Kevin WalshIt’s not “The” Internet of Things!  This might seem to be a trivial point but it actually indicates a broad misunderstanding with just what Internet of Things (IoT) actually is.

Many insist on inserting the word “the” in front of IoT, as in “businesses need to adopt the IoT in order to improve asset uptime.” This implies that IoT is a single addressable entity. It is not. IoT is a collection of many different technologies, methodologies, practices, data types, protocols, etc. Collectively, the constituent elements that make up IoT create a discipline or a science or maybe even an architecture, not a single overarching entity.

Worse still, even if this collection of components could be thought of as a single object, “notIoTthe” implies there is only one, as in “the” internet (and even the internet is actually a network of networks, not exactly a single thing). But in business and industrial settings, each organization will have its own systems built using IoT. These systems may interact with other public or third-party data sources but they will be fully independent, walled off structures. Businesses will not plug into “the” IoT, rather they will use IoT to collect data from remote devices and use that data to drive business processes.

A useful analog is “client-server.” Client-server was a distributed computing model introduced in the 1980s. It consisted of many discrete technologies (e.g., local area networks) and devices (e.g., file servers), the result of which was a less expensive, more flexible, more scalable computing architecture. No one, to my knowledge, called it “the client-server.”

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