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This content is taken from the Coventry University & Institute of Coding's online course, The Internet of Things: The Rise of Connected Devices. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds I’m here at IBM Hursley because I believe that they have a contender for the earliest IoT device.

Skip to 0 minutes and 23 seconds The term Internet of Things is often attributed to Kevin Ashton from a presentation in 1999. Ashton actually described the Internet for Things which is a system where objects are tagged with RFID tags so the computers can identify them, rather than a collection of communicating devices. The Internet of Things was first described by team at Helsinki University in 2002 who created a system of interconnected smart devices. Connected smart devices did exist before the IoT though. Many consider the first IoT device to be the internet toaster created by John Romkey for the Interop conference in 1990. Others argue that the Carnegie Mellon vending machine that was rigged with remote sensing is the earliest example of IoT.

Skip to 1 minute and 3 seconds But if remote sensing is included then lots of other contenders appear as well. My own opinion is that the title of first IoT device should go to the first ATM that allowed people to withdraw money and have the balance of their accounts updated instantly without having to rely on cashier issued tokens. The IBM 2984 was first installed in Essex in the UK in 1972 and I’ll argue that this was the first device that the public interacted with, which was both a physical machine and an interface to the abstract digital world of accounts, networks and so on. Since then the number and type of interconnected devices has grown rapidly from early luggable computers to handhelds and modern IoT devices.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds The components of IoT devices can be seen developing over the next few decades from RFID tags that allow computers to read unique codes for an item through to storage which progressively got smaller and smaller. As we commute to an environment that is augmented and measured by such devices, they will begin to disappear. In the early 90’s, Mark Weiser suggested that all successful technology disappears in the sense that it becomes part of the backdrop of our everyday lives rather than in the foreground.

A complicated history of the Internet of Things (IoT)

When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.

(Nikola Tesla 1926)

Welcome to The Internet of Things: The Rise of Connected Devices.

Upon completion of this week, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the scope of ‘emerging connected systems’ and how they are being used in different contexts
  • Discuss such systems using the appropriate terms and abstractions

This is the first short course in Security of Emerging Connected Systems, which forms part of the MSc Cyber Security online degree at Coventry University, delivered on FutureLearn.

This module was created by James Shuttleworth, a principal lecturer at Coventry University, teaching and researching in the areas of operating systems, cyber security and image analysis.

Your task

What are you most looking forward to this week?


Tesla, N. (1926) ‘When Woman is Boss’. Colliers [online] 30 January. available from http://www.tfcbooks.com/tesla/1926-01-30.htm [26 September 2019]

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This video is from the free online course:

The Internet of Things: The Rise of Connected Devices

Coventry University