Topic.4 | Internet of Things
Topic | Internet of Things

The Technologies Behind the Internet of Things

Chapter 02/06

The Technologies Behind the Internet of Things

  1. All About Sensors


Discover how IoT devices mimic human senses to observe, record, and make sense of the world around them. Learn how the internet allows these devices to become more than the sum of their parts.

Key Terms:

  • Sensor
  • The cloud
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Wi-Fi

Humans interact with the world through our senses: touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing.

Sense receptors in your body are constantly receiving information about the world, from the heat of your coffee cup to the smell of the petunias in your yard, and transmitting it to your brain, where you decide what to do about it.

The internet of things (IoT) derives its power from technologies that mimic these functions: sensors embedded in devices, and internet connections that allow networked devices to gather massive amounts of information and analyze it all for meaning.

All About Sensors

A steaming cup of coffee.

A sensor, in the most basic definition of the word, is a device that can pick up physical signals from its surrounding environment and, in some way, respond to this information. Examples are motion-detecting light bulbs and the gyroscope in a smartphone that can sense the phone’s motion and orientation. By detecting and reacting to environmental data—such as temperature change, particles of a chemical in the air, motion, pressure, sound, heart rate, vibration, electrical current and much more—sensors enable us to develop a comprehensive understanding of the world around us.

Connection to the internet is key to the IoT. Because IoT devices are by definition connected to the internet, the huge quantities of data taken by IoT sensors can be stored online and in the cloud, and the individual sensors end up forming a collective composed of the sum of their parts.

IoT devices connect to the internet either through a Wi-Fi connection or by using cellular data. Wi-Fi is, in essence, a radio frequency used to wirelessly connect devices to each other. view citation[1] This is how your laptop is able to connect to your wireless router, for example. Wi-Fi provides excellent coverage in a limited area, so IoT device developers are limited when designing for Wi-Fi capability.

Cellular data networks, on the other hand, use cell towers to cover vast areas. Cellular networks are growing rapidly, and for developers who want to design devices and applications that can be used around the world, cellular networks have many advantages. view citation[2]

Explore how farmers are using IoT to manage crops and livestock.

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Whichever type of connection is used, all IoT devices are connected to the internet, allowing for communication between devices. The IoT is, at heart, the phenomenon of all of these individual sensors talking to each other, resulting in a collective system that collects and shares—well, everything.

This network of devices obviously has great potential for convenience and efficiency. A smart oven, for example, might be able to sense when no one is home and turn itself safely off, saving energy and preventing you from having to rush home to turn it off. view citation[3] But in this example, and in many others, IoT devices also have the potential to save lives.

Kitchen with overlay illustration of smoke coming out of the oven and microwave.


  1. “How Does Wi-Fi Work?” Scientific American. July 2015. View Source

  2. “Battle of the IoT networks: Cellular versus Wi-Fi.” IoT Agenda. April 2018. View Source

  3. “Figure out if you left the stove on with this smart stove knob.” The Verge. February 2017. View Source

Next Section

The History of the Internet of Things

Chapter 03 of 06

Learn about the history of the technological innovations that paved the way for the internet of things (IoT).