What is IoT with example

Internet Internet of Things - What is it?


The Internet of Things has existed as a term since the late 90s, and as an idea for a few years longer. But what does that actually mean? Which devices are included. And above all: why is it even relevant? And for whom? A brief glimpse into a major future topic.

IoT definition

The Internet of Things - IoT for short - as an idea basically saw the light of day as early as 1991: The computer science scientist Mark Weiser said in an essay that personal computers such as laptops and desktop computers "do not make computing an integral, invisible part of the world can see how people live their lives. " And develops a vision of how this can happen after all - with small networked devices that integrate invisibly in the background into normal everyday life.

As a term, IoT first appeared eight years later with the then Procter & Gamble employee Kevin Ashton - at least that was the broad consensus. This dealt with the topic of supply chain, i.e. the chain of actions, participants and things that provide companies with the resources they need; So, for example, the various suppliers and logistics companies in the automotive industry. And this in combination with the then new technology Radio Frequency Identification, better known as RFID.

RFID was - and is - believed to have enormous potential in supply chain management. A very simple example: parts with RFID tags could be scanned when leaving the production site, which makes it very clear that they are now gone. When they are loaded into the truck, they would be scanned again - so they are verifiably on the truck and on the move. They would be scanned again when they were unloaded and when they were put into storage at the customer's premises. And all of this scanned data ensures that it is always clear where the goods are. If such a truck can also be recorded via GPS, you even know exactly where the valuable raw materials are hanging around. And this is where Ashton's IoT concept comes in: If all these scanners, GPS devices and RFID tags "talk" to each other continuously and fully automatically, there is an Internet-like network of things.

Of course, the Internet is ultimately also made up of things, after all, we humans do not - yet - have a direct cable connection to the fiber optic line. But the data that these things, such as laptops and smartphones, send, receive and process comes from the users. You write an email yourself and start sending it. With the IoT, such data flows should happen through things themselves: scanners and sensors continuously record data, send it automatically and other devices such as actuators record it. A practical example from the home: You could install a smart thermometer, a suitable thermostat on the heater and then set up a rule that the thermostat automatically turns down as soon as the thermometer reports over 22 degrees.

Today, however, IoT is understood much more generally, there is no inevitable link with RFID or any other special technology. You can also find the definition that the Internet became / will become the IoT on the day when there are more (independent) things on the Internet than people. But these are all more academic considerations.

In practice, IoT means the entirety of the devices that communicate more or less independently via the Internet - i.e. everything that sends, receives and processes data without a person sitting in front of it and requesting such actions in the first place. The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) can also come up with a very clear definition: "In contrast to" classic "IT systems, these are" intelligent "objects that contain additional" smart "functions. IoT devices are used in the Usually connected to data networks, in many cases wireless, and can often even be accessed and accessed via the Internet. " The best way to explain this is with examples.

Examples of devices

IoT devices can be a wide variety of things: from a bridge pillar to a weather station to an ordinary fitness watch on your wrist. Almost everything "smart" also falls into this category. A refrigerator that recognizes the lack of milk and automatically places an order? Part of the IoT. The sensors on components of bridges that measure the integrity of the structure and report potential damage? Also an IoT device. In industry in particular, there are thousands of examples of devices that communicate and interact in some way with other devices - and are connected to the Internet via interfaces. You are probably more familiar with things from your own sphere of activity: Do you have an IP camera in your home network? Or a smartwatch? Such devices are often set up in such a way that they can also be reached via the Internet, for example by configuring the router themselves accordingly via UPnP.

And this is where it becomes problematic. For example, as long as a company has its own IoT in a closed network, this is only relevant for company management. But to expand the BSI definition a little: Through networking with the Internet "... [IoT devices] can have an impact on the information security of the entire information network."

chances and risks

According to Ashton, the big advantage of the Internet of Things is that people have limited time (or spend in front of the computer) and make mistakes. But if, for example, the flow of goods is largely self-controlling and regulating, this is of course an advantage. With the advent of blockchain technology, on which Bitcoin & Co. are also based, this supply chain example has become a little independent: the blockchain allows all of this data generated by scanners and sensors not only to be recorded and processed, but also also protect against any manipulation and still (more or less) make it publicly available. For example, there are already applications for fishery products in which the entire chain from catching to transport to the refrigerated counter of the supermarket can be seamlessly monitored. The blockchain ensures that the data cannot be manipulated, the IoT ensures that everything runs automatically from the initial tagging of the catch with some kind of transmitter.

Or another example from the world of consumers: For example, you could wear a fitness tracker that monitors your health values ​​and your activities. This data could then be transferred to your NAS at home and evaluated there. This in turn could result in a recommendation for a suitable meal. The refrigerator could then be asked whether the necessary ingredients are available. And if not, they will be ordered automatically. Then all that's missing is the pneumatic tube line in the Thermomix ...

The possible applications are gigantic and smart homes and private automation in general are likely to become part of everyday life in the next few years. Even if not as quickly as the industry might imagine. Because not everyone thinks that scenarios like the provision of food are great. Because health data in particular harbor huge potential dangers in private life. If the health insurance company had access to such data, for example, they could adjust your tariff upwards by a few percentage points in real time if you order fatty fries from the kebab shop around the corner.

But there are also very specific, current threat scenarios: In some cases, IoT devices are combined in their own network, which is managed with a central control device similar to a router in the home network. So far so good. But when these control units are themselves on the Internet, for example to communicate with other control units, to connect other locations or simply to be able to be managed remotely, it becomes critical. This also applies to smart home technology: your television, your refrigerator, your weather station, the alarm system, IP webcams and so on are often connected to the Internet via the router - after all, you might want to take a look at the garden from a distance . And an operating system runs on many of these devices just like on your real computer, albeit a scaled-down one. And where there is an operating system, there are also ways to hack it. To be very clear: Even today there are several thousand webcams that can be found and accessed via the Internet, have never been updated and can be boarded using standard passwords. You certainly still have an anti-malware solution running on the PC, a firewall and the like. But is your TV also protected?