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IoT basics: Getting started with the Internet of Things
Author – Knud Lasse Lueth
The whitepaper is aimed at people who are new to
the Internet of Things and seek to get a basic
understanding of the concept, its applications and
1. Definition of IoT
2. History of IoT
3. IoT vs. similar concepts
4. Application/Segment overview
5. Technology overview
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IoT basics: Getting started
with the Internet of Things
The internet is seen by many as the biggest technological disruption of
It has enabled entirely new forms of social interaction, activities, and
organization. There are only a handful of similarly important disruptions
in the 10,000+ years history of mankind (like the invention of the wheel
around 4500 BC or the printing press in 1450).
It looks as though the next major technological revolution is around the
corner: The Internet of Things.
1. What is the Internet of Things?
According to the McKinsey report “Disruptive technologies: Advances
that will transform life, business, and the global economy“, the Internet
of things (IoT) is one of the top three technological advancements of the
next decade (together with the mobile internet and the automation of
knowledge work). The report goes on to say that “The Internet of Things
is such a sweeping concept that it is a challenge to even imagine all the
possible ways in which it will affect business, economies, and society.”
Definitions for the Internet of Things vary. According to McKinsey:
“Sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects are linked through
wired and wireless networks, often using the same Internet Protocol (IP)
that connects the Internet.“
The idea is that not only your computer and your smartphone can talk
to each other, but also all the things around you. From connected
homes and cities to connected cars and machines to devices that track
an individual’s behavior and use the data collected for new kind of
“The Internet of things will involve a massive build-out of connected
devices and sensors woven into the fabric of our lives and businesses.
Devices deeply embedded in public and private places will recognize us
and adapt to our requirements for comfort, safety, streamlined
commerce, entertainment, education, resource conservation,
operational efficiency and personal well-being.”, according to Intel’s
report “Rise of the Embedded Internet”.
Figure 1: Disruptive technologies of the
next decade Potential economic impact
in 2025 (in $trillion annual)
Figure 2: A definition for the Internet of
“Sensors and actuators embedded in
physical objects are linked through wired
and wireless networks, often using the
same Internet Protocol (IP) that connects
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2. History of IoT
The term Internet of Things is 16 years old. But the actual idea of
connected devices had been around longer, at least since the 70s. Back
then, the idea was often called “embedded internet” or “pervasive
computing”. But the actual term “Internet of Things” was coined by Kevin
Ashton in 1999 during his work at Procter&Gamble. Ashton who was
working in supply chain optimization, wanted to attract senior
management’s attention to a new exciting technology called RFID.
Because the internet was the hottest new trend in 1999 and because it
somehow made sense, he called his presentation “Internet of Things”.
Even though Kevin grabbed the interest of some P&G executives, the
term Internet of Things did not get widespread attention for the next 10
The concept of IoT started to gain some popularity in the summer of
2010. Information leaked that Google’s StreetView service had not only
made 360 degree pictures but had also stored tons of data of people’s
Wifi networks. People were debating whether this was the start of a new
Google strategy to not only index the internet but also index the physical
The same year, the Chinese government announced it would make the
Internet of Things a strategic priority in their Five-Year-Plan.
In 2011, Gartner, the market research company that invented the
famous “hype-cycle for emerging technologies” included a new
emerging phenomenon on their list: “The Internet of Things”.
Figure 4: Gartner’s 2014 technology hype cycle (Source: Gartner)
The next year the theme of Europe’s biggest Internet conference LeWeb
was the “Internet of Things”. At the same time popular tech-focused
magazines like Forbes, Fast Company, and Wired starting using IoT as
their vocabulary to describe the phenomenon.
Figure 3: Keven Ashton Inventor of the
term “Internet of Things”
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In October of 2013, IDC published a report stating that the Internet of
Things would be a $8.9 trillion market in 2020.
The term Internet of Things reached mass market awareness when in
January 2014 Google announced to buy Nest for $3.2bn. At the same
time the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas was held under
the theme of IoT.
Figure 5: Google Search Trends 2011-2015 IoT vs IoE vs M2M vs Industrial Internet vs
Industry 4.0 (Source: Google)
3. IoT compared to similar concepts
While the Internet of Things is by far the most popular term to describe
the phenomenon of a connected world, there are similar concepts that
deserve some attention. Most of these concepts are similar in meaning
but they all have slightly different definitions.
Figure 6: Concept disambiguation: IoT vs IoE vs M2M vs others
The term Machine to Machine (M2M) has been in use for more
than a decade, and is well-known in the Telecoms sector. M2M
communication had initially been a one-to-one connection,
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linking one machine to another. But today’s explosion of mobile
connectivity means that data can now be more easily
transmitted, via a system of IP networks, to a much wider range
Industrial Internet (of Things)
The term industrial internet is strongly pushed by GE. It goes
beyond M2M since it not only focuses on connections between
machines but also includes human interfaces.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT has yet a wider reach as it also includes connections beyond
the industrial context such as wearable devices on people.
Internet (as we know it)
In the above graph, the internet is a fairly small box. In its core it
connects only people.
Web of Things
The Web of Things is much narrower in scope as the other
concepts as it solely focuses on software architecture.
Internet of Everything (IoE)
Still a rather vague concept, IoE aims to include all sorts of
connections that one can envision. The concept has thus the
The term Industry 4.0 that is strongly pushed by the German
government is as limited as the industrial internet in reach as it
only focusses on industrial environments. However, it has the
largest scope of all the concepts. Industry 4.0 describes a set of
concepts to drive the next industrial revolution. It includes all
kinds of connectivity concepts but also goes further to include
real changes to the physical world around us such as 3D-printing
technologies, new augmented reality hardware, robotics, and
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4. IoT application/segment overview
To the public, IoT currently appears to be a mixture of smart home
applications, wearables and an industrial IoT component. But actually it
has the potential to have a much wider reach. When the connected
world becomes reality, the Internet of Things will transform nearly all
major segments – from homes to hospitals and from cars to cities.
Figure 7: IoT market segments (IoT Analytics)
Most of these segments carry the name “smart” like Smart Home or
“connected” like Connected Health. Today’s major applications include:
Smart Home or “Home automation” describes the connectivity
inside our homes. It includes thermostats, smoke detectors,
lightbulbs, appliances, entertainment systems, windows, door
locks, and much more. Popular companies include Nest, Apple,
Philips, and Belkin.
Whether it be the Jawbone Up, the Fitbit Flex, or the Apple
Smartwatch – wearables make up a large part of the consumer
facing Internet of Things applications.
Smart city spans a wide variety of use cases, from traffic
management to water distribution, to waste management,
urban security and environmental monitoring. Smart City
solutions promise to alleviate real pains of people living in cities
these days. Like solving traffic congestion problems, reducing
noise and pollution and helping to make cities safer.
A future smart grid promises to use information about the
behaviors of electricity suppliers and consumers in an
automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, and
economics of electricity.
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Many market researches such as Gartner or Cisco see the
industrial internet as the IoT concept with the highest overall
potential. Applications among others include smart factories or
connected industrial equipment. In 2014 GE reported roughly
$1bn revenue with Industrial Internet products.
The battle is on for the car of the future. Whether it is self-
driving or just driver-assisted: Connectivity with other cars,
mapping services, or traffic control will play a part. Next
generation in-car entertainment systems and remote monitoring
are also interesting concepts to watch. And it is not only large
auto-makers that play a role: Google, Microsoft, and Apple have
all announced connected car platforms.
Connected Health (Digital health/Telehealth/Telemedicine)
The concept of a connected health care system and smart
medical devices bears enormous potential, not just for
companies also for the well-being of people in general: New
kinds of real-time health monitoring and improved medical
decision-making based on large sets of patient data are some of
the envisioned benefits.
Proximity-based advertising, In-store shopping behavior
measurement and intelligent payment solutions are some of the
IoT concepts of Smart Retail.
Smart supply chain
Supply chains are getting smarter. Solutions for tracking goods
while they are on the road, or getting suppliers to exchange
inventory information are some of the Supply chain applications
as part of the Internet of Things.
The remoteness of farming operations and the large number of
livestock that could be monitored makes farming an interesting
case for the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things is also expected to change business models in
baking, insurance, and government for example. These use cases,
however, are not yet as advanced as the business cases listed above.
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5. IoT technology overview
The Internet of Things builds on three major technology layers:
Hardware (including chips and sensors), Communication (including
mostly some form of wireless network), and Software (including data
storage, analytics, and front end applications).
Figure 8: IoT technology architecture (IoT Analytics)
The reason for the Internet of Things coming up so quickly right now is
that there have been major technological advancements in all three of
these technology layers:
Costs of sensors has declined by 54% over the last 10 years.
Moreover, form factors are shrinking quickly. Complete sensor
packages that are smaller than fingertips have become the
Mobile devices have become a commoditiy for the wider public.
At the same time the cost of bandwidth has declined by 97%
over the last 10 years.
The cost of processing has even declined 98% in the same
timeframe. Moreover, a number of big data tools and big data
infrastructure such as efficient databases have emerged over
the last 5 years.
There are plenty of different technologies and competing products
in each of the boxes in the above graph. From MEMS accelerometers
to Raspberry Pi development boards, from Zigbee communication to
next generation LTE-M, and from column-based databases to
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streaming analytics engines. Each of these concepts, technologies,
and products could fill a whitepaper on their own.
If you are interested to further deep-dive into IoT, make sure to stop
by www.iot-analytics.com and check out our other whitepapers and
References 1. http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/disruptive_te
About the author
Knud Lasse Lueth is the founder and CEO of IoT Analytics. He builds
on 5 years of strategy consulting in industrial companies at BCG and
a manufacturing background. His focus areas are the Industrial
internet and Industry 4.0
Knud Lasse Lueth
Knud Lasse Lueth
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