The ‘Internet of things’ explained

Have your say

Japanese firm SoftBank has revealed a driving force behind its acquisition of ARM Holdings is the opportunities it provides as part of the “internet of things”, a platform that has grown quickly in recent years.

What exactly is it?

The term “internet of things” or IoT refers to the system where a range of devices that connect to the internet can also connect to one another and send data between them. In a similar fashion to the way computers exchange data and information, the internet of things is the idea that appliances do this, becoming “smart” and more useful in the process.

The most prominent examples of the internet of things at work so far come in the form of the so-called “smart home”, where, for example, the creation of WiFi-enabled home speaker systems that can be controlled from a smartphone offer a basic idea of the concept.

This has been expanded in recent years as major technology firms such as Samsung, Nest and Phillips have launched smart fridges, home thermostats and lighting that can all be controlled from a user’s phone or tablet.

Not only that, but from some central apps - including Apple’s new Home app which launches later this year - it is possible for users to build an ecosystem of all their smart home products and have them work together at certain points.

For example, when the alarm on your phone goes off in the morning, your lighting can be triggered to come on slowly to wake you up and the thermostat will turn itself on while the smart kettle turns itself on in preparation for your morning coffee.

How prominent is it likely to become?

According to technology research firm Gartner, around 21 billion new connected devices to the internet of things by 2020, as smartwatches and other wearables continue to grow alongside the increasing application of connectivity to household items including washing machines and fridges.

As cars are becoming increasingly connected, technology that sees them become more aware of their surroundings is being suggested and developed - for example, the ability to automatically re-route a vehicle because of traffic data received, as well as alerting drivers to adverse road conditions ahead thanks to sensors in the surface which can relay that information.