Many of us are familiar with the term Internet of Things, but what does it mean? Is it animal, vegetable or mineral?

Well, it's neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire; it's a term that refers to the networked data flow between objects or living things that does not require human-to-human or human-computer interaction. It's networked 'things' talking to each other, the convergence of wireless technologies and electro-mechanical systems, using the Internet to collaborate.

What's on the long list of Internet of Things (IoT)? It can be a medical device implanted in a person that automatically transmits data to health care professionals; household appliances and security systems; family pets with implanted "find me" chips; automobiles with sensors that automate in-car systems or transmit performance data to a service center; commercial airliners that send engine performance data during flight directly to the plane's manufacturer or to the airline. Power plants, electric grids and now even electricity meter readings are networked. The days of the meter man coming to read your meter are coming to an end.

Your cable TV is likely now a member of the IoT in good standing. Your cable box can be remotely controlled to add or subtract services on the fly; you can control your DVR box from a smartphone app now; your cable box can even transmit your viewing preferences in order to determine a TV show's ratings.

As this technology expands, everybody and everything may get its own IP address, including those given away by Oprah. An IP address is your location in a network and certifies your ability to send and receive data just by existing.

That's a lot of IP addresses, which are 32 bits in size. In a clear example of thinking ahead, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has released Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), which among other things increases the capacity of an IP address string to 128 bits. That's exponentially larger, of course, and according to Steve Leibson, a docent at the Computer History Museum, this expansion means that we could "assign an IPv6 address to every atom on the surface of the Earth, and still have enough addresses left to do another 100+ Earths."

Businesses should get in on the ground floor of the IoT or get lost in the cloud. According to McKinsey Global Institute, the IoT could generate an economic impact of $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.

Some of the markets in the forefront of the IoT revolution include:
* consumer efficiency, which includes the smart home concept;
* health care -- tracking real-time health parameters in patients and preventing emergencies, aiding in diagnostics, and determining courses of treatment;
* transportation -- planes, trains and automobiles and the ability to do everything from avoiding traffic jams, finding parking spaces, or keeping buses and trains on time;
* security -- monitoring banks, airports, parking lots, etc.; and
* manufacturing -- ensuring that machinery is running optimally, detecting malfunctions before they happen, etc.

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