What is IoT – A beginner`s guide to IoT terminology

Get up-to-speed with everything in the IoT ecosystem – from smart devices to communication technologies and how they are used in the marketplace.

Here´s a guide to help you understand what is what in the age of connected things.

Have this Internet of Things guide at hand to stay smart about everything smart: from smart devices, through communication technologies, to terms associated with the Internet of Things!

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What is IoT - A beginner ́s guide to IoT terminology (pdf)


But first, what is the Internet of Things?

The concept of connecting any device (i.e “thing”) to the Internet (and/or to each other) to make it talk, listen and/or perform tasks. This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, head-phones, lamps, wearables, and almost anything else you can think of.

The Internet of what?

Internet of Things
Coined in 1999, this refers to the active exchanged of information between devices previously unconnected.

Internet of Everything
Another term for IoT coined by and still used by Cisco, implies that IoT is not only made up of things, but also of data, process and people.

Industrial Internet of Things
An umbrella term for M2M technology when it is focuses exclusively on industrial machines.

Machine to Machine
A communications style emphasizing data transfer between large (sometimes industrial) machines that makes use of near-instantaneous data transfer to facilitate higher efficiency and preempt problems.

Vehicle to Vehicle
It is simply put, communication between two vehicles. It is used commonly to describe Fleet Management, a style of business that maximizes efficiency and minimizes waste by continuously transmitting locational and statistical data between large fleets of vehicles and a central hub.

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1G to 5G: From people to people and things

Mobile Networks

CDMA2000 (also known as C2K or IMT-MC) is a family of 3G mobile tech- nology standards for sending voice, data, and signaling data between mobile phones and cell sites. Not to be confu- sed with “the other” CDMA which stands for Code Division Multiple Access, a technique where several transmitters can send information simultaneously over a single communication channel.

General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) is a packet oriented mobile data service on the 2G cellular communication system’s global system for mobile communications (GSM). GPRS introduced packet switched data which meant internet access.

Global System for Mobile Communications (originally Groupe Spécial Mobile), is a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe the protocols for second-generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by mobile phones, first deployed in Finland in July 1991.

The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) is a third generation mobile cellular system for networks based on the GSM standard.

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 The Organizations

3rd Generation Partnership Project is a collaborative project established in 1998 aimed at developing globally acceptable specifications for third (and future) generation mobile systems.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers describe themselves as the “world’s largest technical professional society.” It aims to promote standardization through international electronics development.

The GSM Association represents the in- terests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA organizes the largest annual event in the mobile industry, the GSMA Mobile World Congress.

The World Wide Web Consortium is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web (abbreviated WWW or W3).

The “Smarts”

Smart bulb
A connected (usually by WiFi) LED lightbulb that typically allows for remote control, automation, and customization.

Smart city
A city that has a governing body promoting the use of IoT and green technologies. Typically these technologies are used to increase efficiency, decrease waste, and improve the quality of residents’ day-to-day lives.

Smart grid
One of two things:

  • The device used to measure electricity usage in a home (more often called a ‘smart meter’ but sometimes used interchangeably)
  • A power grid of the utilities company that is enabled to work with smart meters and smart homes to provide a more customized and eco-friendly experience to the consumer and to save on the costs of wasted electricity as found in traditional electricity grids.

Smart home
A home that consists of other smart products like a smart grid, smart bulb, and most typically, the ability to control, customize, and automate temperature and lighting throughout the house. Another common feature is the ability to lock and unlock the doors and windows remotely. When used in commercial construction, this is sometimes called ‘Smart Building.’

Smart label
An enhanced version of a bar code. Unlike traditional bar codes, a smart label can contain much more information about a product. Smart labels take the shape of RFID tags, Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS)tags, or the most commonly seen, QR codes.

Smart meter
A meter in a house or building that measures electricity, gas, or water consumption. It is termed ‘smart’ because it responds to usage and will increase or decrease flow according to the general consumption data from the utility company as well as the individuals within the building.

Smart manufacturing
Taking advantage of advanced information and manufacturing technologies to enable flexibility in physical processes to address a dynamic and global market. Smart manufacturing is the foundation of what is sometimes referred to as Industry 4.0 – the next industrial revolution – where smart machines develop new smarter machines.

Smart watch
A type of wearable. It is a wristwatch- like device that is usually connected to a smartphone or other wearable device to give the user a control panel on his or her wrist. Smart watches most often use Bluetooth technology to communicate.

The Technosocial Landscape

Raw Technologies


The concept of Artificial Intelligence refers to a piece of software that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at a random goal. For example, when a machine uses cutting-edge techniques to competently perform or mimic “cognitive” functions that we intuitively associate with human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.


One of the world’s most common communications technologies. It allows for data transmission by radio waves over a short distance.


Bluetooth Low Energy

A new iteration of Bluetooth technology aimed at servicing IoT devices.


Electronic Control Unit is a generic term for any embedded system that controls one or more of the electrical system or subsystems in a transport vehicle


Global Positioning System is a technology created by the US Government that allows for location services. It is space-based, transmitted through satellites, and requires a triangulation of four satellites to pinpoint a location on Earth.

IP Address

An Internet Protocol Address is a unique designating number assigned to a computer (or other device) that is connected to a network, most notably the Internet.


Near Field Communication is a set of communication protocols that enable two electronic devices, one of which is usually a portable device such as a smartphone, to establish communication by bringing them within about 4 cm (2 in) of each other.

Mesh Network

The type of network as seen in a LAN or WLAN.


Radio Frequency Identification Devices are used for data transmission and capture by way of radio waves.


The Internet Protocol suite is the computer networking model and set of communications protocols used on the Internet and similar computer networks.


A Unique Identifier is number given to any device within any system to allow the ability to interact with it.


A technology that allows for wireless device communication over specific radio brands. WiFi, which is not an abbreviation, is the most common technology used for wireless Internet connection.


A communications technology typically used in security automation and smart homes.


A technology providing data communications over a low-power WLAN.

Enabling Technologies


Advanced Driver Assistance Systems are systems to help the driver in the driving process. When designed with a safe Human-Machine Interface, they should increase car safety and more generally road safety.


Advanced Metering Infrastructure is a digital architecture that allows for two-way communication between a smart meter and a provider, by way of an IP Address.


An Application Programming Interface is a set of routine definitions, protocols, and tools for building software and applications. An API connects your business processes, services, content, and data to channel partners, internal teams, and independent developers in an easy and secure way. APIs are quickly becoming the de facto standard by which companies exchange data and build consistent cross-channel customer experiences.


An Access Point Name is a gateway that translates communications between telecommunications and computer networks (most often the Internet).


Local Area Network is a network that interconnects devices within a limited area such as a residence, school, or office building with a locally managed network equipment. Most commonly seen as a connection between two devices by way of an Ethernet cable


A Low-Power Wide Area Network is a WAN that functions using a low bit rate and typically incorporates or caters to smart devices.

Big data

Amounts of data that are so large that traditional technologies cannot handle their transfer or analysis. Certain IoT technologies specialize in handling and transferring big data as it is seen as key to large companies’ goal to maximize efficiency.

Connected car

A connected car is a car that is equipped with Internet access, and usually also with a wireless local area network.

Cloud computing

Internet-based computing that allows for data access from distinct computers or devices. Typically referred to as though the ‘cloud’ itself is storing the data, but data is stored on physical computers that allow access at any time to the data via the Internet.

More words can be found in the dictionary accessible to download!

What is IoT - A beginner ́s guide to IoT terminology (pdf)


An IoT example. Read more!

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