The Thing About the Internet (and the Internet of Things)

Updated: May 19, 2020

Alexa, what is the Internet of Things?

Simply, any object that connects to the Internet becomes a part of the Internet of Things (popularly abbreviated as the IoT). And if you’re asking Alexa, you’re already a participant in the IoT ecosystem.

If you haven’t heard of the so-called Internet of Things, you’re in good company; in 2015, Forbes reported that nearly 90% of people couldn’t define the term. And truth be told, it is such an evolving and collective concept, that even tech moguls are having trouble coming up with a definitive description.

Take one unassuming example: the refrigerator. Imagine that your fridge is not just a vessel to keep food cold, but a piece of technology with which you can communicate. Think about the last time you were at the store and wondered: what should I make for dinner? A smart fridge could keep track of expiration dates and remind you to use your broccoli before it goes bad. Then you’re thinking, “Am I out of butter?” And you can remotely peek into your fridge to see what you have in stock. Then you come home, and your fridge reads you the steps to your recipe for broccoli and cheddar soup. And as you unload your groceries into your smart fridge, you allocate specific temperatures to different zones so that your drinks stay frosty but your strawberries don’t frost.

What’s happening is not just a series of frivolous luxuries, but a collection of solutions that can make your life easier. With a smart fridge alone, you can waste less time, energy, food, and money.

And the IoT extends far beyond your kitchen. From a sensored diaper that notifies you when it needs to be changed, to a self-driving car, the technology that allows this communication can integrate into almost any “thing” in our lives.

Still, how does one phrase contain a smart fridge and a smart city? Some IoT experts have thought to divide the term up into two categories: the industrial IoT and the consumer IoT. The former includes industries like healthcare and transportation, while the latter includes things like TV’s and watches.

If that all sounds a little too much like a precursor to “The Terminator,” consider one of the very first Internet of Things artifacts—the ATM. When you approach a cash machine and insert your card, it communicates with your home bank to ensure that you have enough money in your account, then back to you to withdraw the cash you’ve asked for.

The ATM celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. In 2008, there were more objects connected to the Internet than people. In 2020, the number of things connected to the Internet will reach 50 billion, according to Forbes—that’s more than six times the world population. All this to say, the Internet of Things is not exactly a new phenomenon, though it is a growing one.

So it behooves us all to have an idea of what it can do for us (turn on your coffee maker from the warmth of your bed? Yes, please!), and the risks involved (someone breaking into your home by hacking your smart lock? No, thank you!).

It’s up to you to decide how much you want to integrate the Internet into your things, but however much you choose to, be sure to maintain your security and privacy by employing some basic safeguards.

For one, secure your wireless network with a strong password and be sure to switch it up from time to time. Another measure to take is switching off your WiFi when no one is using it for an extended period of time. This ensures it is not vulnerable when you are away. Specific to IoT objects, create a guest WiFi network for your IoT devices so that hacking into your coffee maker doesn’t clear the path to access your personal data. And for those communications that are especially sensitive (think working for the IRS, a bank, or a healthcare organization) always be sure to employ the use of a software-based VPN while on WiFi. This will keep your data encrypted and protected both on your home wireless as well as public or shared WiFi hotspots.

Do you need help with your network security? At Cleartech Group, we have gathered a group of experts who have knowledge and expertise in high-tech security. Contact us today at (978) 466-1938 or at