Internet of Things - what is it

IoT: What Is It And Why Is It Important?

Last updated on June 20, 2021

While many of us may have heard of IoT and IoT Technology, not all of us will know the answer to what is IoT and what is an IoT meaning. Here, in this article, we look to answer those questions and give an in-depth guide to our readers about IoT technology by giving an IoT definition and how it can impact our lives.  

 We also investigate why IoT technology is so important to online security and what effects the IoT meaning has on real situations.  

What is IoT?

So what is IoT exactly? A good way to discuss IoT meaning is to look at items in our day to day lives that are battery or electrically operated. From there, it is now possible to connect these items to the internet and then connect them all through one hub, where you can control them.  

More precisely, looking at the IoT definition by understanding that IoT stands for the Internet of Things, can help people realize that connected machines can be controlled by its owner and made to do jobs and tasks far beyond how an object has previously been used. Think of refrigerators, toasters, coffee machines, heating systems, blinds, lighting systems, and multimedia networks, and you have an idea of all the items that can be part of the Internet of Things.  

What does IoT mean?

So now we know what is IoT, we can now look to answer what does IoT mean? In answering this question we can see how IoT technology can help us in our everyday lives and make general day to day life that little bit easier.  

Technically speaking, as mentioned above, IoT technology refers to any device or object that is connected to the internet. However, it is starting to be more commonly thought of as devices that can talk to each other. This ability to talk to each other is important for leveraging the technology as IoT devices can help a user by analyzing the data at its disposal – and doing it automatically. It is this automation that can help us, the users, to become more efficient in the manner in which we do things.  

Think about a smart refrigerator for example. If it is connected to your home hub, it can alert you to the fact that you are running low on milk and automatically add it to your trolley on a device where you have a grocery shopping app.  

Other devices that are commonly connected via the internet can include: 

  • The locks for your home or business
  • Your thermostats
  • Your lighting systems
  • Your office equipment 
  • Your multimedia systems
  • CCTV cameras and security network

It is hoped that the day to day efficiencies that IoT can provide to individuals will have a bigger impact on the wider world. If we are more efficient in how we buy things such as food thanks to smart fridges and we do not expend unnecessary energy on lighting or heating thanks to smart and IoT heating or lighting systems, the efficiencies generated can be huge. It will help suppliers and producers of many services and products to become more efficient too and the cycle then begins again.  

At the crux of all this is the data that IoT technology allows to be gathered. With a central place for data from a home, that data can then be analyzed in the future to help us save time and money. While the potential to become more efficient around the home and in our day to day tasks has always been there, the data has not been – until devices started talking to each other through IoT technologies. 

Why is IoT technology so important in online security?  

The idea of devices talking to each other and collating data on its users can raise alarm bells amongst individuals – especially ones that are, quite rightly, concerned with privacy. The reason being is that if something is connected to the internet, it has the propensity to be hacked and then used by online criminals for their own illegal purposes.  

It may not concern some people – they may question what does it matter if a hacker can hack into the software installed on a coffee machine? But the implication can be much larger – if they can hack into that software, they could find out what your account details there are and hack into your wider network. From there, they can do all manner of things. They can use the cameras on your computers, handheld devices, and multimedia systems. They can install malware on your networks and find out crucial financial information from your many online accounts.  

They can, therefore, build up a picture of you and commit identity theft which can materially impact your life going forward. Identity theft can have massive ramifications on your credit rating and therefore your ability to buy any number of things in the future – including getting a mortgage or even a mobile phone contract.  

These are all instances where IoT technology can work against individuals, but individuals can also learn how to protect themselves online through their connected devices in the home – just as much as they would when using a computer with an internet connection. Strong passwords, VPNs and anti-virus software are all excellent methods to use in conjunction with one another to help keep you safe online through your IoT devices.  

Other methods that are key to keep in mind are:

  • Knowing where your moveable devices are. This obviously means your cellphones but also any other tablets or devices that are portable. Your laptop for example or even your home hub handset itself. 
  • Make sure your antivirus software is always up to date. Updating your antivirus software across your devices is key to making sure that you are safe at all times when connected to the internet. Without the updates, you are far more susceptible to weaknesses in your software that hackers can take advantage of.  
  • Update your operating systems. For the same reason that you need to make sure that you have installed the latest updates of your antivirus software, you need to ensure that you also have the latest version of your operating system installed on your devices. In doing so, you get rid of any vulnerabilities on your systems that hackers can use as a way to get access to your data.  
  • Use encryption. VPNs can be a good way to encrypt your data at all times, but even if you don’t choose to go down the VPN route, trying to encrypt your data when it is transmitted and when it is picked up is fundamental to online security. Encrypting data makes it hard to read by hackers and therefore useless for their purposes. 

However, your online security can actually be improved through the use of IoT technology and not simply put you at a higher risk of identity theft. So how can IoT technology actively help in your quest for online security?  Firstly, it can alert you to as and when there has been a security breach attempt on your network. Secondly, the very nature of having a larger network of connected devices can help. By employing end to end encryption across your network and having strong login credentials on all your systems, you make it more difficult for hackers to infiltrate your systems.  

Also, by the simple basis that you have more devices connected to the internet, you are more likely to employ the use of strong cybersecurity measures. When you have a small network, it is human nature to be a little more relaxed in your approach to protecting your device. When you have a larger network, you are more likely to pay attention to the need for a robust security system too.  

What is the IoT Meaning on Real Life 

So other than having a refrigerator that can order you milk when you are running low, what else can IoT do to help you in your day to day life?  

One of the best examples perhaps is when your car talks to your diary. Imagine getting into a car when you are leaving for an appointment, and your car not only already knows where you are going, but it knows to pick the quickest route that will get you there on time? You will not have to check your phone for a quick route or even type in your destination’s zip code – all of which can be time-consuming, especially when you are in a rush.  

Cars will also be able to build into your journeys where to get petrol or fuel from, and the cheapest place to do so versus how far out of your way the gas station is. Or, it can inform you before your journey that you will need to leave earlier than you had anticipated because you need to fill up your car, or the traffic is just simply that bad.  

Other ways that IoT technology can help you would be again to think about how your diary and your consequent movements can help run your household better. With respect to your lighting systems and your heating systems, this can have a material effect on both how much energy your house uses and therefore how much your home costs to run. By taking into account when you, and the rest of your family, are in the home, your home hub can decide when the house needs its heating switched on and when to have lights lip up or off.  

Given that lighting is one of the world’s biggest outgoings for energy, this can help the environment too. If you are only using lighting when you need it, or your home is fitted with sensors to know when you are in a room or not, it can turn the heating or lighting on and off as needed. If it is not required, it can switch everything off so that you save money by expending less energy.  

IoT Technology – The Bottom Line

The Internet of Things can be quite an intimidating thought to a technophobe. Plus more traditional individuals may ask the question, do I really need my toaster to be able to talk to my coffee maker? And when said like that, it can make you think twice about whether technology is sometimes simply developing for the sake of it. Are the developments really necessary?  

However, this can be quite short-sighted of the cumulative effect of all your devices being connected to the internet. In doing so, you are able to tap into all the benefits that the internet can provide. Plus the analysis of the data that can be provided from all our devices can have an impact, not only on us as individuals, but also on the world. As discussed above, the efficiencies created by a population can make enough of a change that it can bring down our emissions to work towards a more environmentally friendly way of living.  

The reality of the situation with IoT technology is that more and more devices will be manufactured with the capacity to connect to the internet as standard. It is something that we will all start to use with increasing frequency, if we’re an early-adopting techno whizz or not. Some of us probably use it now without realizing – anybody who has used Siri or Alexa has started to use the technology behind the IoT.  

It’s important to think about, therefore, your security approach to how you will protect your network and privacy, as it is almost inevitable that your network will start to include more and more devices. By staying safe online, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the benefits that IoT can afford while ensuring that you are protected at all times.