I feel like there is a slight mixup in some of the sample questions that Internet of Things requires internet connection. I'd like to kick off a discussion of what other people think Internet of Things means to them with my own definition. Let's go Webster-style on this topic.

Internet of Things

A series of connected devices with a common interface.

So, much like the internet connects series of information hubs (aka servers with databases/text/media), Internet of Things means that each device supplies a central hub with the data and the hub is the main access point. The hub can then be accessed, hypothetically, via an internet connection but is not required.

Proposal: Internet of things

  • "A series of connected devices with a common interface." -- so every piece of IT ever created. Great.
    – Raphael
    Jun 11, 2016 at 8:45
  • I don't think common interface is required... @Raphael, there are different interfaces, if we can look at them as protocols especially, I cant just plug my monitor to a router and be on the internets right?
    – c0ba1t
    Nov 1, 2016 at 15:45
  • IoT isn't about connecting to the World Wide Web. It's about connecting individually useless devices together to make up a network of meaningful data. So, it's similar to the utility of accessing the "Internet". For instance, a stand alone motion sensor is pretty useless without being paired with a system that receives the data (server/hub), interprets the data (software), and displays the data (via WebApp, phone, etc). This motion sensors data doesn't need to make it to the public and can be managed within an intranet and still be considered IoT.
    – tbm0115
    Nov 1, 2016 at 15:54

4 Answers 4


I'm pretty down with the present Wikipedia definition:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.

The Internet is not a necessary component in IoT. In fact, I cannot readily come up with an example of a pure internet IoT solution, I am sure there are some.

Sensors in a Data Centre don't connect to the Internet to relay moisture, heat or other issues, these communications are all preformed on a private network (intranet). They may relay that information to tenants through some portal, API or alarm system, but isn't that all just a by-product of this IoT solution?

buses or delivery vehicles reporting GPS locations typically would use internal communication to relay data. It may have some API or other interface to expose some data to users/riders which obviously requres internet, however the overall IoT solution (and the main reason it was set up, to make sure busses are on time etc) only really needs an intranet to function. The internet functionality here is only a deliverable of that IoT solution.

IoT pour spouts in some pubs around me the bottles of hard alcohol report back to the cash register with what and how much was poured, a few things, connecting to a thing, no internet required. Sure it might connect to the vendor from time to time to order a product but this is a small aspect of the solution, I don't consider this part part of IoT.


I've always thought of IoT to reference objects that can communicate with other objects. Is this correct?

I agree that the "IoT" term is fairly confusing, given its ambiguity. I assume that having the word "internet" is confusing, since it can be interpreted as THE Internet, which may suggest having an internet connection is required. Also, the term "things" is a total free-for-all, though I've always understood it as physical objects (non-living...though I would expect arguments there).

While I don't think the "IoT" name is ideal, I certainly don't advocate trying to change it. It's already in the wider vernacular and a bit late for that.


I would have a practical definition:

It concerns all the objects that are connected to some distance data exchange system although it isn't their primary functions.

Lights in houses, sport wear, watches, etc. have a different primary function (resp. lighting, protecting and keeping warm, provide the time) but they are connected to some form of network for enhanced behaviour and increased features.


I am about to start a job in the field, so I have been doing some research. The best single source of (serious) information I found is Internet Society's IoT Overview.

I am singling out below some of the sections that add to this discussion - although I highly recommend a thorough read of the document.

The term “Internet of Things” (IoT) was first used in 1999 by British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton to describe a system in which objects in the physical world could be connected to the Internet by sensors.12 Ashton coined the term to illustrate the power of connecting Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags13 used in corporate supply chains to the Internet in order to count and track goods without the need for human intervention. Today, the Internet of Things has become a popular term for describing scenarios in which Internet connectivity and computing capability extend to a variety of objects, devices, sensors, and everyday items.

Varying definitions:

Despite the global buzz around the Internet of Things, there is no single, universally accepted definition for the term. Different definitions are used by various groups to describe or promote a particular view of what IoT means and its most important attributes. Some definitions specify the concept of the Internet or the Internet Protocol (IP), while others, perhaps surprisingly, do not. For example, consider the following definitions:

The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) begins RFC 7452,33 “Architectural Considerations in Smart Object Networking’’, with this description: The term “Internet of Things” (IoT) denotes a trend where a large number of embedded devices employ communication services offered by the Internet protocols. Many of these devices, often called “smart objects,’’ are not directly operated by humans, but exist as components in buildings or vehicles, or are spread out in the environment.

Within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the term “smart object networking” is commonly used in reference to the Internet of Things. In this context, “smart objects” are devices that typically have significant constraints, such as limited power, memory, and processing resources, or bandwidth.34 Work in the IETF is organized around specific requirements to achieve network interoperability between several types of smart objects.35 Published in 2012, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) ITU–T Recommendation Y.2060, Overview of the Internet of things,36 discusses the concept of interconnectivity, but does not specifically tie the IoT to the Internet:

3.2.2 Internet of things (IoT): A global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies. Note 1—Through the exploitation of identification, data capture, processing and communication capabilities, the IoT makes full use of things to offer services to all kinds of applications, whilst ensuring that security and privacy requirements are fulfilled. Note 2—From a broader perspective, the IoT can be perceived as a vision with technological and societal implications. This definition in a call for papers for a feature topic issue of IEEE Communications Magazine37 links the IoT back to cloud services: The Internet of Things (IoT) is a framework in which all things have a representation and a presence in the Internet. More specifically, the Internet of Things aims at offering new applications and services bridging the physical and virtual worlds, in which Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications represents the baseline communication that 16 What is the Internet of Things? enables the interactions between Things and applications in the cloud. The Oxford Dictionaries38 offers a concise definition that invokes the Internet as an element of the IoT: Internet of things (noun): The interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.


While the concept of combining computers, sensors, and networks to monitor and control devices has been around for decades, the recent confluence of key technologies and market trends is ushering in a new reality for the “Internet of Things’’. IoT promises to usher in a revolutionary, fully interconnected “smart” world, with relationships between objects and their environment and objects and people becoming more tightly intertwined. The prospect of the Internet of Things as a ubiquitous array of devices bound to the Internet might fundamentally change how people think about what it means to be “online”.

  • Although the following is more tech-related (developer's stuff, like me), the document is particularly useful in describing some of the available communication models currently being deployed in IoT systems/devices - such as Device-To-Device, Device-To-Cloud, Device-To-Gateway and Back-End Shared Data.
    – Veverke
    Aug 7, 2016 at 15:07

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