An introduction to the Internet of Things

 There’s a lot of talk about the Internet of Things. Here’s a quick introduction for the uninitiated.

This article was carried in a recent edition of Accountancy Ireland from Chartered Accountants Ireland

Imagine if this evening, on your commute home, you could use your smartphone to access the webcam in your fridge and see what’s needed for dinner. Or, when you arrive at your train stop, your car is already heated to your favourite temperature for the final leg of the journey home.

These are just two very simple examples of how the Internet of Things, often referred to as IoT, could impact our lives in the future. But what exactly is the Internet of Things? And will it really change the way we live?

What is the Internet of Things?

SAP, the world’s third-largest independent software manufacturer, has defined the Internet of Things as a network of physical objects – vehicles, machines, home appliances and more – that use sensors and APIs to connect and exchange data over the Internet. In other words, it’s a collection of smart devices connected by the internet. One well-known example is the Amazon Echo, which can control your home’s lights, switches and thermostats with a simple voice command. Another is Tile, a keyring-sized Bluetooth tracker that helps you track your mislaid keys.

The Internet of Things is already an established industry, albeit widely regarded as being in its infancy. According to Business Insider’s annual Global IoT Executive Survey, there will be more than 55 billion Internet of Things devices by 2025, up from about nine billion in 2017. In monetary terms, this will equate to nearly $15 trillion in aggregate Internet of Things investment between 2017 and 2025, with survey data showing that companies’ plans to invest in Internet of Things solutions are accelerating.

Strengths and weaknesses

One of the obvious strengths of the Internet of Things is the potential to create a more connected world whereby people gain more control over their devices and environments. It also has very practical uses in industry. Concrete Sensors, for example, manufactures wireless sensors made specifically for use in concrete that measure strength, temperature and relative humidity. It sends this data to a software platform that can be accessed through a number of smartphone apps, which allow the user to view real-time data by project, floor and individual sensor.

In broader terms, the benefits of the Internet of Things, according to SAP, include the potential for new business models and revenue; improved workforce productivity; enhanced operational efficiency; and better customer experiences. However, Samsung has urged caution when it comes to the evolution of the Internet of Things. In its Open Economy report, Samsung stated that “machine learning and AI technologies present enormous opportunity, but also levels of risk that have not yet been fully quantified. That makes simultaneous investments in secure platforms that open borders to new technologies even more critical.”


Although in its infancy, the Internet of Things will undoubtedly develop rapidly in the coming years. Indeed, research by Gartner Inc. found that by 2020, more than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some element of the Internet of Things. It also suggests that addressing compromises in Internet of Things security will increase costs to 20% of annual security budgets in 2020 – up from less than 1% in 2015.

Whether it’s wearables in the workplace or smart hairbrushes in the home, we could well look back in 10 years’ time and say: “all changed, changed utterly”. Whether it turns out to be a “terrible beauty”, as W. B. Yeats put it, is anybody’s guess.

For a quick ‘how it works’ overview, click here to watch IBM Think Academy’s four-minute video about the Internet of Things.(

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