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BYOD may be one of the biggest challenges enterprise IT departments and CIOs have faced in the past few years, but there’s another one not too far behind it — the Internet of Things, or IoT for short.

IoT is a term used to describe a future where “everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and be able to identify themselves to other devices,” according to Techopedia. Those “things” could include an animal with an implanted chip, a person with a heart rate monitor, and manmade objects such as “smart” refrigerators (see LG Electronics’ Smart Thinq line of appliances) — all of which can be assigned IP addresses and have the ability to transfer data over a network.

IoT is not a new concept. The term was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, who cofounded MIT’s Auto-ID Labs. Ashton and his colleagues started Auto-ID as a research consortium with the goal of creating a global open standard system to put radio-frequency identification (RFID) everywhere.

In the early 1980s, programmers at Carnegie Mellon University created the first “smart” appliance:
an Internet-connected Coke machine.

Even before Ashton and his colleagues gave the concept a name, programmers at Carnegie Mellon University created the first “smart” appliance in the early 1980s. According to WhatIs.com, it was an Internet-connected Coke machine, which programmers could check for cold drink availability.

In the 1980s and even the early ’90s, this kind of connectivity seemed so far off and Jetson-y to everyday people. But today, being able to monitor freezer temperature from your smartphone seems normal.

There’s little doubt that IoT will make its way into the workplace, in the same way BYOD did In recent years. According to Gartner, in 2009, there were 2.5 billion devices with unique IP addresses connected to the Internet (most were phones and PCs). The research company predicts that in 2020, the number will jump to 30 billion and will mostly be products.

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“The Internet of Things is a strategically important market,” said Peter Sondergaard, Gartner senior vice president and global head of research, in a recent statement. “It will accelerate fast and will drive both revenue and cost efficiencies.”

Expect to hear more about IoT in 2014. Gartner included it on its list of top predictions for IT organizations and users for 2014, and MIT and Auto-ID Labs will be hosting the October 2014 Internet of Things Conference in Cambridge, MA.

Additional reading:

What’s Holding up the Internet of Things? and The Internet of Things in 2014, both by Brian Proffitt of Readwrite

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