IoT Glossary: 55 Terms You Need to Know

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IoT Glossary: 55 Terms You Need to Know

Beacons, communications protocols, edge gateways, integrators and more, if you develop IoT solutions, here are the essential phrases for your hobby or career.

· IoT Zone ·
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It's hard to go a day without seeing eye-catching headlines in the IoT space like:

"896 trillion connected devices worldwide by 2020!"
—Gander Research


"IoT is changing the world!"
—Stating the Obvious Magazine

And that's not getting into the whole "digital transformation" business (personally, I always thought the word "technology" worked just fine, but marketers gonna market). 

But if you're here, that means you already know that more and more devices are being brought online each day. You know that IoT is changing the world. You're one of the people who want to lead the charge into the future.

Whether your interest is in smart homes, smart cities, edge computing, or IIoT, we've compiled a list of devices, protocols, and IoT-centric phrases that you should be aware of while you dive into creating our connected future. If there's something we missed, let us know in the comments and provide what you think a good definition would be! After all, this is your dictionary.


Actuator: A mechanism that performs a physical task based on input from a connected system.

Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP): An open application layer protocol for message-oriented middleware with a focus on queuing, routing (P2P, PubSub), security, and reliability.

Application Agents: Help address the lack of overhead for end-to-end, peer-to-peer networking in IoT architecture by their presence in the propagator nodes in an enterprise. They move intelligence to the edge of the network to help manage traffic, allow a real-time response to changing IoT conditions, and provide local client services.


Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE): A wireless personal area network (PAN) aimed at devices with reduced power consumption and cost while maintaining a similar communication range to regular Bluetooth.


Chirps: Lighter, purpose-built protocols that allow the “things” in IoT to communicate and interchange. Built for machine-to-machine communication, they are efficient, extensible data frames that have an open-source structure, private data fields, and a simple checksum.

Competing Consumers: A messaging pattern in which more consumers get messages from a common source (i.e. queue), but each message is delivered to only one consumer.

Connected Devices: Components that make up the Internet of Things. Many have built-in sensors and/or actuators and collect data to help users or other devices make informed decisions and monitor or affect outside events.

Connectivity Protection: A part of the Edge Layer that serves to ensure that device connectivity doesn’t fail if there is a network failure or an unreliable connection.

Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP): An application layer protocol used in resource-constrained devices that allows Internet connectivity and remote control.


Data Filtration: A part of the Edge Layer that reduces the amount of transmitted information, but retains the meaning of it.

Device-Agnostic Control: Part of the Edge Layer that provides site abstraction to allow the server and/or cloud application to be agnostic to the device implementation it controls.

Direct Messaging: A messaging mechanism in which the sender and receiver are directly connected or can exchange messages through one or more intermediate hops, which do not take ownership of each message but just forward it (routing).


Edge Gateway: The connecting factor between device analytics and cloud data processing and analytics

Edge Layer: An architectural shift in IoT that breaks the norm of the traditional client-server model. This is the first layer of connectivity for devices to connect to before going to the server. Responsible for the local connectivity of devices and for managing the data collection and connection to this server.

Embedded Device/Systems: A computer with a dedicated function within a larger mechanical or electrical system; it is embedded as part of a complete device.

Endpoint Device: An Internet-capable device on a TCP/IP network.


Flow-Based Programming: A type of programming that defines applications as networks of process that exchange data across defined connections by message-passing, where the connections are specified externally to the processes.


Geofencing: A technology that creates virtual boundaries around a physical area in order to trigger an action on a connected device, usually through a combination of GPS and RFID tags.


Haze Computing: A dynamic model for analytics applications wherein an application at the data source analyzes a pooled view of resources for the local and global compute available across the cloud, edge, and device layers. This information informs how and where data analytics take place.

Home Automation: A combination of hardware and software solutions that allow for the control and management of electronics, appliances, and devices within a home.


iBeacon (or Beacon Technology): A small network transmitter used to identify, track, and interact with connected systems using Bluetooth low energy. iBeacon is an Apple trademark, but it is also available on Android devices.

Industrial Internet: The integration of machine learning, big data technology, sensor data, and machine-to-machine communication automation. This is done with the knowledge that the Internet of Things will be scaled and driven by enterprises. The idea is that smart machines can more accurately capture and communicate data to help corporations find problems sooner and increase overall efficiency.

Integrator: The “tree trunk” of network architecture that performs the big data functions to provide a higher-level analysis of human interaction for near-edge analytics and broader-scope analysis and control.

Internet of Things (IoT): A network of objects (such as sensors and actuators) that can capture data autonomously and self-configure intelligently based on physical world events, allowing these systems to become active participants in various public, commercial, scientific, and personal processes.

Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP): The language a computer uses to access theInternet. It consists of a suite of protocols designed to establish a network of networks to provide a host with access to the Internet.

IoT Cloud Platform: A cloud platform that provides a set of services that simplify the integration process between the services provided by cloud platforms and IoT devices. Some platforms include development tools and data analytics capabilities.

IoT Development Board: A board that can be used to prototype and create IoT hardware. There are several boards available on the market with different features.


Lightweight Protocol: Any protocol that has a lesser and leaner payload when being used and transmitted over a network connection.

Long Range Communication Protocols: Used to refer to universal long-range radio frequencies for multi-generation wireless standards such as 2G, 3G, 4G, and4G LTE.

Low-Power Devices: Electronics that have been designed to use less electric power than traditional devices. These are necessary to the future success of IoT because, as sensors become more advanced, devices need to be able to operate for longer periods of time without relying on manual maintenance or loss of data.


Machine-to-Machine (M2M): This refers to a network setup that allows connected devices to communicate freely, usually between a large number of devices; M2M often refers to the use of distributed systems in industrial and manufacturing applications.

Mesh Network: A type of network topology in which a device transmits its own data and also serves as a relay for other nodes by providing the most efficient data path through routers.

Microcontroller (MCU): A small computer on a single integrated circuit designed for embedded applications and used in automatically controlled embedded systems.

Messaging Protocols: The way information is transferred and communicated amongst devices, the cloud, and data storage. Different protocols are used for different results.

Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT): A lightweight messaging protocol that runs on the TCP/IP protocol. It is designed for communicating with small devices in remote locations with low network bandwidth.

Multi-Agent System: A network of multiple agents which act in an environment and interact or communicate with each other to achieve their design objective.


Near-Field Communication (NFC): A feature based on technical standards that allows devices to establish radio communication with other nearby systems or mobile devices.


Operability: Operability is the measure of how well a software system works when operating in production, whether that is the public cloud, a co-located datacenter, an embedded system, or a remote sensor forming part of an IoT network.


Personal Area Network: A network created through the interconnection of information technology devices within the context of a single user.

Propagator: The “leaves” of the network architecture tree that are serviced by intermediate branch network elements. They manage message routing protocol translation services.


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): A technology that incorporates electromagnetic coupling and radio frequency to identify objects and persons. It consists of three components: an antenna, transceiver, and transponder.

Real-Time Operating System (RTOS): Designed to guarantee the completion of a task within a certain time constraint. Often used in safety-critical systems and when building IoT devices.

Releasability: The ability to quickly deploy changes to a software system, but also to quickly recover from disaster and adapt to changing technical and business challenges.


Sensor: A device or component that perceives and responds to physical input from the environment.

Sensor Network: A group of sensors with a communications infrastructure intended to monitor and collect data from multiple locations.

Single-Board Computer: A complete computer built on a single circuit board with all the components required of a functional computer.

Site-Level Management: Allows site-level arrangement across devices from different vendors using dissimilar protocols.

Store and Forward: A messaging mechanism in which a broker is involved between sender and receiver so that the broker gets ownership of the message from the sender, stores it for reliability, and then delivers the message itself to the receiver.

System on a Chip: An integrated chip that is comprised of electronic circuits of multiple computer components to create a complete device.


Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP): A basic client/server model communication protocol for the Internet and private networks.


Ubiquitous Computing: A method of enhancing computer use by making several computers available throughout a physical environment, but making them effectively invisible to the user.


Wearables: Connected devices that can be equipped with different types of sensors and are worn on a person’s body. They are meant to monitor, collect, and quantify data about a person's life and environment, and allow them to interface with that data.

Wi-Fi: A wireless local area network (WLAN) that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections.


ZigBee: An open standard for wireless communication designed to use low-power digital radio signals for personal area networks (PAN); it is used to create networks that require a low data transfer rate, energy efficiency, and secure networking.

Z-Wave: A wireless protocol for home automation that communicates using a low-power radio frequency technology specifically designed for remote control applications.

embedded devices, glossary, industrial internet, iot, iot protocols

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