The concept of 'Internet of Things' (IoT) generally refers to a network of interconnected physical and virtual devices or objects that use the Internet to exchange data with manufacturers, operators, and among themselves. IoT applications can be found in areas such as transportation, energy, home appliances, medical and healthcare devices, environment, retail, and agriculture.
A more formal definition of the Internet of Things has been elaborated in the framework of the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) of the International Telecommunication Union, and published in the Recommendation ITU-T Y.2060 ‘Overview of the Internet of things’ (adopted in June 2012). According to this recommendation, the Internet of Things represents ‘a global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies. The recommendation also provides a technical overview of the Internet of Things, and outlines the fundamental characteristics (such as interconnectivity, heterogeneity, and dynamic changes) and high-level requirements (such as identification-based connectivity, interoperability, autonomic networking, privacy, and data protection) of the IoT. In addition, the IoT reference model is explained, and details are provided on its components: the four layers (application, service and application support, network, and device), as well as management and security capabilities.
The Recommendation ITU-T Y.2060 is a result of the work carried out by the ITU-T Study Group 13, which is responsible for developing standards and recommendations covering future networks, including cloud computing, mobile, and next-generation networks. While the scope of this group continue to include IoT related issues (such as support of IoT in next generation networks), more specific IoT standardisation work is now carried out within the ITU-T Study Group 20 (created in 2015), whose initial focus is on IoT applications in smart cities and communities.
The increasing availability of IoT devices and applications, and their expansion into new areas are expected to bring significant advantages, but also challenges. Mitigating the security threats and weaknesses of IoT services, and ensuring the protection of privacy and personal data in the context of IoT data transmission are only two examples of such challenges, which are and will continue to be looked into carefully especially by the private sector and the technical community.