Beginning the Internet of Things

Kevin Ashton
5 min readMar 18, 2016

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How do new things come to be? Creations are neither miracles nor magic, but the consequence of many small, often meandering, steps. Sometimes creators head in one direction only to become lost or reach a dead end, yet — if they continue to hope — they still end up somewhere interesting.

All this is true of my work on the Internet of Things.

The only thing for which I can perhaps claim sole credit is the name: three ungrammatical words that now label computing’s future.

I may even be wrong about that. I think I came up with the name while working on a PowerPoint presentation at Procter & Gamble in the spring of 1999. But I was working with many visionaries at the time, and it may be that one of them said it first, and it later reappeared in my mind, a borrowed thought disguised as an original one. No one has ever claimed as much, and I suppose they would have done so by now, but it is possible nonetheless. I am certainly not some heroic individual contributor. Creation never happens that way. Every movie has a poster highlighting a handful of names — a few stars and co-stars, the director, perhaps a producer or writer — and every movie has end credits, where hundreds or thousands of other names appear. The poster shows creation’s myth: this was made by a few. The end credits show creation’s truth: this was made by many. All creations are like this, but only movies have end credits; for everything else, a few people get all the attention. The Internet of Things is the same: I may be on the poster, but

I was only one person in a large community of creators.

I became interested in computers when I was nine or ten years old, because that is when personal computers first appeared. I stayed interested through my teenage and college years, when the Internet became public for the first time, and when I started my first real job, as an Assistant Brand Manager for the Procter & Gamble company, where I was part of team launching a new range of cosmetics under the Oil of Olay Brand name, between about 1995 and 1998.

The cosmetics launch went well, but I was frustrated to find that some of our most popular products were out of stock…

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Kevin Ashton

Called a thing the Internet of Things. Wrote How to Fly a Horse—The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery, available at http://amzn.to/1llqnbc