Internet of Things

How the term 'Internet of Things' was invented

At the 2018 LiveWorx conference, Kevin Ashton, who coined the term 'IoT,' explained how the ubiquitous name came to be, and how it's changed over time.

Kevin Ashton coined the term "Internet of Things." He spoke with TechRepublic's Alison DeNisco Rayome during LiveWorx 2018 about the term and how it's changed over time.

Kevin Ashton: I coined the term The Internet of Things when I had to make a PowerPoint presentation in the 1990s to convince the senior management of the company I was working for, which was Procter & Gamble, that we should put an RFID tag, a tiny microchip, in everything that Procter & Gamble made. They had no idea what I was going to tell them, but they knew the internet was a big deal. So if I could get the word internet into the title of my presentation, I could get their attention. So I very hastily called the presentation The Internet of Things because we had things that we wanted to track around the Procter & Gamble supply chain. And the presentation was successful. They gave me some money. I cited some research at MIT. The presentation went with me. I never changed the title. That is how the term The Internet of Things kind of became popular.

SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)

One of the interesting things about the way The Internet of Things term is used, for me, is there's a lot of people who are doing it who just understand it, who know what it is. And then you see the people who just use it as jargon and they don't really get it. The Internet of Things is not really when your app tells you that your toaster is ready with your toast. Right? We don't care about that. The Internet of Things means a whole range of different sensors that are somehow connected to the internet that are gathering information about the real world that can then be made useful in some way.

The easy example about The Internet of Things that I use with people who aren't familiar with the term, is actually your smartphone is not a phone. Your smartphone is The Internet of Things in your pocket. It has about 10 sensors in it. They're all connected to the network. You can take a picture and upload it and have algorithms identify the faces in the picture. You wouldn't go anywhere now without your GPS, which is network location sensing. That's The Internet of Things. When I tell people that, they kind of realize, "Oh. I do know what this is. I do experience it." So as long as it's not the person who thinks it's about the refrigerator talking to the toaster, The Internet of Things is probably being used in a meaningful way.

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Image: iStock/Metamorworks

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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