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

The Internet of Things in Your Home and the World

Chapter 04/06

The Internet of Things in Your Home and the World

  1. IoT in Your Home
  2. IoT in the World
  3. IoT and Big Data


Learn how the internet of things (IoT) permeates daily life through smart-home devices such as Bluetooth keyless door entry and smart beds that track sleep patterns. Explore the uses of IoT devices in the wider world, from smart traffic lights that monitor vehicular congestion to systems that track the health and fertility of dairy cows.

Key Terms:

  • Alexa
  • Smart home
  • Smart city

In ways both hidden and obvious, the IoT surrounds us to an ever-increasing extent.

You may already be using the internet of things (IoT) via a smartphone connected to your television through a device like the Chromecast. But did you know that many bridges and buildings are equipped with IoT sensors that constantly monitor their structural integrity? view citation[1]

In 2010, the number of devices connected to the internet officially exceeded the number of humans connected to the internet, view citation[2] and it’s predicted that by 2020, between 26 view citation[3] and 50 billion view citation[4] IoT devices will be deployed throughout the world. We’ve already begun seeing the impacts of the IoT in our lives, but the full scope—and the full potential—of the IoT has yet to be realized.

From social equity view citation[5] to economic prosperity view citation[6] to environmental impact, view citation[7] the IoT will change our world in ways we can’t yet see.

IoT in Your Home

Woman asking her Amazon Echo a question while she makes pancakes.

“Alexa,” you yell as you fuss over the stove, making breakfast. “What time is it?”

“The time is 8:49 AM,” Alexa politely responds. The Amazon Echo Dot you received as a Christmas gift is telling you you’re late.

"“Shoot,” you mutter under your breath. Then, louder: “Alexa, please request a ride with Lyft.”"

A side-by-side of an Amazon Echo and a Google Home.

Alexa, Google Home and other intelligent voice-driven devices connected to the cloud are helping life go much smoother for the busy commuter. Voice activation is even more revolutionary for the elderly and disabled. Residents of assisted-living communities can use these devices to communicate, find information and enjoy entertainment more easily than ever before. view citation[8] People with visual impairment can access the news without having to sort through on-screen TV guides, and searching for information online with Alexa is much faster than using screen reader technology. view citation[9]

What’s more, there are many occupations where jobs require a worker’s hands to be in motion at all times, making it difficult to check a smartphone screen. By allowing busy-handed employees to access information through smart voice recognition, voice-driven IoT devices can even increase safety in the workplace. view citation[10]

According to Jeff Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, more than 100 million Alexa devices had been sold as of January 2019, view citation[11] and more are being delivered every day. Alexa is one of the most visible (and audible) IoT applications, as consumers can actually talk to their Alexa devices. Alexa and Google Home devices, with their sound sensors and speech recognition algorithms, are many people’s first IoT purchases other than a smartphone.

For many, Alexa is just the beginning of a personal IoT lifestyle revolution. Some people have already begun creating their own “smart homes” with lighting, HVAC, TVs, door locks, and surveillance systems controlled by IoT devices that can often be directed remotely by smartphone.

A side-by-side of an Amazon Echo and a Google Home.

From the moment you arrive at the front door, you can begin interacting with a smart home. Many smart homes control entry through smart locks that use Bluetooth keyless entry mechanisms or security systems that use fingerprints. view citation[12] The Nest thermostat, a smart device that can automatically adjust your home’s temperature settings using remote temperature sensing, can tell you which rooms use the most energy to cool and which rooms tend to need the most heat during the winter, and you can tell it which room to keep the most comfortable year round. view citation[13]

Explore how IoT can help you get a party together.

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"Smart-home appliances are also located in the kitchen: smart coffee pots, smart refrigerators and even smart plates. By connecting your coffee pot to your other devices, you can brew a pot remotely. If you connect your coffee pot to your FitBit or smart bed, it can begin brewing a fresh pot the moment you wake up. view citation[14] Smart plates can automatically sense the number of calories in the meal you’re eating. view citation[15] Now there are even sensors in some food packaging, such as milk cartons that can announce when they’re running low or close to expiration. view citation[16] "

A mother checking the temperature and contents of her fridge from her phone as her daughter puts groceries away.

IoT devices also include health-monitoring applications connected to smart beds, smart shoes and fitness trackers. By tracking information such as heart rate, blood pressure, stride length and time spent in REM sleep, the user can conveniently construct a holistic picture of their health and monitor their progress over time. view citation[17]

The IoT is revolutionizing health care with devices that can monitor heart rate and rhythm, blood glucose and physical activity. view citation[18] If any of these sensors picks up an anomaly, they can alert health care workers in real time. Older adults can wear IoT-enabled personal emergency response systems, which can include fall detection, emergency-assistance options and navigation that leads back home. Virtual home assistants, like Catalia Health’s Mabu and Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ, can help seniors continue living in their own homes for longer by helping them remember their medications and stay connected to their family and friends. view citation[19]

Our pets can also reap the benefits of the IoT. With IoT devices like the PetPace smart collar, pet owners can keep track of their pets’ medical information as they age. view citation[20] Are you unsure if you’re giving your dog enough play time? Does your cat need a healthier diet? By seeing pets’ health information in real time, owners can be sure they’re providing the best possible care for their furry friends.

Smart homes offer unparalleled convenience, comfort and availability, but IoT devices aren’t just confined to where you live. There’s a whole IoT world outside your front door.

IoT in the World

Evening congestion outside of a city.

Consider an intersection in a city that’s been outfitted with municipal smart technologies. When a smart traffic pole doesn’t sense any motion in the intersection, it can turn all of the lights off to save electricity. During the busiest parts of the day, sensors can take traffic congestion reports, and engineers can then remotely optimize the light-change frequency to meet the current traffic needs. Smart traffic signals can give priority to emergency vehicles, mass transit and cyclists. view citation[21] Cities such as Barcelona, Spain, view citation[22] Manchester, U.K., view citation[22] and Columbus, Ohio, view citation[23] are already implementing these technologies, and the government of India launched the Smart Cities Mission in 2015 to retrofit and develop 100 cities across the country with smart technologies. view citation[24]

There’s an almost endless list of ways for smart cities to implement IoT technology. Sensors can monitor the cleanliness of public places, like parks, zoos, sidewalks and town squares. view citation[26] Vehicles can tell each other information about their locations, speeds and occupants to optimize for the least congestion, prevent collisions and save lives. view citation[27] IoT devices can be used to monitor the structural integrity of buildings and bridges by embedding sensors in wet cement during construction. view citation[28]

Buildings themselves can be used as sensors when they are monitored for vibrations. Vibrational data collected from buildings can be used to count the number of occupants inside, track occupants as they move throughout the building and analyze their gait and stride, potentially predicting when elderly or ill occupants are about to fall and alerting security to the potential emergency before it even happens. view citation[29]

A farmer checking data on his cows via a monitoring app.

In rural areas, farmers are finding a surprising number of uses for IoT devices. Irrigation can be automated, and crops can be monitored for light, humidity, temperature, soil moisture and many more properties that foster growth. view citation[30] The winemaking industry is already examining the benefits of IoT through internet-connected vineyards. view citation[31] Autonomous vehicles also have their place on farms; some startups are already creating self-driving tractors for agricultural use. view citation[32] In addition, herds can be monitored through farm management systems like the MooMonitor+ and the Silent Herdsman, which use IoT devices to track dairy cows’ health and fertility.

An aerial view of a mining site.

Industries like mining are also aided by IoT technologies. By monitoring the structural integrity of mines and assessing unexplored environments with chemical and gas sensors, IoT devices are improving mine safety. view citation[33] IoT devices will also revolutionize mining on other worlds, along with many other aspects of space exploration. Astronauts face thousands of dangerous variables in space, from zero gravity to cosmic rays to compromised immune systems. With so many strange forces acting on astronauts, IoT devices for health monitoring in space are very important. view citation[34] IoT devices are also found on spacecraft themselves, collecting data on chemical leaks, air pressure, life-support systems and hull integrity.

IoT and Big Data

With all of these examples of how the IoT is becoming more and more embedded in our society, it’s clear that a lot of data is being collected at all times. What do we do with all of that data? Any mortal would wilt just imagining the task of sorting through such immense collections of data and trying to make sense of any of it.

Remember the Wi-Fi connected fish tank thermometer? Imagine the thermometer is taking temperature readings every five minutes, and your goldfish stays alive for five years. That’s 525,600 readings that sensor will store over the course of your beloved fish’s life. But keeping track of all that data isn’t useful unless you can make sense of the temperature trends over time.

These enormous amounts of data won’t be useful if they’re just collected and stored in a virtual warehouse. If no one sees or uses that data, what’s the point of collecting it in the first place?

Enter “big data,” a term that refers to collecting vast amounts of data, analyzing it for patterns and extracting useful information out of it. Big-data analytics helps us know what to do in response to the information extracted from all the data we collect from IoT devices.


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  2. “How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything.” Cisco. April 2011. View Source

  3. “Gartner Says 8.4 Billion Connected “Things” Will Be in Use in 2017, Up 31 Percent From 2016.” Gartner. February 2017. View Source

  4. “How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything.” Cisco. April 2011. View Source

  5. “Connecting the Internet of Things (IoT) in Health Care Saves Lives Worldwide.” Redshift. November 2017. View Source

  6. “The Internet of Things Is Now a Thing.” Stanford Social Innovation Review. Fall 2015. View Source

  7. “3 Ways IoT Could Save the Environment.” IoT For All. January 2018. View Source

  8. “Building IoT Services for Aging in Place Using Standard-Based IoT Platforms and Heterogeneous IoT Products.” US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. View Source

  9. “Why Amazon’s Alexa Is 'Life Changing' for the Blind.” PC Magazine. January 2018. View Source

  10. “How to Use IoT to Increase Safety at Your Facility.” IoT For All. March 2019. View Source

  11. “Amazon Says 100 Million Alexa Devices Have Been Sold—What’s Next?” The Verge. January 2019. View Source

  12. “The Best Smart Locks for 2019.” PC Magazine. April 2019. View Source

  13. “Saving energy starts with your thermostat.” Nest. View Source

  14. “Hack your coffee maker to start brewing the moment you wake up.” CNET. February 2016. View Source

  15. “This Smart Plate Tells You How Many Calories You’re Eating–And Whether You’re Eating Too Fast.” Fast Company. May 2015. View Source

  16. “How smart packaging sensors safeguard foods and drugs.” Packaging Digest. April 2017. View Source

  17. “An IoT based Patient Health Monitoring System.” IEEE. August 2018. View Source

  18. “How Japan Is Harnessing IoT Technology To Support Its Aging Population.” Forbes. December 2018. View Source

  19. “Using Artificial Intelligence To Fix Healthcare.” Forbes. November 2018. View Source

  20. “Wearables, IoT and the secret life of pets.” CA Technologies. September 2016. View Source

  21. “Can smart city infrastructure alleviate the strain of city growth?” Cisco. View Source

  22. “Smart City 3.0 – Ask Barcelona about the next generation of smart cities.” Urban Hub. February 2018. View Source

  23. “Smarter City.” Manchester City Council. View Source

  24. “Smart Columbus.” City of Columbus. View Source

  25. “Smart Cities Mission.” Government of India. View Source

  26. “Baltimore Rolls Out Smart Trash Cans.” Government Technology. January 2018. View Source

  27. “How intelligent car navigation could improve city traffic conditions.” SmartCitiesWorld. May 2019. View Source

  28. “Sensors, Wireless Tech Help States Monitor Troubled Bridges.” Government Technology. July 2014. View Source

  29. “A Smart and Passive Floor-Vibration Based Fall Detector for Elderly.” IEEE. January 2006. View Source

  30. “Why IoT, big data & smart farming are the future of agriculture.” Business Insider. December 2016. View Source

  31. “Internet of Wines: How this vineyard’s smart sensors improve the vintage in your glass.” ZDNet. May 2018. View Source

  32. “How self-driving tractors, AI, and precision agriculture will save us from the impending food crisis.” TechRepublic. December 2018. View Source

  33. “Startup Licenses UA-Invented Mining Sensor Network.” University of Arizona. January 2018. View Source

  34. “How NASA Deploys Telehealth to Care for Astronauts.” Nextgov. March 2018. View Source

Next Section

The Cost of Convenience: Pros and Cons of the Internet of Things

Chapter 05 of 06

Learn more about the promise and the perils of the internet of things.