Sep 06, 2017

Read Time IconRead time: 7 mins

What Is IoT? Sanjay Sarma Takes You Through the Internet Of Things

Curious about what the Internet of Things is? Sanjay Sarma takes you through his definition of what the Internet of Things is, the misconceptions surrounding IoT and uses an easy-to-understand anecdote to unpack the meaning of IoT.

Sanjay Sarma is the Vice President for Open Learning at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology and is one of the faculty members you’ll learn from on the MIT Sloan Internet of Things: Business Implications and Opportunities online short course.

Watch this video to hear what he has to say about the question: What is the Internet of Things?

Want to expand your knowledge of IoT by identifying the opportunities for its application in your business? Find out more about this MIT Sloan IoT online course.



What is the Internet of Things? Why is it useful? Is it something you can buy? Is it a platform? Is it a technology you can bring home and apply? And, actually, in my view, it is none of the above. And as I’ll explain, to me, the Internet of Things is really a way of thinking. So let’s do a little thought experiment. Let’s start by thinking about, and in fact, this is an experiment you may want to do at home. Ask a ten year old, a child, point to a light switch in a room, say, you know, you see that light switch and you see that light bulb?

How are they connected? A ten year old child will think about it and look at you as if it’s obvious, and say, well, obviously, Wi-Fi. And you look condescendingly at the child and you say, no. The way we do it is we run a wire through the wall, it comes to the switch, there we make or break contact , that wire then goes through the wall to the bulb, and then goes back down.
In some ways who is smarter? Is it the child or is it the way we do things today? The fact of the matter is that putting Wi-Fi on a switch is actually only $2. Putting Wi-Fi in a LED is less than $2. Yet, installing that switch on the wall is a several hundred dollars affair. And now the fire marshal comes to you and says, look, I need to move that switch to another wall. That’s probably another several hundred dollar affair. But if the switch simply had Wi-Fi, and you used double sided tape, it would be so easy to disconnect it and move it over. Now, but actually it’s more, when we say the Internet of Things, we think simply of connectivity, but IoT, the I could just as well mean intelligence. It can mean the Intelligence of Things. Now let’s come back to our switch example. So you have a switch, now the switch is connected to that lightbulb, but it could also be connected to another bulb, which makes the room perhaps brighter.
So perhaps you tap the switch once and it lights this one. You tap it twice and it lights the other one. And three times, all the lights. Now that’s really sort of decoupling the act of pressing a switch from turning a lightbulb on. Now you can take it a step further. Right now, at MIT, is sunny and there’s some nice windows from which they’re getting some glorious sunshine, long overdue. 
But just imagine if when I press the switch, instead of simply turning the lightbulb on, instead, it went to an intelligent system that said, you know, the lighting in that room is quite nice, and if you put any extra lighting it should be yellow, the color of the sun, not blue, which is cold. So you could modulate the color and you could do all sorts of other things. Now this is what we refer to really as the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things, in summary, is not a technology, it is not a platform, it is quite simply a design language.
It is a way for you to reformulate what we take for granted in the design of anything, whether it’s a building, or a car, or a rental agency.
To reconceive business in such a way that you’re better able to meet the needs of customers.