IoT Definitions

This glossary explains the meaning of key words and phrases that information technology (IT) and business professionals use when discussing IoT and related software products. You can find additional definitions by visiting WhatIs.com or using the search box below.

  • A

    active RFID (active radio frequency identification)

    Active RFID (radio frequency identification) tags are continuously operating, battery-powered sensors that gather and transmit data to a reading device.

  • active sensor

    An active sensor is a device with a transmitter that sends out a signal, light wavelength or electrons to be bounced off a target, with data gathered by the sensor upon their reflection. Active sensors contrast with passive sensors, which simply detect and respond to some type of input from the physical environment.

  • actuator

    An actuator is a mechanism that turns energy into a controlled motion.

  • addressability

    Addressability is the capacity for an entity to be targeted and found. To be addressable, an entity must be uniquely identifiable, which means that it must be associated with something -- typically an alphanumeric string, although there are other possibilities -- that is not associated with anything else that exists within that system.

  • Amazon Prime Air drone

    Amazon's Prime Air drone is a delivery system in development that uses remote-controlled robotic vehicles to transport goods from the warehouse to the consumer. The drones are small, unmanned octocopters -- helicopters with eight rotors -- that use GPS navigation.

  • artificial intelligence of things (AIoT)

    The artificial intelligence of things (AIoT) is the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and the internet of things (IoT) infrastructure.

  • iBeacon

    iBeacon is a small-scale network device that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and acts as a transmitter to detect and track smartphones.

  • B

    blockchain dApp

    A decentralized application (dApp) is a type of distributed open source software application that runs on a peer-to-peer (P2P) blockchain network rather than on a single computer.

  • Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE)

    Also marketed as Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth LE was introduced in the Bluetooth 4.0 specification as an alternative to Bluetooth Classic. Like its predecessor, Bluetooth LE uses frequency hopping wireless technology in the 2.4 GHz unlicensed radio band to interconnect nearby devices.

  • C

    car hacking

    Car hacking is the manipulation of the code in a car's electronic control unit (ECU) to exploit a vulnerability and gain control of other ECU units in the vehicle.  

  • Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X)

    Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) is a unified connectivity platform designed to offer vehicles low-latency vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-roadside infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communication.

  • Chief IoT Officer (Chief Internet of Things Officer)

    A Chief Internet of Things Officer is an enterprise executive in charge of how smart products are developed and implemented to best support company objectives and goals.

  • control network

    A control network is a network of nodes that collectively monitor, sense, and control or enable control of an environment for a particular purpose.

  • D

    device mesh

    A device mesh is an ad hoc network in the internet of things (IoT). The term, which was coined by research firm Gartner, describes an ever-changing mesh network consisting of the endpoint devices that people use to access applications, information and other people.

  • drone (UAV)

    A drone is an unmanned aircraft.

  • drone photography

    Drone photography is the capture of still images and video by a remotely-operated or autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also known as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) or, more commonly, as a drone.

  • drone services (UAV services)

    Drone services, also known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) services, is the emerging market for services built around flying robots that can be remote-controlled or flown autonomously using software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems.

  • E

    embedded device hacking

    Embedded device hacking is the exploiting of vulnerabilities in embedded software to gain control of the device. Attackers have hacked embedded systems to spy on the devices, to take control of them or simply to disable (brick) them.

  • embedded firmware

    Hardware makers use embedded firmware to control the functions of various hardware devices and systems much like a computer’s operating system controls the function of software applications.

  • embedded operating system

    An embedded operating system is a specialized operating system (OS) designed to perform a specific task for a device that is not a computer.

  • embedded software

    Hardware makers use embedded software to control the functions of various hardware devices and systems. Embedded software controls device functions in the same way that a computer’s operating system controls the function of software applications.

  • embedded system

    An embedded system is a combination of computer hardware and software designed for a specific function.

  • embedded system security

    Embedded system security is a strategic approach to protecting software running on embedded systems from attack. An embedded system is a programmable hardware component with a minimal operating system and software.

  • embedded systems programming

    Embedded systems programming is the programming of an embedded system in some device using the permitted programming interfaces provided by that system.

  • F

    What is fog computing?

    Fog computing is a decentralized computing infrastructure in which data, compute, storage and applications are located somewhere between the data source and the cloud.

  • G

    gateway

    A gateway is a network node used in telecommunications that connects two networks with different transmission protocols together.

  • Google Glass

    Google Glass is a wearable, voice- and motion-controlled Android device that resembles a pair of eyeglasses and displays information directly in the user's field of vision.

  • H

    headless system

    A headless system is a computer that operates without a monitor, graphical user interface (GUI) or the typical peripherals used to control it, such as a keyboard and mouse. Headless computers are often used in embedded systems and servers.

  • I

    Identity of Things (IDoT)

    The Identity of Things (IDoT) involves assigning unique identifiers with associated metadata to devices and objects (things), enabling them to connect and communicate effectively with other entities over the Internet.

  • IFTTT (If This Then That)

    IFTTT is an online service that automates Web-based tasks so that if one specified event occurs, another is triggered. IFTTT stands for "If This Then That" and the acronym is pronounced to rhyme with "gift."

  • industrial internet of things (IIoT)

    The industrial internet of things (IIoT) is the use of smart sensors and actuators to enhance manufacturing and industrial processes.

  • injectable ID chip (biochip transponder)

    An injectable ID chip, also called a biochip transponder, is an electronic device that is inserted under the skin of an animal to provide the animal with a unique identification number.

  • Intel Quark

    Intel Quark is an embedded system-on-a-chip (SoC) processor design intended for smaller mobile devices like wearable computers. As with their counterparts in elementary particles, Quark is smaller than  Atom. The Quark processor is said to be a fifth of the size of Atom and draw a tenth of the power.

  • intelligent device

    An intelligent device is any type of equipment, instrument, or machine that has its own computing capability.

  • Internet of Everything (IoE)

    The Internet of Everything (IoE) is a concept that extends the Internet of Things (IoT) emphasis on machine-to-machine (M2M) communications to describe a more complex system that also encompasses people and processes.

  • Internet of Things privacy (IoT privacy)

    Internet of Things privacy is the special considerations required to protect the information of individuals from exposure in the IoT environment, in which almost any physical or logical entity or object can be given a unique identifier and the ability to communicate autonomously over the Internet or similar network.

  • intranet of things

    An intranet of things is a closed network that includes smart sensors and actuators.

  • IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) or healthcare IoT

    The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is a network of machine-to-machine communication between medical devices and healthcare IT systems.

  • IoT attack surface

    The IoT attack surface is the sum total of all potential security vulnerabilities in IoT devices and associated software and infrastructure in a given network, be it local or the entire Internet.

  • IoT botnet (Internet of Things botnet)

    An IoT botnet (Internet of Things botnet) is a group of hacked computers, smart appliances and Internet-connected devices that have been co-opted for illicit purposes.

  • IoT devices (internet of things devices)

    IoT devices are the nonstandard computing devices that connect wirelessly to a network and have the ability to transmit data.

  • IoT gateway

    An Internet of Things (IoT) gateway is a physical device or software program that serves as the connection point between the cloud and controllers, sensors and intelligent devices.

  • IoT middleware (Internet of Things middleware)

    Internet of Things (IoT) middleware is software that serves as an interface between components of the IoT, joining elements that would not otherwise be able to connect and communicate.

  • IoT policy (Internet of Things policy)

    An Internet of Things policy is a document that provides a comprehensive guide designed to help an organization deal with the complex issues surrounding the IoT.

  • IoT security (internet of things security)

    IoT security is the technology segment focused on safeguarding connected devices and networks in the internet of things (IoT).

  • IPv6 address

    An IPv6 address is a 128-bit alphanumeric value that identifies an endpoint device in an Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) network.

  • item-level RFID (item-level radio frequency identification)

    Item-level RFID involves individual unit tagging, as opposed to tagging cartons or pallets of items.

  • What is the internet of things (IoT)?

    The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

  • L

    LPWAN (low-power wide area network)

    Low-power WAN (LPWAN) is a wireless wide area network technology that interconnects low-bandwidth, battery-powered devices with low bit rates over long ranges.

  • M

    machine authentication

    Machine authentication is the authorization of an automated human-to-machine or machine-to-machine (M2M) communication through verification of a digital certificate or digital credentials. Unlike user authentication, the process does not involve any action on the part of a human.

  • machine data

    Machine data is digital information created by the activity of computers, mobile phones, embedded systems and other networked devices.

  • machine-generated data (MGD)

    Machine-generated data (MGD) is information that is produced by mechanical or digital devices. The term is often used to describe the data that is generated by an organization’s industrial control systems and mechanical devices that are designed to carry out a single function.

  • machine-to-machine (M2M)

    Machine-to-machine, or M2M, is a broad label that can be used to describe any technology that enables networked devices to exchange information and perform actions without the manual assistance of humans.

  • man-in-the-middle attack (MitM)

    A man-in-the-middle (MiTM) attack is a type of cyber attack in which the attacker secretly intercepts and relays messages between two parties who believe they are communicating directly with each other.

  • meet-in-the-middle attack

    Meet-in-the-middle is a known plaintext attack that can greatly reduce the number of brute-force permutations required to decrypt text that has been encrypted by more than one key.

  • MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems)

    A MEMS (micro-electromechanical system) is a miniature machine that has both mechanical and electronic components.

  • mesh network topology (mesh network)

    A mesh network is a network in which devices -- or nodes -- are linked together, branching off other devices or nodes.

  • micro-location

    Micro-location is the process of pinpointing a person's placement to within a few inches or feet using various technologies.

  • microcomputer

    A microcomputer is a complete computer on a smaller scale and is generally a synonym for the more common term, personal computer or PC, a computer designed for an individual.

  • microcontroller (MCU)

    A microcontroller is a compact integrated circuit designed to govern a specific operation in an embedded system.

  • microserver

    A microserver, also known as a server appliance, is a compact, less expensive, modular hardware platform designed to make installation and maintenance simpler than traditional enterprise-class rack servers.

  • mobile robot (mobile robotics)

    A mobile robot is a machine controlled by software that use sensors and other technology to identify its surroundings and move around its environment.

  • MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport)

    MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport) is a lightweight open messaging protocol that provides resource-constrained network clients with a simple way to distribute telemetry information in low-bandwidth environments.

  • N

    Nest Labs

    Nest Labs was a home automation specialist company that produced programmable Wi-Fi-enabled products that can be remotely controlled through a Web service or an associated smart home app.

  • P

    passive sensor

    Passive sensor technologies gather target data through the detection of vibrations, light, radiation, heat or other phenomena occurring in the subject’s environment.  They contrast with active sensors, which include transmitters that send out a signal, a light wavelength or electrons to be bounced off the target, with data gathered by the sensor upon their reflection.

  • pervasive computing (ubiquitous computing)

    Pervasive computing, also called ubiquitous computing, is the growing trend of embedding computational capability (generally in the form of microprocessors) into everyday objects to make them effectively communicate and perform useful tasks in a way that minimizes the end user's need to interact with computers as computers.

  • R

    remote sensing

    Remote sensing is the use of various technologies to make observations and measurements at a target that is usually at a distance or scale beyond those observable to the naked eye.

  • RF-powered computing

    RF-powered computing is the use of radio frequency (RF) signals to enable the operation and communication of low-power devices, typically for machine-to-machine (M2M) networking.

  • RFID (radio frequency identification)

    RFID (radio frequency identification) is a form of wireless communication that incorporates the use of electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to uniquely identify an object, animal or person.

  • RFID skimming

    RFID skimming is the wireless interception of information from RFID chip-based debit, credit and ID cards and other documents, such as passports. The purpose of RFID skimming may be simple theft or more complex identity theft. Most typically, thieves use an NFC-enabled device that records unencrypted data from the card's RFID chip, which is broadcast into the air.

  • RFID tagging

    RFID tagging uses small radio frequency identification devices to track and identify objects.

  • RIOT operating system

    RIOT operating system is an open source operating system specialized for IoT (internet of things) devices.

  • S

    sensor analytics

    Sensor analytics is the statistical analysis of data that’s created by wired or wireless sensors.

  • sensor data

    Sensor data is the output of a device that detects and responds to some type of input from the physical environment. The output may be used to provide information or input to another system or to guide a process.

  • sensor hub

    A sensor hub is a connection point for multiple sensors that uses a multipoint control unit (MCU), coprocessor or digital signal processor (DSP) to compile and process data gathered from those sensors.

  • smart bulb (smart light bulb)

    A smart bulb is a networked LED light bulb that has additional features to enable automation, presence-sensing capabilities and customization.

  • smart city

    A smart city is a municipality that uses information and communication technologies (ICT) to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare.

  • smart farming

    Smart farming is a management concept focused on providing the agricultural industry with the infrastructure to leverage advanced technology – including big data, the cloud and the internet of things (IoT) – for tracking, monitoring, automating and analyzing operations.

  • smart home app (home automation app)

    A smart home app, sometimes referred to as a home automation app or a smart home automation app, is an application used to remotely control and manage connected non-computing devices in the home, typically from a smartphone or tablet.

  • smart home hub (home automation hub)

    A smart home hub is hardware or software that connects devices on a home automation network and controls communications among them.

  • smart home kit (home automation kit)

    A smart home kit, sometimes called a home automation kit or an Internet of Things (IoT) platform, is a product that includes all the hardware and software required to connect, control and manage compatible smart devices for home automation.

  • smart home or building (home automation or domotics)

    A smart home is a residence that uses internet-connected devices to enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems, such as lighting and heating.

  • smart manufacturing (SM)

    Smart manufacturing (SM) is a technology-driven approach that utilizes Internet-connected machinery to monitor the production process. The goal of SM is to identify opportunities for automating operations and use data analytics to improve manufacturing performance.

  • smart sensor

    A smart sensor is a device that takes input from the physical environment and uses built-in compute resources to perform predefined functions upon detection of specific input and then process data before passing it on.

  • smart streetlight

    A smart streetlight is a public lighting fixture that incorporates technology, such as cameras, light-sensing photocells and other sensors, to introduce real-time monitoring functionalities.

  • smart warehouse

    A smart warehouse is a large building in which raw materials and manufactured goods are stored that uses machines and computers to complete common warehouse operations previously performed by humans.

  • smartwatch

    A smartwatch is a wearable computing device that closely resembles a wristwatch or other time-keeping device.

  • switch-on-a-chip (SOC)

    A switch-on-a-chip (SOC) is a network - typically a storage network - switch (a device that channels incoming data flow from any of multiple input ports to the output port appropriate for its destination) that is built into a single microchip (integrated circuit).

  • system-on-a-chip (SoC)

    System-on-a-chip (SoC) technology is the packaging of all the necessary electronic circuits and parts for a "system" (such as a cell phone or digital camera) on a single integrated circuit (IC), generally known as a microchip.

  • T

    thing (in the Internet of Things)

    A thing, in the context of the Internet of things (IoT), is an entity or physical object that has a unique identifier, an embedded system and the ability to transfer data over a network.

  • Thing hacking

    Thing hacking is an attack that exploits a vulnerability in a connected non-computing device – a Thing, in the Internet of Things -- to gain control of the device or access to a network it connects to.

  • thingbot

    A thingbot is something with an embedded system and an Internet connection that has been coopted by a hacker as a part of a botnet. A thing, in this context, could be just about anything but a computing device.

  • time series database (TSDB)

    A time series database (TSDB) is a software system optimized to sort and organize information measured by time.

  • transponder

    A transponder is a wireless communications, monitoring, or control device that picks up and automatically responds to an incoming signal.

  • U

    ubiquitous sensor network (USN)

    A ubiquitous sensor network (USN) is one that connects all possible sensors in a given network or environment which, theoretically, could be global.

  • unique identifier (UID)

    A unique identifier (UID) is a numeric or alphanumeric string that is associated with a single entity within a given system.

  • V

    vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V communication)

    Vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V communication) is the wireless transmission of data between motor vehicles. The goal of V2V communication is to prevent accidents by allowing vehicles to send position and speed data to one another over an ad hoc mesh network.

  • VeriChip

    VeriChip is an injectable identification chip that can be inserted under the skin of a human being to provide biometric verification.

  • virtual reality sickness (VR motion sickness)

    Virtual reality sickness (VR motion sickness) is the physical discomfort that occurs when an end user's brain receives conflicting signals about self-movement in a digital environment.

  • W

    wearable computer

    A wearable computer is any small technological device capable of storing and processing data that can be worn on the body.

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