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?

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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?

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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.

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