From A to Z in the Internet of Things

We all know the Internet of Things — or at least we think we do. The term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013, defined as “a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data.”

But what features go into that connectivity? What objects are involved in each network? Who are key players and what are they working on? Read on for our A to Z glossary of the Internet of Things.

A: Arduino

Arduino is an open-source physical computing platform that’s based on a simple microcontroller board. In the Internet of Things, Arduino is used by beginners and experts alike to develop interactive objects for a variety of purposes.

B: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE, Bluetooth 4.0) is a version of the Bluetooth wireless communications standard, which runs constantly, announcing a device’s presence to local sensors and optimizing battery life for the device in question. In the Internet of Things, BLE allows for precise location and feature tracking without reduced battery life.

C: Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is an oft-used feature of the Internet of Things, wherein various apps and services are hosted and delivered over the Internet rather than requiring new infrastructure, personnel, or software on the ground.

D: Domotics

Domotics as a term indicates the confluences of “domestic” and “robotics” and forms the basis of many Internet of Things innovations. These include home automation systems, autonomous service robots like the Roomba vacuum, and networked security systems. In the Internet of Things, these devices often have machine-to-machine communication capabilities.

E: Embedded Computing

Embedded computing is a term for computing that is dedicated to a single purpose, as opposed to general-purpose computing. Embedded computer systems are special-purpose and contain only the software and hardware needed to achieve those ends. In the Internet of Things, many systems are developed for specific purposes and made to work in concert with other systems.

F: Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA)

Firmware Over-The-Air capabilities allow mobile phones and other devices to be updated over a network rather than in a brick-and-mortar store. In the Internet of Things, this functionality means that wired homes and other embedded systems can be installed on site and updated after the fact.

G: Geographic Information System (GIS)

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) capture, manage, analyze, and present geographic data via hardware and software. In the Internet of Things, GIS often forms the basis for location-enabled services and related apps.

H: Haptic Technology

Haptic technology is a form of touch feedback that imbues human/machine interactions with tactile responses. Sensors may detect pressure and direct feedback like vibrations and noises. In the Internet of Things, haptic technology serves to facilitate human interaction with machines.

I: Interoperability

The term “interoperability” describes a system’s ability to share information and services with another system. Much of the success of the Internet of Things relies on the ability of connected devices to operate seamlessly and effectively together.

J: Jawbone

The Jawbone Up is just one device in a rapidly widening field of activity trackers meant to monitor, tabulate, and report your exercise, food, and sleep activity. In the Internet of Things, connected wearables like Jawbone and Fitbit tie your movements in the physical world to the devices you carry with you, further blurring the lines between digital and reality.

K: Kevin Ashton

Kevin Ashton coined the phrase “Internet of Things” in 1999, in reference to “RFID and sensor technology  [that might] enable computers to observe, identify and understand the world without the limitations of human-entered data.”

L: Location Technologies

Location technologies like Global Positioning Systems (GPS) work to establish and communicate the location of a device to sensors around it. In the Internet of Things, this capability serves to position a device or user within a system.

M: Machine-to-Machine (M2M)

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology refers to automatic communication between devices without human intervention. PC Magazine notes that this can be achieved via a system of remote sensors that continuously transmits data to another, centralized system (such as weather sensing systems, RFID tags, and automatic meter readings).

N: Nest

The Nest learning thermostat represents Google’s first foray into the automated home market. Through regular use, the Nest learns your schedule, programs itself, and can be controlled from your phone, lowering heating and cooling bills by up to 20 percent.

O: Open Source

Open Source software makes its source code freely available for anyone to modify and redistribute. This stands in contrast to a proprietary system. Readily available Open Source software is fueling a great deal of advancement in the Internet of Things, as developers from all walks of life try their hand at innovation.

P: Pulse Oximeter

As the Internet of Things branches into health care, wearable tracking devices like the Owlet enable parents to be connected to their infants at all times by using portable pulse oximetry to measure heart rate and oxygen levels without being invasive.

Q: Quantified Self

The quantified self is an Internet of Things concept that implies a perpetually “tracked” human, with sensors monitoring everything from sleep and exercise to food, moods, and habits. This tracking is done via sensors, apps, and wearable technology.

R: Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized personal computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. The device helps to democratize programming, since it’s inexpensive, available to the masses, and can do many of the things desktop PCs can do.

S: Sensor

Internet of Things – Architecture defines a sensor as a “special device that perceives certain characteristics of the real world and transfers them into a digital representation.” Sensors form the backbone of the Internet of Things, helping to bridge the gap between digital and physical.

T: Thing

In the phrase “Internet of Things,” the word “thing” denotes a physical entity (in contrast to the digital and network connection shared between these systems). This could be household appliances, wearable technology, security systems, or other connected devices.

U: Ubiquitous Computing

Ubiquitous computing is ever-present and always on. In the Internet of Things, microprocessors are embedded in everyday devices, allowing them to be constantly connected to a network and both collecting and transmitting information.

V: Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V)

Part of the future of self-driving cars, Vehicle-to-Vehicle systems allow passenger cars and other vehicles to communicate with each other and with various road and traffic sensors. This intercommunication may eventually allow for self-regulating traffic and transportation systems.

W: Wearable Technology

Wearable technology, like the aforementioned Jawbone Up and Fitbit activity trackers, is one of the main focus areas of the Internet of Things at the moment. Devices like these often work by gamifying real-life tasks, bringing people into the device’s ecosystem and generating data that can be analyzed to improve products and lifestyles.

X: Google X

Google X is Google’s top-secret lab tasked with a number of different projects, many of which have to do with creating a connected world. Self-driving cars are just one of the many products of Google X that belong in the Internet of Things.

Y: Year of the Internet of Things

Forbes has dubbed 2014 the Year of the Internet of Things, and with good reason. Between Google’s acquisition of Nest and AT&T’s work on its own home automation platform, corporate mindset is trained on the Internet of Things and interconnectivity as the next big thing.

Z: Zigbee

ZigBee is a wireless standard designed to carry small amounts of data over a mid-range distance and consume minimal power. Internet of Things staples like the Nest thermostat and Hue light bulb both use Zigbee chips.