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What is the Internet of Things (IoT) and how does it work?

NeoSpeech - internet of things

Even if you don’t know what the Internet of Things (IoT) is yet, you probably use it every day. The use of IoT has grown a lot over the past few years. IoT is now one of the most exciting, promising, well-known, and mass adopted technologies in the tech industry today.

People use IoT at home, on the go, and at work. It has had a significant impact on our daily lives. It has enhanced the way we interact with our devices and with each other.

But if you are here because you don’t know what IoT means, don’t feel bad. There wasn’t a big invention that came out recently which made IoT possible. There weren’t any high-profiled events to announce the release of IoT.

Instead, over the past few years technology has become cheaper to make and easier to build into smaller devices with little storage and computing power. Plus, the internet has also become cheaper to connect to and is much more accessible. Put those factors together and you have the ingredients for the rise of IoT!

So what does IoT mean?

IoT - NeoSpeech

IoT, or the Internet of Things, is defined as a network of connected objects that are able to collect and share data with each other. As you might have guessed, the internet is what connects all of these objects, or “things” together. And what are the things, you might ask? Literally any stand-alone device that can connect to the internet can be an Internet of Things application.

Smart home devices are perfect examples of IoT. A very well-known IoT and smart home device is the Nest Learning Thermostat. This smart thermostat uses the internet to connect to your smart phone, allowing you to see the temperature of your house while you’re away and letting you adjust the heating/air conditioning accordingly.

Another popular smart home IoT devices is OSRAM’s Lightify which lets you control all the lights in your house from your smart phone. There’s also the August Doorbell Cam which enables you to see and speak to people at your front door through your smart phone (you can even open the door for them remotely).

These devices, or things, are connected to each other via the internet, hence the name “Internet of Things”. IoT makes the world around us smarter by letting all of your devices communicate with each other and with you on the go. Essentially, any device that has an on/off switch can be connected to the internet. Your coffee maker, car, heart rate monitor, refrigerator, and even your shower can be connected to the internet and to your other devices thanks to IoT.

How is IoT used today?

IoT refridgerator

As you just read, smart home devices are one of the top examples of IoT today. According to an analysis conducted by the Harvard Business Review, the most heavily used IoT devices today are ones that make home life easier, more distinctive, and more pleasant.

One of the most common uses of IoT in the home are security devices such as connected cameras and motion sensors. By connecting your home to the internet, you are able to access it while away, giving you a greater sense of security.

The health industry is another early adopter of IoT. There are devices that monitor patients, disabled people, and people with special needs such as a device that can detect when someone has fallen. There are also devices for athletes that can track their vital signs as they workout. The Fitbit is a popular example of this.

In the professional world, IoT is currently being used to manage supply chains. Retail stores use IoT to monitor inventory and automatically reorder when supply is low. Logistic centers employ this technology as well and also have devices that are able to monitor the conditions that their goods are stored in (such as temperature, humidity, and vibration detection).

We’re even seeing entire cities embrace IoT. Many “smart cities” use IoT to monitor parking availability within the city and to measure traffic congestion.

The examples above are just a small handful of ways that IoT is already being used. IoT enhances our lives by giving us more control and more access to information. In the coming years, we can expect more of our devices to be connected to the internet, and we can also expect more integration between IoT devices. An example of this would be a sleep monitor that detects when you wake up and tells the coffee maker to start brewing your morning drink.

How does IoT work?

IoT uses wireless communication

When we said that the “things” in the Internet of Things are able to connect to the internet, we didn’t mean that they connect to the internet in the traditional way that you think of, like using your laptop to open a web browser.

Instead, networks are set up for specific IoT devices and applications. Let’s take a smart doorbell camera for example. This device shares information with you via your smart phone and lets you control the camera. The doorbell camera isn’t able to connect to everything, only your smart phone.

The doorbell camera and your smart phone use a specific network to communicate with each other. This is how IoT works. There are several different ways these networks can be built.

First, there are mesh networks, which are devices that connect directly with one another and nothing else. Devices such as a robotic arm that connects to a controller or a sleep monitor that connects to your smart phone are good examples of devices that only need to connect with each other. Devices using a mesh network must be within close proximity with each other (usually around 30 to 300 feet) because they generally use short-range wireless technologies to communicate with each other, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Zigbee.

The opposite of a mesh network is a centralized network. This means that your IoT device (or devices) connect to a centralized point, or hub, which is then able to communicate with the rest of the devices connected to it.

Hubs can be closed, meaning that it only serves one IoT application. An example would be a group of 3 baby monitors that connect to a hub which then connects to you smart phone, enabling you to access all 3 cameras through the hub. No other IoT devices within your house can connect to that hub though since it is closed.

Then, there are open hubs that act as a centralized network for multiple IoT applications. You can have a hub inside your home that connects all of your IoT devices together. You can have a smart refrigerator, stove, garage door, and camera system all connected to the same hub. Then, all you would need to do to access any of these devices would be to connect to the hub.

The SmartThings Hub is perhaps one of the most popular ones available. The hub is sort of like a small router that sits somewhere in your home. It is compatible with many wireless communication protocols, enabling it to connect to many different types of devices. Once connected, you could control any of your devices through the SmartThings App.

Hubs don’t have to be hosted within your home either. They can be controlled in the cloud by the manufacturer of the IoT device or by a third-party company that sells access to their cloud-based IoT platform to manufacturers.

As you can see, there’s a lot of different ways IoT can work. And our explanation here just scrapes the tip of the iceberg.

How does text-to-speech work in the Internet of Things?

Seeing as we’re a text-to-speech company, naturally we look deeply into this question. In addition to making our devices smarter by connecting them to each other and to the internet, companies are working hard to make devices even more smart and user-friendly by giving them a voice so they can speak directly to us. Think of a smart oven that is able to tell you the status of the cookies you’re baking and how much longer until they’re ready.

There’s several different ways text-to-speech can be integrated. The text-to-speech engines can be hosted in an in-home hub, the cloud, or even in the devices themselves. Each of these options have their own pros and cons, and if you’re looking to develop a speech-enabled IoT device, then it’s important to know the differences and how each of them will work.

If you want to find these answers, be on the lookout for our next blog in this series that goes into more detail on how text-to-speech can be integrated into an IoT network or device!

What do you think?

Are you excited for the rise of IoT? What do you think the future hold for it? Let us know in the comments!

Learn More about NeoSpeech’s Text-to-Speech

Want to learn more about all the ways Text-to-Speech can be used? Visit our Text-to-Speech Areas of Application page. And check out our Text-to-Speech Products page to find the right package for any device or application.

If you’re interested in integrating Text-to-Speech technology into your product, please fill out our short Sales Inquiry form and we’ll get you all the information and tools you need.

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