Internet of Things and Cloud Computing: What You Need to Know
The Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing are two of the biggest tech buzzwords of the last few years. But unlike so many other new tech fads, these two have stuck around and continue to grow today.
Since the terms aren’t very descriptive, there can be some confusion about what they are and how they’re different from each other. We’re here to change that. So if you’ve got questions about the IoT or the cloud, you’re in the right place.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things is a simple way of referring to the millions of devices that communicate with each other using the internet. For many experts, any device that has an internet connection can be considered part of the IoT. Some examples of IoT devices include the following:
- Smartphones, like the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy
- Smart thermostats, like the Nest Learning Thermostat
- Smart speakers, like Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod
- Smart appliances, like refrigerators, coffee pots, and lightbulbs
You’ll notice that all these IoT products are “smart.” This is a common designation for Internet of Things devices. While it’s true that many of these devices are smart in that they predict and adapt to improve performance, this is also a marketing term used for almost any product that connects to the internet.
The IoT is huge and constantly growing, with Internet of Things companies cranking out new devices at a record pace. Some analysts expect as many as 20 billion internet-connected devices by 2020.
What can the IoT do for you?
There are some great benefits to having so many internet-connected devices in your household or workplace:
Forgot to turn the lights off when you left for work? Thanks to the IoT, that’s no longer an issue. Just open up your smartphone and turn them off with a tap. This feature also applies to smart kitchen appliances, garage doors, thermostats, security systems, and more.
You can have your lights or thermostat turn on when you get home in the evening. While this is technically possible without the internet, it makes the programming and synchronization of multiple devices much easier. You can have one interface for the lights in all your different rooms, for example.
Communication between devices
Some smart smoke detectors can talk to each other to pinpoint which room the alert is coming from and then let you know via phone alert or by speaking to you, eliminating the need for a frantic hunt to find the source of the smoke.
IoT devices can send notifications and alerts directly to your phone. For example, smart doorbell cameras can open a video feed to your front porch when someone rings the bell, allowing you to see and interact with them even when you’re not home.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is a term for a network of services hosted on and delivered over the internet. With cloud computing, the storage or processing is done by a remote server, and your computer only accesses the data. The cloud service can be anything from storage to web apps. Some examples of cloud services include the following:
- Cloud storage services like Google Drive and Dropbox
- Web apps like Google Docs, Google Photos, and Netflix
- Servers and hosting services like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure
Many cloud services are business-oriented, with website hosting and web applications being some of the most common forms of cloud computing. Most consumer cloud computing services, including Netflix, take the form of web apps that store data on remote servers and stream it to the user.
What can cloud computing do for you?
Cloud computing is most likely doing a lot for you that you don’t even realize. Cloud services are everywhere these days, but the fact that something is “in the cloud” is rarely mentioned. A few years ago, when the concept was newer, companies were quick to use the cloud buzzword, but these days it’s mostly transparent—users use web apps like Gmail and Google Maps and may not even realize that all the computing is happening remotely on the cloud.
Cloud storage services have also become extremely popular. Most people are probably familiar with services like Dropbox, but cloud storage is expanding and becoming more ingrained in modern technology. iPhones now seamlessly store photos on iCloud, for example, allowing you to have access to a huge library of pictures on a device with a relatively small amount of storage.
All in all, there’s really no shortage of what cloud computing can do for you, and we’re only at the beginning of its potential.
How the IoT and cloud computing work together
The concepts of the IoT and cloud computing come together in a lot of ways that may not be obvious to the end user. For example, many companies rely on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to host their software and power their services, so the smart cameras and other connected devices you’re using may be using the cloud to perform their basic functions. Many popular websites we visit also rely on AWS to host their site.
Some specific examples of the IoT and cloud working together include the following:
- Many cameras, including the popular Nest Cam, rely on cloud storage to keep video rather than storing it locally on a hard drive or SD card.
- Connected photo frames like the Nixplay can use cloud storage to display pictures.
- Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo send your speech input to the cloud for processing and then send the answers back.
How much internet speed do IoT devices and cloud services need?
You might think you need a blazing fast internet connection to take advantage of these features, but generally that’s not the case. For basic use of things like Alexa or most smart home devices, any broadband connection (25 Mbps or higher) should be more than fast enough.
The big exception to this rule is anything dealing with video. Smart cameras uploading HD video footage eat up a lot of bandwidth, and if you’re streaming video from a service like Netflix, that also requires a faster connection.
Netflix, for example, recommends the following internet speeds for streaming video:
- SD quality: 3 Mbps
- HD quality: 5 Mbps
- 4K Ultra HD quality: 25 Mbps
Keep in mind that these are per user, so if you’re streaming in one room and your roommate is watching something else in their room, you’ll need to double these recommendations.
Any other simultaneous internet activity, like a large file download, will also impact performance, so it’s best to give yourself some buffer when deciding on an internet package.
A smarter future is coming.
The Internet of Things and cloud computing are two exciting waves of technology that are constantly growing and full of potential. And with the advent of 5G, IoT tech could expand seamlessly to more facets of everyday life. The possibilities of these two technologies are exciting, so be sure to watch for new developments.
Author - Dave Schafer
Dave has written professionally for tech companies and consumer technology sites for nearly five years, with a special focus on TV and internet. He uses his industry expertise to help readers at HighSpeedInternet.com get the most out of their services. No matter the project, he prefers his coffee black (the stronger, the better).
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.