Why is everyone talking about the Internet of Things (IoT)? It's not because the IoT is a new concept -- it's not -- but rather because the IoT intersects with several other key trends in the tech world, from open source and big data to cybersecurity and software-defined networking.
If you think the IoT is a new thing, think again. The term Internet of Things has been around since the late 1990s. Devices other than computers and phones have been connecting to the Internet for decades. Neither the concept nor the substance of the IoT is very novel.
The IoT and Everything Else
Yet it has been only in the past couple of years that the IoT has become such a big deal. Why?
A large part of the answer is that the IoT is based on, complements or extends other highly influential technological trends that shape the way we compute today. Those trends include:
- Open source. The IoT isn't built solely using open source software, but open source plays a key role. Linux serves as the operating system for many connected devices. Open source networking standards make it possible for devices from different vendors to communicate. Some IoT devices are even designed to be hackable by users in a way that extends the open source software concept to include open hardware. In all of these ways, the IoT plays on open source's strengths and brings open source to new frontiers.
- Big Data. The IoT promises to take big data to a new level. IoT devices not only generate huge amounts of information, which can then be fed to data analytics tools. They also rely on data-based logic in order to perform many of their "smart" functions. Take your Nest thermostat, for example. It collects data from your home, then runs analytics based on the data it collected along with external information (like weather reports) to predict when to turn on your furnace.
- Cybersecurity. Security and privacy aren't new concerns. But they are on the minds of consumers now more than ever, thanks to the seemingly never-ending reports of breaches at major organizations. The IoT serves both to feed and to alleviate those concerns. IoT devices raise huge new security challenges, especially when it comes to things like critical infrastructure. But they also offer ways to help keep users more secure by adding extra barriers of defense to data and persons.
- Software-defined networking (SDN). The shift from physical network infrastructure to networks that are composed mostly of virtual, software-defined devices and links is revolutionizing the way information is exchanged. SDN and the IoT go hand-in-hand. SDN is essential for handling the networking demands of the IoT, while the IoT provides new use cases for SDN.
The IoT's relationship with these trends defines the IoT's relevance today. People weren't talking about the IoT ten years ago because that time, open source, big data, cybersecurity and SDN were not nearly as important as they are now. But that has changed, and the IoT is ready for primetime thanks to other developments across the channel.