Deciphering the Internet of ___

You hear a lot about the Internet of Things (and its close relations) these days and as happens so often for phenomena caught in the hype cycle, there is also a lot of confusion about what exactly it all means.

So, let’s explore some basic foundational definitions that should help clarify things.

Internet: the global system of inter-connected computer networks that use the TCP/IP communications protocol to link billions of devices worldwide. For most people, the Internet is synonymous with the World Wide Web, but the Internet is much more than that. Email, peer-to-peer networks, voice over IP (VOIP) as well as the Web also run on the Internet.

Internet of Things (IoT): the phrase has its origins in the networking of physical-first things aka “dumb objects” through the augmentation of their intrinsic capabilities; we are talking about adding one or more of embedded electronics, software, sensors, actuators etc. to these objects. Today of course, it is quite common to find the “things” being connected being “smart” and having built-in connectivity and control features. Some examples of IoT include smart cities, connected cars and smart homes.

Internet of Digital (IoD): in a world where objects have built-in smartness when it comes to connectivity and control, in other words, today’s world, this phrase signifies the networking of “smart” or digital-first objects. Wearables are a good example of this particular concept.

Machine-to-Machine (M2M): this phrase has telecommunication roots and refers to direct or point to point communications between devices; originally such devices were physical-first devices. The other distinguishing feature of M2M is the fact that the communication happens without human intervention. M2M applications or services can be seen in telemetry, traffic control and robotics.

Internet of Everything (IoE): as the ideas, concepts and marketing around IoT marinated, it became clear that a broader definition was needed to encompass the various use cases that were being worked on. The IoE can be seen as the networked connection of people, data, process and things; it is seen as a super set of what is usually called IoT.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): when we apply IoT in industry (especially in manufacturing), we are talking about IIOT which is seen as a subset of IoT. The use cases for IIoT fall into three main categories: building automation, intelligent maintenance and machine automation. The main impetus for deploying IIoT is to drive down costs and boost efficiency, productivity and revenues.

Internet of Humans (IoH): this is probably the most ill-defined “Internet of ___” concept at the present time. I do predict that will change soon and it will begin to attract a lot more thought and attention in the near future. Now, even though the IoE includes people as part of its core definition, the IoH is fundamentally about connectivity from a purely human point of view. Some of the elements that (should) relate to the IoH are the notion of networked human experiences being absolutely key as well as the need for highly personalized experiences that allow for fluid, immersive interaction (with people, the world etc) that is in harmony with each individual’s preferences. Think of it as an aspirational concept that comes into being when the IoE is designed and implemented from an exclusively human centric view point and with a definite stance on what constitutes an optimal quality of life when it comes to human interconnectedness.

For those who prefer diagrams:

The Internet of ________