Wireless • Last Updated 9/29/2023

IoT explained: the 2023 IoT guide

IoT, short for the internet of things, is a collection of internet connected devices capable of collecting and transmitting data.

By Odhran Reidy

Diagram of IoT explained

The internet of things (IoT) is one of the most exciting new technologies to appear since the turn of the century.

In this article, we'll dive into everything you need to know about IoT, including how IoT works, IoT devices and IoT SIM cards.

We'll also discuss how a wealth of industries are leveraging the internet of things, including IoT in healthcare, industrial IoT (IIoT), IoT Point of Sale (PoS), IoT for sustainability and IoT fleet management.

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Here at Telnyx, we've been building IoT solutions, IoT infrastructure and IoT SIM cards for years. No matter where you're building IoT applications, we can help---just reach out to our experts.

What is IoT?

IoT is a commonly used acronym in the technology world; it's short for Internet of Things. Given that the internet is commonly defined as a global system of interconnected computer networks, the answer to "What is IoT?" is a simple, logical step. IoT can be thought of as a global system of interconnected things, not just other networks or computers.

Most people understand the things in "Internet of Things" to be sensors, devices, applications or anything that can be made more functional or useful by connecting it to the wider internet.

For a deeper dive into the question "What is IoT?," read our article: What is IoT? Internet of Things Explained.

How IoT works

In order to understand how IoT works, it's important to understand how IoT devices, IoT networks and IoT connectivity work. Broadly speaking, IoT works by connecting physical things (like sensors, actuators, appliances or recording devices) to each other and to other devices like phones, tablets or computers using WiFi or cellular connectivity.

IoT devices are the things that connect to IoT networks and to the wider internet---for example, sensors, appliances or wearable devices. IoT networks can be local (connecting devices within your home, office or corporate environment) or they can connect to the public internet.

IoT devices

The internet of things is built around devices that interface with one another to exchange data, commands and functions. These devices connect to each other and to the wider internet using WiFi (common when devices are placed in the home) or cellular data (more common and useful when devices are mobile or situated in remote areas).

Some examples of IoT devices include sensors, wearables, security devices, smart home devices and point of sale devices. For more information on IoT devices, check out our article IoT device examples in 2023.

IoT SIM cards

IoT SIM cards are a popular means of enabling IoT devices with connectivity. By inserting an IoT SIM card into an IoT device, that device can register on cellular networks and leverage cellular connectivity to connect to the internet.

IoT SIM cards are more versatile than WiFi for many IoT use cases, especially those where device mobility, security, ease of setup and global coverage are important.

Telnyx IoT SIM cards give any IoT device connectivity in 180+ countries across the globe, thanks to roaming partnerships with 400+ networks. These SIM cards can be managed via the Telnyx API, enabling Telnyx customers to deploy and monitor large fleets of IoT devices. IoT SIM cards can be ordered from the Telnyx portal. Learn more about Telnyx IoT SIM cards.

IoT security solutions

IoT deployments often involve connecting large numbers of devices (or "endpoints") to each other over the public internet. This provides a large attack surface for bad actors to compromise devices---these bad actors can then hijack the devices and use their computing power for DDoS attacks or crypto mining. Indeed, IoT World Today cites security as one of the most popular barriers to IoT adoption.

A wide range of IoT security solutions have emerged in response to security concerns around IoT devices and IoT connectivity. Read on for more, or check out our dedicated article Breaking Down IoT Security Solutions and Challenges

How to implement IoT security solutions

One of the easiest ways to implement IoT security solutions involves keeping IoT devices away from the public internet. IoT devices that are not reachable from the public internet are far less vulnerable to any public internet-based attack vectors.

Telnyx offers a set of solutions to deploy IoT devices that are isolated from the public internet. Learn more about Telnyx for IoT Security Solutions.

Using a private SIM card

"Private SIM cards" may be a case of mistaken nomenclature, as there's nothing about a SIM card that makes it inherently private. That said, it's absolutely possible---and advisable for IoT security---to connect IoT SIM cards to a private network, However, not all IoT SIM cards have this capability.

Telnyx IoT SIM cards have built-in capabilities to connect to private networks. Learn more about Private Wireless Gateways from Telnyx.

IoT security standards

Given the prominence of IoT security concerns, it makes sense for governing bodies to set out IoT security standards to help guide IoT users to deploy their devices in a secure manner.

There is a wide range of governing bodies, standards organizations and associations that issue IoT security standards and guidelines. Learn more by reading IoT Security Standards - A Quick Guide.

IoT data plans

If you're building IoT applications and experiences where devices are mobile, remote or simply not suitable for WiFi connectivity, you'll need to think about IoT data plans for cellular data. In general, you should look for IoT data plans that offer pay-as-you-go (PAYG) pricing---you only pay for what you use. If you opt for a regular cell phone-type data plan, you'll very likely end up overpaying for a large data allowance that your device won't use.

Telnyx IoT data plans are designed for IoT applications, not consumer web use, so you can build and scale IoT experiences without paying for big data plans.

IoT solutions

IoT solutions seek to combine and bundle IoT technologies, applications, devices and connectivity in order to solve problems. Instead of buying individual devices or functionalities, many businesses will seek out IoT solution providers with all-encompassing suites of products and services that can solve business problems.

To learn more about IoT solutions and where they fit into the landscape of IoT connectivity, IoT products and IoT services, check out our article Where IoT Solutions are Being Used Today.

IoT in healthcare

IoT in Healthcare is one of the highest-potential avenues for the internet of things to make a lasting positive impact on an important field. Healthcare IoT devices like wearables and vital-sign monitors have the potential to revolutionize patient care. IoT-enabled hospital asset tracking and medical equipment monitoring, on the other hand, can drive groundbreaking operational efficiencies in hospitals and healthcare settings.

For a deep dive into Healthcare IoT and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), read our article IoT in Healthcare: the Complete Guide.

How to implement healthcare IoT

When considering how to implement healthcare IoT, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Healthcare is a high-stakes environment where the well-being of patients takes precedence over everything else. A large number of healthcare regulations ensure that the highest standards are applied to patient care and the protected health information (PHI) of patients.

Telnyx offers an IoT SIM card and infrastructure that can help IoMT customers build compliant, safe and innovative healthcare IoT experiences. Learn more about secure IoT connectivity for healthcare.

IoT fleet management

IoT Fleet Management is one of the fastest-growing IoT applications. When implemented correctly, fleet management systems leverage the internet of things to provide deep insight across a large fleet of vehicles. Data like location, fuel levels, dashcam video feeds and predictive maintenance alerts can be streamed in real time from every vehicle in a fleet to a central dashboard or alerting system so that organizations running large vehicle fleets can drive operational efficiency and safety.

Learn more about Telnyx IoT SIM cards for fleet management.

IoT for sustainability

Leveraging IoT for sustainability has the potential to drive more innovative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing society. Technology is set to become increasingly important as the world implements solutions to curb global warming and mitigate the effects of climate change.

IoT can be leveraged to build smart grids that distribute renewable energy more efficiently, or to reduce food waste by analyzing the contents of trash receptacles. For more sustainability IoT use cases, read our article IoT for Sustainability - How IoT is changing the world.

IoT Point of Sale

IoT Point of Sale (PoS) is one of the most well-developed and understood fields of IoT today, and, as a result, has some of the most widespread adoption. Point of Sale IoT connects PoS devices to the internet in order to process payment transactions. IoT connectivity can give PoS devices more freedom than other connectivity types, and allow for additional services to be embedded into payment terminals.

Telnyx IoT SIM cards have a proven track record of helping PoS customers scale their operations across the globe. Learn more about Telnyx for Point of Sale IoT.

Cellular vs. wiFi for IoT

The rise of mobile, handheld PoS devices has caused debate about Cellular vs. WiFi for IoT as it relates to Point of Sale. Cellular connectivity via IoT SIM cards has several advantages over traditional WiFi connectivity in terms of flexibility, ease of deployment and security.\ To learn more about why cellular data and SIM cards are the ideal choice for payment terminals, read our in-depth analysis Cellular vs Wifi for IoT.

While Point of Sale IoT is one of the more established IoT use cases, there is still a wealth of activity and innovation happening among PoS providers and devices. PoS device manufacturers must consider trends in flexibility, checkout experience and security in order to remain competitive in a fast-moving market.

Our experts break down these trends and more in our guide 5 Things for PoS Device Vendors to Consider in 2023.

PoS device distribution with SIM cards

In an era of increasing globalization, scaling payment systems and currencies across borders remains difficult. For PoS device manufacturers, ensuring their devices have connectivity across the globe can often mean shipping devices with different SIM cards per country or foregoing cellular coverage in favor of less capable WiFi connectivity.

Luckily, Telnyx IoT SIM cards can enable global distribution of the same PoS device, thanks to a multi-carrier SIM card that intelligently switches to the best available network in 180+ countries. Learn more about scaling PoS device distribution with multi-carrier SIMs.

Industrial IoT platform

Industrial IoT platforms leverage the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to help traditional industry activities like utilities, energy and manufacturing operate more efficiently and safely. Industrial IoT often uses machine-to-machine (M2M) SIM cards for a more durable, secure means of communicating between machines.

IIoT use cases include predictive maintenance for industrial machines, quality control, production control and asset tracking. To learn more about using IoT SIM cards for these use cases and others in IIoT, check out Telnyx for Industrial IoT.

IoT connectivity

IoT connectivity can take many forms and be viewed in a wide variety of contexts. A multitiude of factors and considerations contribute to a smooth IoT connectivity experience, including a mobile core, direct and indirect roaming agreements and machine-to-machine (M2M) protocols like LTE-M.

Organizations and developers building IoT experiences can learn more about all of these IoT connectivity issues---and learn how a strong connectivity and infrastructure platform solves them---by checking out Telnyx Wireless.

Since IoT is a new, fast-moving industry, staying on top of IoT trends is critically important for anyone building IoT applications. Organizations and developers should look to a trusted IoT provider that serves a wide variety of IoT use cases to spot common threads and trends, so they can stay ahead of the curve when building their IoT experiences.

Read more in our guide Must-Watch IoT Trends and Use Cases.

IoT solution providers

As IoT gains prominence and attention from organizations of all sizes, many look to IoT solution providers to kick-start their IoT strategy with comprehensive solutions and deep subject matter expertise. Aside from evaluating IoT solution providers on their technical and product capabilities, it's important to gauge the expertise a provider brings to the table, and the extent to which they work with customers to help them build IoT experiences.

Our Guide to IoT Solution Providers details the considerations IoT buyers should make when deciding on an IoT partner.

Hologram IoT alternatives

Hologram has seen recent success in offering IoT SIM cards and services for organizations to scale global wireless connectivity. However, limitations around security and control have driven some buyers to seek Hologram IoT alternatives.

Our Hologram IoT Alternative guide demonstrates why Telnyx's network-building expertise gives users better security and more control over their IoT deployments.

IoT backend

Building an IoT backend to support your IoT device fleet is no small feat, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of factors to consider, especially when building your first IoT deployment.

Our IoT Backend Connectivity Guide demystifies IoT backend connectivity and provides a comprehensive reference guide for organizations building and deploying their first IoT experiences---from device policy, to connectivity best practices to network types.

IoT glossary

If you're feeling confused by the endless barrage of acronyms surrounding the internet of things, our IoT glossary can help. We break down common IoT terms and their meanings, as well as providing some insight into how these terms overlap and fit into the context of IoT applications.

Building IoT applications can be complex, but it doesn't have to be. The easiest way to start building IoT experiences right now is to work with a trusted IoT connectivity platform and IoT solution provider---a partner that knows what's important and can help you deploy your IoT applications the right way.

Here at Telnyx, we've been helping customers like Clair Global, Valor Paytech and Sitemetric build innovative IoT experiences and solutions for years. Our experts can help you find the right approach to deploy IoT for the first time, or help you iterate on existing IoT deployments with better cost efficiency and global scale. Get in touch today to learn more.

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