IoT, a short form of Internet of Things, has been accepted as the third wave of information industry around the world after the flourishing of computer and Internet. It has been widely believed that IoT can not only bring forward economic benefit improvement with cost dramatically reduced, but can provide technical impetus to economic development as well. Nevertheless, some people hold a negative attitude towards IoT, thinking the changes to the world deriving from the development of IoT can never be compared with those by computer and Internet. Therefore, to accurately estimate the future of IoT, it's of significant necessity to be aware of IoT concept and its development so that optimal solutions and rational attitude for IoT can be captured.
IoT as a definition first came into being in The Road Ahead by Bill Gates as early as 1995 when the concept of Internet of things was released. However, it didn't receive numerous attention from the public due to limitations of wireless network, hardware and sensing devices. In 1998, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) creatively proposed an idea of Internet of things that was then called EPC (Electronic Product Code) system. One year later, it was Auto-ID that fundamentally defined IoT concept based on product code, RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology and Internet. In the year of 2005, ITU (International Telecommunication Union) released its ITU Internet Reports 2005: Internet of Things in which the concept of IoT was officially proposed. This report combines ideas of both MIT and Auto-ID concerning Internet of things and contains networking and applications of all the things.
Up to now, the most widely-accepted definition of IoT goes: it is a type of network connecting any object with Internet to exchange information and communicate by sticking to predetermined protocols through information sensing devices such as RFID, infrared sensor, GPS (global positioning system) and laser scanner so that intelligent identification, positioning, tracing, monitoring and administration will be implemented.
Then, what's the relationship between IoT and Internet? As a matter of fact, the concept of IoT derives from analogy of Internet. In accordance with the classifications of relationship between IoT and Internet, different definitions concerning IoT have been released by professors and scholars, which can be summarized into the following four categories.
• IoT is a sensing network without access to Internet
Some experts think that IoT is actually a sensing network and sensors are installed on objects used in people's daily life. The sensors are capable of better helping us to know about the surroundings. Without access to Internet, IoT and Internet are thus regarded as two independent networks.
• IoT is one portion belonging to Internet
Experts holding this opinion believe that IoT has been available for a long time and it is one part of Internet as a natural expansion of Internet development. As Internet is a network contains everything, increasingly more objects can be involved in this network. Simply speaking, IoT is involved in Internet.
• IoT is a complementary network of Internet
The Internet we usually refer to is a global network connected between people through computers and it serves for information exchanging between people. The subject of IoT, however, is all kinds of things and IoT aims to serve people through transinformation between different things. As a result, the two networks feature different subjects. IoT is actually the expansion and supplement of Internet and IoT and Internet are two parallel networks. When it comes to information exchange between humans, Internet is like artery while IoT is like capillary. Thus, Internet and IoT interconnect with each other.
• IoT is a future Internet
From the macroscopic concept, future IoT will get people involved in the network that is everywhere. People will uncousciously exchange information with people or things at any time any place. Then, IoT is equivalent to Ubiquitous Network or can be regarded as a future Internet. In spite of different names, IoT, Ubiquitous Network and future Internet stick to the prospect that people can contact with anything through any network anytime and anywhere.
All the above definitions on IoT feature both merits and demerits. I believe that from a narrow sense, all the sensing network used for communications between objects all belong to the range of IoT no matter Internet is accessed or not. From the broad sense, IoT doesn't stop at information communication between objects and it has to be perfectly combined with telecommunication network so that information exchange will take place between people and objects with another network generated.
From the Beacon Tower to telegraphs and phones, from Internet to Mobile Internet, people's desire for information has become the impetus pushing forward information development and constantly upgrading technology progress has been helping people acquire new knowledge and information.
Human's modern informationization starts from telegraph and gradually goes deeper into more convenient exploration and larger amount of information transfer. As unknown fields concerning communications between people become constantly shrinking, it has developed to a phase of Mobile Internet.
As modern communication technologies between people are actively explored, communications between objects take off as well. At the very beginning, in order to make information better transfer, codes were attached to objects so that objects can be efficiently identified. As NFC (Near Field Communication) technologies such as RFID, Bluetooth, ZigBee etc. make constant progress, modern identification technologies have gradually been promoted and applied including RFID, QR code etc. Due to the impetus of Moore's Law, chip size becomes increasingly shrinking with more functions implemented. The connection between network with only things participating and network with only people participating has become inevitable.
Information communication network can be classified into telecommunication network responsible for communications between people and near field communication network responsible for communications between things that can be also called sensing network. Both networks develop in a parallel way but telecommunication network developed at an early age and is more mature than sensing network, which is obvious to see. After numerous research and efforts in hundreds of years, telecommunication network has formed a complete series of scientific, controllable and administrative information communication networks, safely and efficiently serving for people's information communication.
Telecommunication network primarily come in two development trends: mobility and broadband. Mobility can be seen when fixed-line telephones are constantly replaced by mobile telephones. Broadband can be achieved through conversion from circuit switching to packet switching, from telegraphs and telephones to Internet.
Development of sensing network also comes in two trends: intelligenization and IP. To achieve intelligenization, things should be more intelligent and are capable of switching information by themselves, which is an essential way to implement the real meaning of Internet. To achieve that, large-data processing capability should be equiped and the constant development of cloud computing technology will lead to the resolution of that issue. IP trend refers to the fact that future IoT will set a mark for everything so that information about things can be known at any time and at any place.
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