The History of IoT: How This Technology Is Evolving

The History of IoT

The Internet of Things is one of the technologies that are driving digital transformation. And it’s no exaggeration to say that IoT solutions are changing the trajectory of the tech world. What milestones have been achieved in the history of IoT? And in what direction is it moving now? These are questions we’ll answer in this blog post.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things, widely known as IoT, can be defined as a network of physical objects that can interact with each other and exchange data over the Internet. All this is possible thanks to special sensors mounted on these objects and software that ensures correct data processing and transmission.

While some elements of IoT systems are initially designed as IoT devices (like smartwatches), some other physical objects can also become elements of such systems when they’re equipped with wireless connectivity chips and sensors. For example, that’s how smart lighting systems are organized.

The global IoT market revenue in 2024 is expected to be around $1.387 billion, while in 2028, projected market size will be close to $2.227 billion. This means the CAGR over the forecast period from 2024 to 2028 will be over 12.5%. 

The global IoT market revenue

These figures look impressive. But how has the industry managed to earn them? Let’s consider some major milestones in the evolution of IoT.

The beginning of the history of Internet of Things

Researchers name different events and dates as the foundation for the Internet of Things. For some, a major precursor for this technology came with the introduction of long-distance communication and the first electromagnetic telegraph, which happened in 1832. 

A more popular answer to this question dates IoT to the creation of the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) in 1965. This digital computer was developed for NASA’s Apollo moon landing program. Such a device was installed in each Apollo Lunar Module and Command module and could provide interfaces and computation for controlling and navigating a spacecraft.

Then came a chain of important events for the future of the IoT industry, such as the foundation of N M Electronics (now known as Intel) in 1968, the first mobile phone call in 1973, the first personal computer in 1975, and the active work on developing the internet in the 1980s.  

According to some tech historians, the first IoT device was a Coca-Cola vending machine installed at Carnegie Mellon University in the early 1980s. It was able to send information on the machine’s temperature and inventory over the Internet. Though such functionality seemed unusual, almost unbelievable, at that time, only limited circles of tech-educated people realized the potential of such a project and its possible impact on the world. Everything was just beginning for the IoT.

Emergence of the term "Internet of Things" (2000-2010)

The term itself was used for the first time by computer scientist Kevin Ashton in 1999, and it soon gained popularity and wide adoption. At that time, Ashton was working at Procter & Gamble and was working on the idea of using special chips to track the location of products in the supply chain. He was looking for an eye-catching name for his project to attract the attention of businesses and decided to use “internet” in his new term, as it was a real buzzword at that time.

The idea of IoT was spreading, and a lot of prominent companies were joining the game. For example, LG introduced its first smart refrigerator in 2000, while Apple announced the launch of its first iPhone 7 years later. It is interesting to note that by 2008, the number of connected devices was already bigger than the world’s population.

Wireless Sensor Networks and RFID (2000-2010)

The introduction of radio frequency identification (RFID) and wireless sensor networks (WSN) became major events in the IoT history timeline. Thanks to these systems,  engineers can ensure the functionality of IoT systems that we are accustomed to today.

RFID

For example, RFID tags are often mounted to various objects to make it possible to track their location in real time through high-frequency radio waves. This is one of the technologies used in asset management solutions.

The term “WSN” is used in relation to a group of dispersed sensors with particular functionality that can monitor and record various environmental conditions and factors, and send that data to special platforms or servers to be processed. Such networks form the foundation of the core functionality of many IoT solutions.

WSN

Smart Homes and Consumer IoT (2010-2015)

Smart home systems and consumer IoT solutions like smartwatches or voice-controlled home appliances today seem to be common things. However, not so long ago they were a breathtaking innovation. Of course, they are much “smarter” today than they used to be, more feature-rich and advanced. Nevertheless, the benefits even of the first products of this type were undeniable.

Such solutions allow users to automate and facilitate many routine activities, increase security for families and properties, and use resources such as electricity optimally. Smart heating systems can control air temperature on their own and turn heating on and off in accordance with real-time data. This not only helps avoid overconsumption of energy but also makes conditions more comfortable without any special human effort.  Smart lighting, smart locks, smart curtains, and other modules can be included in a smart home solution.

To better protect their homes, people can also install sensors that will send alerts in case of water leakage, fire, or unauthorized entrance.

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Industrial IoT (IIoT) and Smart Cities (2015-2020)

Early on, IoT history was marked by developing solutions for the industrial sector and smart cities.

Industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions help optimize operational costs, enhance safety in the workplace, and ensure higher product quality. They also make important contributions to business planning. By gaining access to relevant data in real-time, collected by sensors and smart devices, managers get a more comprehensive understanding of the state of their equipment and its functioning.

Predictive maintenance is among the most promising IoT use cases in the manufacturing industry. IoT systems powered by AI tools can not only accumulate data related to the technical state of machinery but also analyze it and detect any indication of future issues. If unusual patterns are detected, IoT systems send notifications to operators who can take the required measures. As a result, serious losses caused by unexpected equipment failures and downtime can be avoided.

Among other use cases for IoT, we need to mention asset-tracking, supply chain management, inventory management, remote production monitoring, and the use of digital twins. The latter solution allows users to create virtual models of different physical objects and processes, based on real-time data received from sensors. These virtual models can fully simulate the real-life performance and behavior of objects, helping companies to experiment with various changes and innovations without major financial risk.

As for smart city technologies, they are typically large-scale solutions that bring together a variety of  modules—for example, those intended for real-time traffic tracking, water monitoring, or smart parking organization. Such systems can help make cities safer, thanks to the introduction of smart lighting and smart surveillance products. 

We haven’t yet seen the mass adoption of smart city technology around the globe, as such projects require significant investment in infrastructure, implementation, and maintenance. Nevertheless, from a long-term perspective, we can expect to observe big progress in this sphere, as the social benefits of such systems are obvious, from lower resource consumption to overall enhancement in quality of life.

5G and edge computing (2020-Present)

One factor that plays a crucial role in the efficiency of IoT systems is the speed of data transmission and its processing. That’s one of the issues developers are trying to address these days. The 5G connection standard has been a huge boost in improving the quality of all data-related processes. 

What benefits for IoT does this wireless technology have?

What benefits for IoT does this wireless technology have?
  • Significantly higher data transfer speed in comparison to 4G;
  • Low-latency connection;
  • Enhanced energy-saving functions for connected devices installed indoors;
  • Improved indoor coverage, which is highly important for solutions used in cellars, parking, etc; and
  • Better mobile broadband.

Another current trend in IoT development is so-called edge computing. This strategy involves processing data close to the location where it was collected and will be used. In other words, this approach makes it possible not to send data to a cloud platform to be processed and transferred back. As a result, data processing takes less time and the level of data protection is higher.

IoT in healthcare and wearables (2020-Present)

The history of medical IoT begins not so long ago, but already the role of Internet of Things solutions in the healthcare industry shouldn’t be underestimated.

One of the most promising use cases is remote patient monitoring, which can be executed 24/7 without increasing the workload of healthcare workers. Thanks to special medical devices, it is possible to continuously track changes in a patient’s vitals and take relevant measures when necessary. There are similar (but often simplified) wearables designed for the fitness and sports industry. Such devices can also measure vitals and other important factors during competitions and training sessions. By gaining access to this data, fitness lovers and professional athletes can evaluate their performance and state of health.

With smart devices like ECG monitors and spirometers powered by ML and AI technologies, diagnoses can become significantly more accurate. 

Another important IoT use case for the healthcare industry is hospital asset tracking. RFID tags placed on various items and pieces of equipment facilitate monitoring their locations in real-time. This not only reduces the time required to find any item but also helps prevent asset losses and optimizes costs.

Future trends and innovation

Though advancements in the IoT industry may look rather impressive today, it is obviously not at the final point of development. The related technologies keep moving forward, and one of the most significant trends in IoT development is combining it with a list of emerging technologies. 

Future trends and innovation
  • IoT and AI. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms are already applied in IoT solutions rather widely, but that’s expected to scale up considerably in the future. While IoT is responsible for gathering data, AI and ML can process the information, detect trends, find any deviations from traditional patterns, and make predictions. All this is important not only for business planning but also in many real-life scenarios, including smart home systems or autonomous driving.
  • IoT and AR/VR. AR and VR are often associated with the entertainment industry. However, the duo of IoT and AR/VR can go much beyond that. IoT can be responsible for gathering the most important data in real-time, while AR and VR devices can demonstrate them to users via smart glasses or special head-mounted displays. These technologies can greatly contribute to the manufacturing, warehouse management, and healthcare industries (especially when we’re talking about complicated surgeries that require the highest precision). 
  • IoT and blockchain. This technology is expected to enhance the protection and transmission of data within IoT systems. Blockchain networks rely on temper-proof ledgers, which can ensure the integrity and authenticity of the data stored on them.

Instead of the final world

The Internet of Things is a comparatively new technology that has already found its use cases and proven its efficiency across numerous industries. And given all the new opportunities and benefits that it can bring to users, it’s obvious that we’re just seeing the beginning of its history.

This technology is very adaptive to new business requirements and conditions and by its nature allows developers to combine it with other advanced tools.

If you have an idea for an IoT project and you are looking for a reliable team to help you bring it to life, don’t hesitate to contact us. At Cogniteq, we are always open to cooperation.

FAQ

How old is IoT technology?

The term “the Internet of Things” first appeared in 1999 and started gaining popularity at the beginning of the 2000s. However, the history of IoT begins significantly earlier, rooted in the creation of the Apollo Guidance Computer in 1965.

When did IoT devices start their history?

The Apollo Guidance Computer produced in 1965 is believed to pay the way for IoT devices. However, the first internet device was a Coca-Cola machine that was placed at Carnegie Mellon University. It was in the early 1980s. But only the Internet toaster that was created in 1991 became known as the first IoT device. It could be turned on and off remotely via the internet.