What is this internet of things thing?

There's a lot of talk about 'the internet of things.' But what is it?

Chances are you've started to hear people talking about the internet of things; we take a look at some definitions and applications, and examine why you should take an interest.

Connected devices

The FT explains the internet of things as:

The vision of the internet of things is to attach tiny devices to every single object to make it identifiable by its own unique IP address. These devices can then autonomously communicate with one another.

More simply put, it is where your things (trainers, keys, dog, bath etc) are connected to the internet, allowing them to communicate with your digital devices.

To get a clearer picture of what it all means, let's look at a couple of the more popular applications.


Featured before on the UXB blog is the Nest, a 'smart' thermostat that learns how you use energy. It also connects to the internet, allowing you to control your device remotely using your smartphone.

Withings Wi-Fi body scale

This set of scales from Withings sends data to your online devices, allowing you to monitor your weight and send the information on to your doctor.


Nike have fully embraced the internet of things. Firstly, they had the Nike+iPod, where you placed a small sensor into your Nike+ (this UXB'ster would recommend the Flyknits) shoe, which would send data of your run to your iPod or iPhone, allowing you see how far you ran, how fast and how many calories your burnt. As an added feature, this data could also change your music in real time to reflect the speed of your run.

Now, Nike+ has a full range of hardware that links up with your digital devices to track your training, helping you set realistic target goals, share that data with your friends on social media or to your personal trainer/doctor via email.

Combine this with Nike's gamification of the whole process by adding Fuelpoints, and you have a product that really taps into the possibilities of the internet of things.

What it will change?

Everything according to some. The internet of things could change the way we interact with the world.

Before, there was a separation between the physical world of objects and the online world of the internet, which was accessed on our computers and then, later, smartphones and tablets. Now and in the future, we will have the internet connected to everything from front door locks, toasters, fridges and air conditioners.

The issues

While many label the internet of things as the future, some are suggesting it could leave people even more open to attacks from hackers.

Currently, Vint Cerf is demanding for the internet of things to 'be locked down' before the possibility of attack, especially when more advanced systems start becoming connected. The Register explain:

While an internet fridge isn't much of a threat, it and other systems could be hacked, and the results could range from the simply irritating to the catastrophic.

Why we should be excited

However, at UXB we don't like to be all doom and gloom and believe the inevitable rise of the internet of things will be an exciting time for everyone.

For businesses, this will allow them to collect huge amounts of big data on how their customers use their products, giving them the information on how to adapt their business with the consumer in mind.

On a personal level, we can start making sure our door is locked away from home, find the dog when it runs off and even have the bath ready for when we walk through the door.