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Definition of IoT and connected objects

last modified: 2018-08-18

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Internet of Things, connected objects?

The Internet of things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as "connected devices" and "smart devices"), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.

— Wikipedia
entry "Internet of Things" visited on 2017/08/01

Some comments on this definition:

  • we are familiar with Internet used to transmit information from computer to computer (sending an email, visiting a web page…​)

  • the expression "Internet of things" insists on a different kind of use: what if we could connect any object (not just computers or smartphones) to the Internet?

The idea to connect objects to the Internet is not new: professors connected a Coke Machine to Internet in the late 1970s or early 1980s, so that they could check from their computers if it was empty or not.[1]

Once we understand what is the "Internet of things", the meaning of "connected objects" is clear: these are the objects connected to this network.

What about "smart objects?".

This is a synonymous to connected objects, where "smart" insists that the object can have a richer set of functions thanks to being connected to the Internet. It can even improve its features (for example, a car driving faster), thanks to updates made to its software through the Internet.

Starting in the 2000s, we moved from small, fun experiments to the development of an entire industry based on this concept of connecting things to the Internet. With decreasing costs for creating connecting objects, and easier protocols to connect (like Wifi, bluetooth and others, which appeared in the late 1990s), connected objects started to become interesting playground for serious innovation.

What kind of new service could be created with them? What value would they bring?


Connected objects are more and more present in our lives. We can put them in 2 categories:

  1. connected objects for consumers like you and me: a wrist band, or the Amazon Echo, which is a sound speaker doubling as a Digital Assistant. Or a scale by Nokia, which tracks your weight but also pulsations.

Companies creating these products are typically selling them to individual consumers (households). These are B2C markets : "Business to Consumers", but they also address the B2B market (Business to Business: companies selling to other companies).

  1. connected objects for the industry: all kind of smart sensors and small connected devices are useful to help keep track of all pieces of material and semi-finished products along the production line, in all industries (from agriculture to manufacturing, through health care etc.)

The goal is to eliminate waste and increase speed by controlling and monitoring their processes more closely thanks to these devices.

Examples of companies providing these services are Ripples, Benard Marr[Pentaho], or PTC.

The anatomy of a connected object

To fit the definition, a connected object needs to be …​ connected. But connected to what exactly?

It is important to have in mind that there is a variety of situations. Let’s go through these examples:

  1. in a party, you amplfy the music of your smartphone by connecting a portable speaker via bluetooth,

  2. or, connected to other objects.

The end

Find references for this lesson, and other lessons, here.

round portrait mini 150 This course is made by Clement Levallois.

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