Internet of Things (IoT)

What it is and why it matters

The Internet of Things is the concept of everyday objects – from industrial machines to wearable devices – using built-in sensors to gather data and take action on that data across a network. So it’s a building that uses sensors to automatically adjust heating and lighting. Or production equipment alerting maintenance personnel to an impending failure. Simply put, the Internet of Things is the future of technology that can make our lives more efficient.

History of the Internet of Things

We’ve been fascinated with gadgets that function on a grander scale for decades (think spy movie-type stuff) – but it’s only been in the past several years that we’ve seen the IoT’s true potential. The concept evolved as wireless Internet became more pervasive, embedded sensors grew in sophistication and people began understanding that technology could be a personal tool as well as a professional one.

The term “Internet of Things” was coined in the late 1990s by entrepreneur Kevin Ashton. Ashton, who’s one of the founders of the Auto-ID Center at MIT, was part of a team that discovered how to link objects to the Internet through an RFID tag. He said he first used the phrase “Internet of Things” in a presentation he made in 1999 – and the term has stuck around ever since.

Advanced thinking on the Internet of Things

Jason Handley, Director of Smart Grid Technology and Operations for Duke Energy, discusses the promise of a world where everything is connected, energy is efficient and it's all driven by the knowledge gained through the use of advanced analytics.


Internet of Things infographic

Why is the Internet of Things important?

You might be surprised to learn how many things are connected to the Internet, and how much economic benefit we can derive from analyzing the resulting data streams. Here are some examples of the impact the IoT has on industries:

  • Intelligent transport solutions speed up traffic flows, reduce fuel consumption, prioritize vehicle repair schedules and save lives.
  • Smart electric grids more efficiently connect renewable resources, improve system reliability and charge customers based on smaller usage increments.
  • Machine monitoring sensors diagnose – and predict – pending maintenance issues, near-term part stockouts, and even prioritize maintenance crew schedules for repair equipment and regional needs.
  • Data-driven systems are being built into the infrastructure of "smart cities," making it easier for municipalities to run waste management, law enforcement and other programs more efficiently.

But also consider the IoT on a more personal level. Connected devices are making their way from business and industry to the mass market. Consider these possibilities:

  • You’re low on milk. When you’re on your way home from work, you get an alert from your refrigerator reminding you to stop by the store.
  • Your home security system, which already enables you to remotely control your locks and thermostats, can cool down your home and open your windows, based on your preferences.



The Internet of Things in today’s world

The impact that the IoT has had on the world has been significant – and it’s only getting started. Learn more about what people are saying.

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IoT Analytics in Practice

Three organizations – a US-based oil and gas company, a US municipality and an international truck manufacturer – discuss how IoT analytics has affected their organizations.

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Understanding Data Streams in IoT

Learn how event stream processing technology helps you acquire, understand and use real-time, streaming data to make fact-based, automated decisions.

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Taking IoT to the Edge

Manufacturers and others impacted by the IoT will benefit from this webinar, which covers everything from getting started to learning how to implement analytics into IoT workflows.

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To make the Internet of Things useful, we need an Analytics of Things. This will mean new data management and integration approaches, and new ways to analyze streaming data continuously.
Thomas H. Davenport
 President's Distinguished Professor, Babson College
Co-founder and Director of Research, International Institute for Analytics
Author of Competing on Analytics and Big Data at Work
SAS Event Stream Processing

SAS® Event Stream Processing

Analyze streaming data and make instant, accurate decisions

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Who's using it?

The IoT is more than just a convenience for consumers. It offers new sources of data and business operating models that can boost productivity in a variety of industries.

Health Care

Many people have already adopted wearable devices to help monitor exercise, sleep and other health habits – and these items are only scratching the surface of how IoT impacts health care. Patient monitoring devices, electronic records and other smart accessories can help save lives.


This is one of the industries that benefits from IoT the most. Data-collecting sensors embedded in factory machinery or warehouse shelves can communicate problems or track resources in real time, making it easy to work more efficiently and keep costs down.


Both consumers and stores can benefit from IoT. Stores, for example, might use IoT for inventory tracking or security purposes. Consumers may end up with personalized shopping experiences through data collected by sensors or cameras.


The telecommunications industry will be significantly impacted by the IoT since it will be charged with keeping all the data the IoT uses. Smart phones and other personal devices must be able to maintain a reliable connection to the Internet for the IoT to work effectively.


While cars aren’t at the point of driving themselves, they’re undoubtedly more technologically advanced than ever. The IoT also impacts transportation on a larger scale: delivery companies can track their fleet using GPS solutions. And roadways can be monitored via sensors to keep them as safe as possible.


Smart meters not only collect data automatically, they make it possible to apply analytics that can track and manage energy use. Likewise, sensors in devices such as windmills can track data and use predictive modeling to schedule downtime for more efficient energy use.

Andreas Mai on the Internet of Everything

What does the future hold for advanced analytics and smart cars? Andreas Mai, Director of Smart Connected Vehicles for Cisco, sheds light on the topic.

How It Works

In IoT discussions, it’s recognized from the onset that analytics technologies are critical for turning this tide of streaming source data into informative, aware and useful knowledge. But how do we analyze data as it streams nonstop from sensors and devices? How does the process differ from other analytical methods that are common today?

In traditional analysis, data is stored and then analyzed. However, with streaming data, the models and algorithms are stored and the data passes through them for analysis. This type of analysis makes it possible to identify and examine patterns of interest as data is being created – in real time.

So before the data is stored, in the cloud or in any high-performance repository, you process it automatically. Then, you use analytics to decipher the data, all while your devices continue to emit and receive data.

With advanced analytics techniques, data stream analytics can move beyond monitoring existing conditions and evaluating thresholds to predicting future scenarios and examining complex questions.

To assess the future using these data streams, you need high-performance technologies that identify patterns in your data as they occur. Once a pattern is recognized, metrics embedded into the data stream drive automatic adjustments in connected systems or initiate alerts for immediate actions and better decisions.

Essentially, this means you can move beyond monitoring conditions and thresholds to assessing likely future events and planning for countless what-if scenarios.

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