The Internet of Things is an emerging topic of technical, social, and economic significance. Consumer products, durable goods, cars and trucks, industrial and utility components, sensors, and other everyday objects are being combined with Internet connectivity and powerful data analytic capabilities that promise to transform the way we work, live, and play. Projections for the impact of IoT on the Internet and economy are impressive, with some anticipating as many as 100 billion connected IoT devices and a global economic impact of more than $11 trillion by 2025.
At the same time, however, the Internet of Things raises significant challenges that could stand in the way of realizing its potential benefits. Attention-grabbing headlines about the hacking of Internet-connected devices, surveillance concerns, and privacy fears already have captured public attention. Technical challenges remain and new policy, legal and development challenges are emerging.
This overview document is designed to help the Internet Society community navigate the dialogue surrounding the Internet of Things in light of the competing predictions about its promises and perils. The Internet of Things engages a broad set of ideas that are complex and intertwined from different perspectives. Key concepts that serve as a foundation for exploring the opportunities and challenges of
• IoT Definitions: The term Internet of Things generally refers to scenarios where network connectivity and computing capability extends to objects, sensors and everyday items not normally considered computers, allowing these devices to generate, exchange and consume data with minimal human intervention. There is, however, no single, universal definition.
• Enabling Technologies: The concept of combining computers, sensors, and networks to monitor and control devices has existed for decades. The recent confluence of several technology market trends, however, is bringing the Internet of Things closer to widespread reality. These include Ubiquitous Connectivity, Widespread Adoption of IP-based Networking, Computing Economics, Miniaturization, Advances in Data Analytics, and the Rise of Cloud Computing.
• Connectivity Models: IoT implementations use different technical communications models, each with its own characteristics. Four common communications models described by the Internet Architecture Board include: Device-to-Device, Device-to-Cloud, Device-to-Gateway, and Back-End Data-Sharing. These models highlight the flexibility in the ways that IoT devices can connect and provide value to the user.
• Transformational Potential: If the projections and trends towards IoT become reality, it may force a shift in thinking about the implications and issues in a world where the most common interaction with the Internet comes from passive engagement with connected objects rather than active engagement with content. The potential realization of this outcome – a “hyperconnected world” — is testament to the general-purpose nature of the Internet architecture itself, which does not place inherent limitations on the applications or services that can make use of the technology.
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