history of IoT

Despite the word “Universe” in the title, there was no Big Bang to announce the beginning of IoT. Its history is better described as hundreds of small streams and trickles joining into a large river. New connected technologies pop up here and there creating an increasingly wider IoT network covering the whole planet.

Indeed, Internet of Things is on the rise now, but let’s make a brief retrospective journey into the history of all things connected.

History of IoT at a Glance

Some sources say that the connected device’s technology dates as far back as 1832 when the electromagnetic telegraph was first built. Of course, it was not IoT proper. But it was the first case of devices connected via a network and a true quantum leap of the time. However, we are more interested in much more recent events.

The world heard the name “Internet of Things” for the first time in 1999 when Kevin Ashton, co-founder of Auto-ID Labs, used it to describe a network which could connect physical devices to the Internet. The new name described the innovational idea of connecting the RFID (Radio-frequency identification) technology to the Internet. RFID, which allows tracking physical objects with special tags attached to them, had been around for quite some time by 1999. However, the idea of exchanging the data stored in the tags via the Internet was first aired only then.

Since the turn of the century, the Internet of Things is getting bigger with each passing year. It has penetrated most of the areas of human life. For example, retail commerce, healthcare, banking and finance, education, home management, and many more. The research by Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group found that in 2008 there were more things connected to the Internet than people.

history of IoT infographic

IoT Explained

According to the Internet of Things definition in Wikipedia, IoT is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity. The latter enables these objects to connect and exchange data. This is a very wide definition that includes both individual and home IoT solutions and complex industrial projects. The Internet of Things technologies include cloud computing, big data, wireless communication protocols, as well as sophisticated hardware.

Technologically, the existing IoT solutions vary a lot. Depending on the size, industry sector, goal, and purpose, IoT networks can be either very complex. For instance, by using different protocols, servers, sensors and special software, or very simple consisting of a device connecting to a smartphone via Wi-Fi. Compare, for example, Cisco’s IoT-based solution for Daimler Trucks North America, a leading manufacturer of heavy-duty vehicles in the USA, and Fitbit activity trackers. Both solutions include Internet of Things. However, the levels of complexity differ drastically.

IoT is Everywhere

Since about 2010, IoT has got into full swing, literally connecting anything and everything. We find connected devices in all areas of our life. Some of them have already become common and familiar, while others are new and sometimes unexpected.

If we look at the degree of IoT adoption in different industry sectors, we will see that the situation is not homogeneous. Some industries are eager to embrace IoT and find multiple uses for this advanced technology. Others are much slower to change their usual methods. We have gathered some examples of how the IoT technology serves different industries.

Internet of Things in Retail Commerce

There are quite a lot of benefits which Internet of Things can bring to retail commerce:

  • RFID and IoT. The retail commerce has been extensively using the RFID technology which we mentioned before. Tracking the tags allows to automate store inventories, reduce customer checkout time and prevent theft of goods. When the Internet was brought into the picture, the automation opportunities became even wider. Retail stores place various sensors among the goods that send data to the special software. This way, retailers can monitor the temperature and humidity in their warehouses, track deliveries, place orders when they are running low on a certain product, etc.
  • Customer experience. With the global popularity of online stores, retailers are looking for ways to lure customers into their brick-and-mortar shops. Here IoT can become quite useful. For example, IoT data can help to provide personalized service to customers, reach them through social networks, help visitors locate certain goods in the store.
  • A customer behavior analysis. IoT devices can track the customer’s movements in the store or identify when the customer might need help from a shop assistant. They can even send advertising notifications to the customer’s smartphone when they are just passing the store.

IoT in Home Automation

Home automation is the industry which literally sits on top of the IoT technology. Indeed, the core function of home automation is to manage and monitor devices through software installed on a computer or smartphone.

For some time, home automation remained a difficult and costly solution. The reason was the absence of a unified protocol to connect all devices and the control hub. The arrival of home Wi-Fi routers took care of that. Now self-installed smart home systems have become quite affordable and easy to use. Heaters, air conditioners, thermostats, coffee machines, door locks, smoke sensors – almost all home appliances can be made “smart” with the IoT technology.

Moreover, protocol unification and device compatibility have become one of the priority issues for IoT manufacturers. Now you can build smart home solutions with as many as a dozen brands hooked to the same hub.

That, in turn, means that you can have a single application for the entire home automation system. All your sensors, locks, lights, thermostats and switches are in the same place. Moreover, you can control all of them in the same way. Our smartphones are already too cluttered with dozens of various apps. So having only one to control your entire home is a nice change.

Internet of Things in Healthcare

In healthcare, the importance of IoT cannot be ignored. One of its key uses is wearable devices – blood sugar meters, activity trackers, smart watches reminding the owner to take medication. Connected devices can send the patient’s data to the doctor in seconds. This can sometimes be truly vital for making the diagnosis and taking emergency measures.

For the patients, using connected devices has its benefits, too. Remote treatment and checkups, better accuracy of diagnosis, reduced time required to receive medical treatment or advice have improved the patients’ experience as well as made it less expensive.

At the same time, Internet of Things applications developed for healthcare have much higher security requirements than in other industries. The healthcare systems contain too much of extremely sensitive personal data. Therefore, all wireless connections must be especially secure.

IoT in Banking

Banking is rather slow in adopting IoT technologies. It is a very old industry that is subject to heavy regulation. Thus, innovations are checked thoroughly before they are accepted. Besides, in banking, similar to healthcare, the matters of security are of utmost importance. Therefore, everything related to wireless data transfer, cloud storage, and wearable devices is scrutinized.

Nevertheless, some IoT solutions do find their way into the banking industry. However, they are more of the marketing kind than finances proper. Through the Internet of Things, banks and financial institutions can gather data from their mobile applications and use it to improve their service. Another method of collecting customer data is to install sensors in ATMs and bank branches. The data received from such sensors can help to identify customer trends and patterns.

Another way IoT can be used in banking, is proactive marketing, particularly, custom offers. On the basis of the customer’s data, behavior, and financial status, banks can create tailor-made plans and programs.

In addition, banks make certain progress in implementing their solutions in wearable devices, such as smartwatches. There are already applications allowing to make transactions, check account balances and find the nearest ATMs or branches.

It seems that the market for IoT-based banking solutions is big and ripe. However, the requirements are very steep, too. We already mentioned the security concerns, so the developers of financial IoT applications should consider security mechanisms their priority.

IoT in Education

The advance of IoT is especially visible in higher education, as students are the most eager to try new technologies. College students tend to use their mobile devices whenever they can, both for study and play, and the education industry just had to make use of this. Online lessons, electronic libraries, cloud storages for student profiles and grades – these are just a few examples of IoT use in education.

In education, just like everywhere else, Internet of Things can save both time and costs. Online libraries allow getting rid of paper books, examination and grading portals save time for college teachers relieving them from unnecessary paperwork. And the state-of-the-art visual technologies make studying an exciting and engaging process which the students will definitely appreciate.

IoT in Everyday Life

Indeed, nowadays anything that can be connected eventually gets connected. We have smart coffee machines that can brew your coffee before you wake up. We have smart refrigerators that monitor your groceries and remind you when it is time to go shopping again. We also have smart lawn sprinkler systems that monitor weather forecasts and water your lawns only when necessary. Our smartphones are full of IoT apps allowing to monitor and control our smart gadgets wherever we are.

In the recent years, voice-operated systems have become “the thing.” Amazon Alexa and Google Home smart speakers become our companions and assistants. You can order pizza, play music, ask for the latest news, do fitness – all via a smart assistant that can hear you. Moreover, you can make voice-operated speakers part of other IoT applications, such as smart homes.

There are IoT devices that are very convenient and useful and others that can be funny or, shall we say, unexpected. If, for example, a connected door sensor is a great product considerably increasing your home security. Then a smart scoop for dog food that was presented at the CES 2018 exhibition may cause some raised eyebrows. Indeed, isn’t there a simpler way to find out whether anyone else has already fed your dog?

What’s Next?

IoT is definitely getting bigger. According to Gartner’s strategic predictions, by 2020, 95% of all new products will contain the IoT technology. The current state of the IoT development confirms Gartner’s statement and suggests that we are going to see many more connected devices.

There are certain trends in the IoT sector that we can watch and follow to get a better idea of where the connected world is going. This way, we can adapt the technology to our needs better and ensure its secure and reliable performance.

IoT will become more industry-specific with scenarios specially designed for particular industry sectors and usage patterns. The generic solutions and platforms will be less popular.

Internet of Things is going to use cloud computing more extensively for its high availability, cost-effectiveness, integration opportunities and low maintenance.


However, the growing popularity of IoT has its downside, too. We have all heard of massive cyber attacks and data theft. Connected devices are highly exposed to cyber threats. Therefore, the manufacturers must consider cybersecurity their top priority. In IoT networks, a breach of a single device can endanger the entire system. This is especially relevant for IoT solutions serving the industries handling massive amounts of sensitive data. We are talking about healthcare and financial services and similar areas using personal data.

If we return to the metaphor we used at the beginning of this article, now IoT is about the size of the Amazon River. And everyone who has done their Geography 101 knows that the Amazon flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The predictions made for the IoT industry suggest that, indeed, we are about to see this ocean in all its magnificence quite shortly. And it’s up to you to either surrender and drown or to ride this wave to emerge the winner.

Of course, the creation of an efficient IoT product requires professional development. If you have an idea of a smart device or other IoT application, share it with us, and we will help you make it real. Contact us for a free professional advice on your project, we will be happy to work with you!