We just got back from the IoT Evolution Expo at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas where thought leaders explored the robust nature of IoT and the ways it is driving digital business transformation across enterprises. We got to thinking, who invented the Internet of Things?

The Godfather of IoT

Before we discuss the evolution of the “Internet of Things” – A.K.A. IoT – let’s start by defining what the term means exactly. IoT is a network of devices, buildings, vehicles and other physical objects embedded with sensors that transmit data between a company and the consumer. The purpose of all this communicating between the two is to provide consumers smarter products and services, a better customer experience, and for businesses a competitive edge and ability to build revenue. By the year 2020, the Internet of Things is predicted to consist of close to 50 billion objects.

In the beginning, a British technology pioneer by the name of Kevin Ashton invented the term Internet of Things. The term was used to describe exactly what it means today; a system of connected ubiquitous devices communicating data over the Internet.

Back To The Future

How did the world get to the IoT age? Let us look at some Internet related history on the road to the great phenomenon called the Internet of Things.

It was the year 1832, and Russian Baron Schilling created an electromagnetic telegraph. Carl Friedrich Gauss and Wilhelm Weber followed in 1933, inventing unique code communicating over a 1200 m distance in Göttingen, Germany.

“What hath god wrought?” was Samuel Morse’s first Morse code message transmitted to Baltimore, Maryland, from Washington, D.C., in 1844.

Jump to the year 1969, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (Arpanet – packet switching network) was born. In 1974, their network was the first to implement TCP/IP (protocol suite). Their two technologies would be the Internet’s technical foundation.

It would be the year 1984, before the Domain Name System is revealed; and another five years – 1989 – before Tim Berners-Lee proposed the World Wide Web. By 1990, the first server and browser are up and running, open for commercial business in 1991. Then it happened and all it took was a toaster to do it. John Romkey invented the first IoT device. Romkey proved, at the October ’89 INTEROP Conference he could turn the toaster on over the Internet.

In the year 1991, Tim Berners-Lee makes history again creating the very first web page.

In 1993, the Trojan Room Coffee Pot sent images to University of Cambridge servers about three times a minute; and once browsers were capable of displaying images, they were put online.

Who was the first to complete a financial transaction of the web? In 1994, online banking made its debut and Pizza Hut opened up the first online pizza shop. The first secure financial transaction happened and which achieved it first, Internet Shopping Network or NetMark is a tossup. Soon after in 1995, Echobay (now EBay) and Amazon hit the Internet.

The year 1999, was a big year – Kevin Ashton coined the term Internet of Things. And, in 2000 LG announced its plans for the first Internet Refrigerator.

The IPSO Alliance was launched for promoting the use of IP – Internet Protocol – smart objects networks.

Then in 2008 – 2009, it happened, Internet of Things was born.

The Visionaries – Who knew?

Throughout history, there have always been those who predict what is to come. The Wireless World Wide Web full of smart devices is no different.

“When wireless* is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole… and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.”

1926 – Colliers Magazine
Nikola Tesla quote

 “…It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. This process could follow the normal teaching of a child.”

1964 – In Understanding Media

“….by means of electric media, we set up a dynamic by which all previous technologies — including cities — will be translated into information systems” ~Marshall McLuhan

1966 – German Computer Science Pioneer
Karl Steinbach quote

Did You Know?

  • ATMs went online back in 1974, and are considered to be one of the first IoT devices.
  • There were more devices connected to the Internet in 2008, than there were people.
  • In 2015, there were 4.9 billion (4,9000,000,000+) connected Internet of Things. Smartphone users topped at over 6.1 billion (6,100,000,000+).
  • Predictions for the number of connected IoT by 2020, meets or goes over 50 billion (50,0000,000,000+). A quarter of a billion vehicles are expected to be connected to the Internet.

The Future’s So Bright

The Internet of Things is not slowing down, and the list of connected people, systems and things keeps growing. Digital ecosystems are all around us – new business models are arising. The possibilities and opportunities IoT brings from businesses and consumers is tremendous. Whether you are a business or a consumer it already affects us all, every day and with everything we do in our daily lives. What’s next for us? Think big.