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July 10, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 1:29pm

15 ways to explain the Internet of Things (IoT) to a five-year-old

The definitive definition of IoT from the experts for the kids (and adults, too).

By Duncan Macrae

Eileen O’Mara, VP sales EMEA at

"Imagine if a car, a kettle and your toothbrush could all speak to you. The car could let you know that its tires need air, the kettle that the boiled water is cooling and you should hurry up and make that cup of tea before it gets too cold, and your toothbrush lets you know when you’ve brushed your teeth for two minutes as it’s best to keep your teeth healthy.

"In the Internet of Things, the car, the kettle, your toothbrush and many other things become smart and get a voice. This means they can communicate with you even when you’re not around, and you can control them remotely – all through an app on your phone."

Richard Holway, chairman of TechMarketView, (tested on my five-year-old Godson, Harry)

"Imagine if your cat went missing and you could find out exactly where it was. Imagine if your fridge could order your favourite juice from the supermarket rather than Mummy forgetting. Imagine if Daddy could warm up the car before you got in to go to school. Imagine if, when Grandma was ill, the doctor could be called immediately. Imagine if your toys could speak to one another. Imagine the ‘Internet of Things’. Reality sooner than you think!"

Andrew Roughan, product and marketing director at Infinity SDC

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"Talking to another person is usually interesting, we use facial expressions and gestures which help us convey our point so other people know what we want and how we feel.

"People are good as this because we have been doing it for a long time, but we’re not very good at talking to inanimate objects, like toys, computers, or listening to machines that give us choices.

"We’re really slow at doing this because things don’t speak the same language as us. However, we have made computers and appliances become really smart, and clever people have made them talk to each other in a different language. These clever people have let the things that matter to us, like our home and computers in shops talk to each other, without us people getting in the way.

"We have put together a network called the ‘Internet of Things’, which connects all of the ‘things’ together so they can communicate. For example, imagine never having to wait for the oven to heat up to cook dinner, as Mummy and Daddy could turn it on using their mobile phone in the park."

Professor Amir Sharif, Acting Head of Brunel Business School

"The "Internet of Things" (IoT for short) is an exciting and developing idea that suggests you will no longer need to have a computer to access or be connected to the Internet.

"Science fiction is rapidly turning into fact. It is no longer a vision of the future. You can now really talk into your watch (or at least communicate through it) and use it as phone. The future is happening as we speak, and many companies are creating this for us. So things that aren’t computers are already connected to the internet.

"Do you like running? Chances are your run is fuelled not only by music through your smartphone/MP3 player, but is also monitored for your heart rate, number of steps taken and calories burned. A combination of Apple i-devices (ipods and iphones of all varieties) and Nike’s Fuel Band are existing IoT devices already.

"Do you wear a watch? Well, of course, now you can have a smart-watch which links with your phone so you can speak into your wrist to your friends. We have Samsung and their Samsung Gear gadgets to thank for that.

"Do you wear glasses? I think you can guess where this is going – yes, we now have the very cool Google Glass technology which overlays what you see through your eyes on the surface of the spectacles you wear, with internet-sourced information displayed in real time (which is known as ‘Augmented’ Reality, adding digital information to what you’re seeing of actual things around you).

"Do you have a home and want to heat it? Imagine having the ability to not only control your own electricity consumption remotely, but to allow your own house to manage your energy usage and consumption. Technologies such as Nest provide this and many more "smart home" technologies including remote lighting.

"Wonderful gadgets, most of which are now beginning to display real utility and benefit to our daily lives. But the exciting part about IoT is not just where these connected ‘things’ are now and what they can do for us at present, but where this will take us.

"Scientists, technologists and businesses are rapidly considering a time when even wearable computers will become a thing of the past. Companies such as Intel have proposed that for an internet of things needs to completely invisible – you shouldn’t have to even see or recognise an object as being connected to the internet. It will just naturally be connected and "on" all the time.

"So my advice is: enjoy your smart and Internet-connected devices while you can still see them. Eventually they might even be embedded within us – and we might become a ‘thing’ within the Internet as well."

Gary Newe, senior systems engineering manager, F5 Networks

"Imagine you come in from playing in the garden and it’s hot, you go to the freezer and take out an ice lolly – it’s the last one. Instead of asking your parents to buy more, your freezer can talk over the internet to the supermarket and the next day your new box of ice lollies arrives, almost like magic.

Cisco UKI, CTO, Ian Foddering

"The Internet of Things is where objects, from televisions and toothbrushes to train carriages and water pipes can talk to each other or people via connections or through the Internet. This enables those objects to be more effectively managed and monitored. The result is an endless number of opportunities and insights to transform everyday life by acting on more access to more data, gathered from more places."

GH Rao, president, ERS, HCL Technologies

"The internet has facilitated a revolution in the way that people connect with their friends and families. The Internet of Things is the next stage in this evolution, where devices can be connected through the internet and interact with each other directly. These devices can be cars, toys, home appliances, smart devices and many other things. For example, a car can now easily access location information on the internet and connect with other cars to help them take passengers safely to their destination."

Mat Keep, principal product marketing manager at MongoDB

"The Internet of Things is a world where all your stuff can be connected to each other and share information, making life easier and more convenient"

Frank Palermo, senior VP Global Technical Solutions Group at Virtusa

"Look around the room and you’ll see a lot of different ‘things’. You might see a computer, a TV or even one of your toys. The internet connects the whole world together, and now these ‘things’ can also be connected to the internet and do new things that they weren’t able to do before. So, your toy can tell you when it needs a hug, or your toothbrush can remind you to brush your teeth, or a cow could even tell the farmer when it’s ready to be milked! Connecting things to the internet makes us smarter, and makes our lives easier."

Brian Gentile, senior VP and GM, TIBCO Analytics

"The internet of things is where two electronic ‘things’ can talk to one another and send important information without needing a human. Imagine your fridge telling you it has run out of milk or that it needs a new replacement part in order to keep the food properly cold. Or, imagine your favourite toy saying that it needs a new battery – it will tell you before you notice so you don’t need to think about it. This is already happening all around us, we just don’t notice it, but in the future, many objects will be able to talk to each other in some way. With millions and millions of these ‘thing’ talking to one another, the really tricky part will be to track and understand all of the conversations that are taking place. That’s where we’ll need some intelligent tools to help humans make sense of all the talking. This is where the Internet of Things really changes the way we live, work, and play."

Simon McCalla, CTO, Nominet

"Here’s the thing. More and more machines, big and small, are connected to the internet, our phones, TVs, cars, electric meters, fridges, security and fire alarms, even our heating. The internet lets all these machines talk to each other SUPER fast.

"This is good, because computers can talk to each other faster than we can. So when our fire alarm alerts the fire station to a fire in our kitchen, it can make sure that there’s a team of fire-fighters sent to our house before we’ve even had time to ring 999, or even before we can get out of the house. It can also be convenient, for example by turning on the heating when our phones tell it we are getting close to home, or by turning out the lights when we leave to save electricity.

"Lots of other machines are talking to each other as people figure out what the Internet of Things could do to make our lives better. People have put little sensors in areas that might flood to find out what’s going on, give us early warning and help us find ways to protect our homes from the rising water. People are wearing bracelets that help monitor their health and fitness levels, telling other machines which either encourage them to do more exercise, or tell their doctors important things about how they are feeling to help them get the right care.

"The Internet of Things could change the way we do a thousand different jobs, at home and at work, once we figure out exactly where it makes sense to use it. We will need to make sure that people don’t do bad things with it though, like find out when people aren’t in from their phone and rob their house, or share private security footage on the internet. Lots of smart people are working to keep the Internet of Things safe but we’ll need to be careful as things develop. It’s all very exciting!"



Wil Rockall, director at KPMG’s Information Protection practice

"The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept in which everyday objects are connected to the internet, allowing a continuous, and sometimes unnoticeable, interaction between humans, objects and computers. In practice this means that data will be transferred into cyber space, without a human having to interact with a computer or these objects.

"The majority of these devices will not be conventional computers, but more sophisticated devices, which will enable us to create a more leisurely world. These devices would include smart buildings, self-driving vehicles, robots, consumer devices and others.

"We are already seeing this happening in the fitness and wellbeing space, where monitoring bands are communicating with our smartphones, tablets and computers allowing users to monitor their performance and heart rate.

"Studies show that 6 billion devices are connected to the internet and 2020 we are hearing that figure will 27 Billion or even more. The possibilities for the IoT are endless and this space is rapidly growing."

Joy Gardham, Regional Director, EMEA West, at networking specialist Brocade.

"In simple terms, the ‘Internet of Things’ refers to the idea that anything and everything – from bathroom scales and washing machines to aeroplane engines and car stereos – can, and will, be connected to the Internet. With all of these things connected and talking to one another constantly, we will able to monitor, control and improve the world around us in hundreds of ways."

Joe Peppard, a professor of technology at The ESMT European School of Management and Technology

”Walter uses his smartphone to plan all aspects of his life. His mobile phone is linked to his office equipment, his car and household appliances as well as utility and mobile banking applications. Every morning the alarm rings to wake him up. Half an hour before the alarm goes off, his phone checks the room temperature and if too cold, it will turn the heating on so that the house is warm by the time he wakes up. The smartphone will turn on the heating in his car, as soon as Walter walks out of the house.

"When arriving at work, the phone’s GPS will communicate Walter’s location to the office printer. If Walter has any meetings in his diary and has prepared a meeting folder tagged to the e-mail, the printer will print the materials he needs as he walks in the door. As an evening before Walter a meatloaf and he has nothing schedules in his calendar for this evening, when he leaves the office, his mobile device will turn on the oven so it preheats and he can cook his meal the minute he walks in the house. The heating will be off as the weather has warmed up. ”

James Parton, director at Twilio

"Think of the Internet of Things as a magic wand that is made just for you. Like Harry Potter’s wand, you can control things in your house and not even leave your bedroom. The internet of things lets you use Daddy or Mommy’s iPhone to control the lights in your house, tell your house to unlock itself when you come home or make sure the refrigerator is super cold so your ice cream doesn’t melt. What happens to all those lights when people leave work? The internet of things can talk to other machines to tell them when people have left the building, so it’s safe to turn off the lights and lock the door."



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