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How Things Work

In part one of this briefing, Ian Brown sets the scene for the regulatory issues that are rapidly arriving for the internet of things.

How Things Work

Plummeting electronics and communication costs have set the stage for a rapid expansion of the internet of things (IoT) – the many everyday physical items that now have sensors and network links, enabling them to remotely share data about themselves, their users and environment. In the next decade, technology companies and consulting firms expect tens of billions of IoT devices to be deployed, with an annual economic impact in the trillions of dollars.

Companies manufacturing IoT devices are only one part of a broader ecosystem of organisations developing the IoT. The data created by devices can be shared via communications networks, platforms (including social media sites), and accessed and controlled by third-party applications – often running on users' smartphones (which themselves contain an increasingly diverse range of sensors).

This article examines the concepts, technologies, and societal changes influenced by the IoT and related technical developments – which include convergence, cloud services, data analytics, the proliferation of sensors, measuring and monitoring humans, machines and things – that are leading to a shift from human-to-human communications, to machine-to-machine and everything-to-everything communications.

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