Living in the Internet of Things

When I tell people I head up our Internet of Things division, they often look at me with a little bit of confusion. Isn’t the Internet full of things?

If you don’t know what the Internet of Things (also called IoT) is now, trust me, you will. The impact of IoT on your life will be hard to ignore. When done well, it can transform our daily lives and make a global impact. It’s the global impact that leads us all to celebrate April 9 as IoT World Day.

What is IoT?

IoT is essentially equipping products and other “things” with intelligent sensors and tags so they can communicate with each other, and us, across the Internet. Often, these are things that were not connected before. You may not be able to see the modules and sensors or the near real-time information that can be pulled from things like cars, farming machines, and power grids, but you can certainly see how connectivity makes all our things, big and small, smarter.

At AT&T, we recently launched an initiative to connect city infrastructures to make them smarter. Can you transform how a city uses energy or preserves water? What is the impact of a smarter city on its citizens or the environment? We’re answering these questions. And we’re just scratching the surface.

We even connect dirt. Sensors in the soil are helping us measure moisture, which can transform how farmers grow our food or how golf courses keep their fairways green.

What is the most unusual connected item you’ve heard of?

And let’s think about how IoT could make our every day vastly different—like homes getting smarter and helping make our things in the home more secure. It’s already happening with services like AT&T Digital Life that wirelessly connects cameras, water sensors, garage doors, and much more in the home. You can enhance your daily routine with programs that take care of you. You could also adjust your thermostat, turn on the front hall lights, and unlock the door as soon as you open the garage door, or turn off the lights and lock the doors with the touch of a button with a “good night” program.

What does the future of IoT look like? 

The future of IoT will enable more things to take care of themselves. One example is a machine that can let a foreman know that it needs a new part, or a car alerting a driver that the battery is low on juice. This capability frees up our time to focus on the big picture and where we’re going next.

In November 2008, AT&T became the first telecom company to create a group for the sole purpose of exploring IoT. In 2014, we opened an innovation center in Plano, Texas, devoted to IoT. That same year we opened the AT&T Drive Studio to research connected car technology. We’ve also just announced plans to open another innovation center dedicated to exploring connected health.

  • All told, we had about 26.2 million wirelessly connected devices on our network through Q4 2015.
  • We have nearly 7 million connected cars on our network, more than any other provider in the U.S.
  • We connected more than 280,000 refrigerated shipping containers.
  • Last year, we signed more than 300 new IoT business agreements.

As you can see, we’ve been doing a lot with IoT, but our ability to create is a result of our ability to listen. We’ve always kept our ear to the street to learn what technologies our customers value most.

While we continue to innovate and look for the next cool thing to connect, I’d like to know what’s been your favorite connected thing so far—and why? Chime in with your thoughts, take our poll, and remember to use #IoTDay.

And take a look at our IoT Report What you need to know about IoT.

Chris Penrose Senior Vice President Internet of Things About Chris