The Internet of Things: An introduction

Product Managers Nick Forsberg and Pete Holley recently attended the Big Data Week conference in London. One of the most widely talked about topics was the Internet of Things, and rightly so! With the buzz of big data and the evolution of smart technology being at the front of our minds, we thought it would be logical to provide an introduction to the brilliance that is the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes a network of physical objects that connect to each other through the internet. Objects, or ‘things’ can transfer information wirelessly without requiring human interaction.

A ‘thing’ can be any object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network.

A few examples include:

  • Heart monitor implants
  • Smart phones
  • Wearable technology
  • Smart fabrics (sensors in clothing)
  • Smart thermostats for homes
  • Exercise monitors
  • Smart city lighting systems
  • Smart kitchen appliances

Plenty of innovative examples (current and future) can be found at Postcapes, who actively track the development of IoT and provide insight and resources to aid companies.  

“From our perspective, this story is not just about people communicating with people or machines communicating with machines. Smart, connected systems are a technological and economic phenomenon of unprecedented scale, encompassing potentially billions if not trillions of nodes -- an Internet of infinite interactions and values…” (Postcapes)

We decided to ask a few members of the Coull team what their idea for a 'smart object' would be. The results; some interesting, some questionable, some already done and some damn right brilliant! Watch below.

Increasingly the world around us is dominated with things that talk to each other. Today we don’t think twice about remotely unlocking our cars, or transferring music from our laptops to our mobiles. Technological capabilities are expanding massively - 10 years from now we will be using products that we could never have predicted 20 years ago. The IoT is more than just about using technology in our everyday lives, it’s about the Internet being the way that we run our lives.

“In the next century, planet earth will don an electronic skin. It will use the Internet as a scaffold to support and transmit its sensations." - Neil Gross 1999



  • Research company Gartner predicts that 26 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020.

  • However, Cisco Systems expects there to be no fewer than 50 billion by 2020 and 25 billion by 2015.  Check out their ‘connections counter’ to see how fast people, places, processes and things are connecting around the world.

  • This growth will have a knock on effect on data centres who have to collect and manage the additional data created by these billions of devices and sensors.

  • According to technology provider Ericsson, broadband ubiquity, cost of connectivity, and openness and simplicity will lead to more efficient business models and improved lifestyle for individuals and society.

  • Gartner predict that IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion in 2020 (Gartner).

  • Between 2013 and 2022, $14.4 trillion of value (net profit) will be “up for grabs” for enterprises globally (Cisco).

It’s not groundbreaking news that smart devices are having a huge effect on consumer lifestyle and business. But what is exciting is the sheer number of objects that we are connecting to, beyond computing devices - the opportunities are endless.

Of course this would not be possible without the evolution of the internet (wireless and 3G/4G, the cloud), technology and market forces. Companies are constantly having to adapt to new ways and develop new business models - and with the rapid growth of the Internet of Things it may be a case of sink or swim.


With billions of devices connecting to the internet every year, will ideas run out? We’d like you to think about some ideas for smart objects - whether they’re outrageous, practical, whacky or near impossible. Let us know in the comments section below, or tweet us at @Coull.


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