IoT goes way back…

It may come as a surprise to hear that the technology behind Internet of Things is older than the term internet itself. Although people became accustomed to smart devices in the last few years, they are existing much longer than that. Even longer than when most of us were connected to the worldwide web through a modem. That’s quite a surprise, right? Brace yourselves for some more, because here is an overview of the history of IoT.



In 1932, the author Jay B. Nash was the first to describe something in his book Spectatoritis, which turned out to be the basis for the vision of Internet of Things.

“The machine frees. True. (…) Within our grasp is the leisure of the Greek citizen, made possible by our mechanical slaves, which far outnumber his twelve to fifteen per free man. These mechanical slaves jump to our aid. As we step into a room, at the touch of a button a dozen light our way. Another slave sits twenty-four hours a day at our thermostat, regulating the heat of our home. Another sits night and day at our automatic refrigerator. They start our car; run our motors; shine our shoes, and cult our hair. They practically eliminate time and space by their very fleetness.”



In the comic book Dick Tracy, Detective Dick and his colleagues of the police used a 2-way Wrist Radio, a tool that enables them to talk to each other, even from a distance. This radio watch was one of the main sources of inspiration for Martin Cooper, the inventor of the smartphone. This also had a major on developing the smartwatch.



The first portable computer was created by Edward O. Thorp. He designed an analog device the size of a pack of cigarettes. Its only purpose was to predict the outcome of a game of roulette. After a few years of testing, Thorp produced a prototype in 1961.



This was the first year in which the Universal Product Code (UPC) labels were scanned in a supermarket. These labels were invented by Norman Joseph Woodland, an engineer who drew the first version of the UPC labels in sand on a Miami beach.



Coca-Cola is one of the first companies to actively use the Internet of Things technology. A local software company installed micro switches in the vending machines, which were connected to a PDP-10 computer. This made it possible to determine how many bottles were still in the machine and check the temperature.



Mark Weiser, an important scientist at Xerox PARC , wrote an article in 1991 in the Scientific American magazine where he shares his vision about ubiquitous computing and embodied virtuality.

“Specialized elements of hardware and software, connected by wires, radio waves and infrared, [that] will be so ubiquitous that no one will notice their presence.”



Steve Mann invented the first webcam. This device was wearable and wireless, which made it possible to film on to go. The first webcam seems to have a lot of similarities compared to the GoPro, doesn’t it?



This is the year in which the term Internet of Things is officially born and we should thank Kevin Ashton for it. “We need an internet of things, a standardized way for computers to understand the real world.”

His colleague Neil Gershenfeld gave his vision on the future as well: “Beyond seeking to make computers ubiquitous, we should try to make them unobtrusive…. For all the coverage of the growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web, a far bigger change is coming as the number of things using the Net dwarf the number of people. The real promise of connecting computers is to free people, by embedding the means to solve problems in the things around us.”



2008 was a real milestone. This was the year in which more things were connected to the internet than there were people, and we were officially in the minority. We won’t be able to catch up anymore, because the number of smart objects has continued to rise exponentially in the next years.



Historie van IoT. (2018, October). Retreived from Internet of Things Nederland: