First coined by Kevin Ashton at MIT in 1999, the Internet of Things (or the IoT) is defined by Cisco Systems as “the network of physical objects accessed through the Internet. […] These objects contain embedded technology to interact with internal states or the external environment. In other words, when objects can sense and communicate, it changes how and where decisions are made, and who makes them. The IoT is connecting new places—such as manufacturing floors, energy grids, health care facilities and transportation systems—to the Internet. When an object can represent itself digitally, it can be controlled from anywhere.”

No less an entity than Goldman Sachs is bullish on the IoT. In a September 2014 research report, “The Internet of Things: The Next Megatrend,” Goldman called IoT the “third wave in the development of the Internet,” following the 1990s’ hard-wired Internet and the 2000s’ mobile wave. The IoT has the potential, the paper’s authors predicted, to connect 28 billion “’things’ to the Internet by 2020. […] Personal lives, workplace productivity and consumption will all change.”