Imagine a screw manufacturing factory where each machine is wired with sensors. When a machine malfunctions, a signal is sent wirelessly to a parts shop across town, telling it to ship the part that's needed to repair the screw-making machine. The malfunctioning machine is soon running smoothly, with no time lost.
That's an example of the Internet of Things, physical items connected wirelessly, so they can communicate and make data-based decisions. The term also describes everyday devices connected to the web. Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of about 30 billion objects by 2020, excluding smartphones, tablets, and computers, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.