Summary Brief: IoT From the Beginning

In this fast-paced world we know how much everyone wants to be first. Sometimes laying claim to being first is nothing more than pure marketing hyperbole: The IoT (Internet of Things) is one of those technology categories that is most often exaggerated.

In 1982, a Coca-Cola Machine was modified and connected over the Internet at Carnegie Mellon University, becoming the first device of its kind. Let me take you back in time to where I think it might have started with Surface Weather Monitoring.

In August of 1927, Grover Loening envisioned “weather stations” (for safe travel) along the ocean and to design an airplane with a long enough range to be able to travel that distance. A little more than 10 years after that, in 1939, US Coast Guard Vessels were being used as “weather ships” to protect transatlantic air commerce.

During World War II, Hitler’s German Navy deployed Weather Buoys in the Barents Sea and the North Atlantic for the purpose of gathering weather information. These were submerged in deep waters with an anchor cable to secure the buoy. Above the buoy was a mast that extended above the water and weather information (air and water temperature, relative humidity and atmospheric pressure) powered by battery was collected four times a day.

Fast forward to a more modern era, The National Data Buoy Development Program was created in 1967 and was under the control, originally, of the US Coast Guard. Then in 1970, NOAA (National Oceanic and Administrative Agency) was created, which is where the National Data Buoy program currently resides.

Today, we collect a lot more data from these devices (buoys) than just basic weather information. We collect data about waves and their heights, wind, earthquakes, tsunamis and much more. This data is transmitted via satellite and collected from the vast numbers of buoys (well over 50,000 world wide), analyzed and published in real time for decision making. This information is available on their website for anyone to view. Visitors to their site are also able to access a web cam!

The collection of data from one machine to another for the benefit of improving decision making and improving productivity. Isn’t this the definition of the Internet of Things? Yes, it is.

In looking back, I know that the technology is much better than it was 40, 50 or even 70 years ago, BUT the premise is still the same. That hasn’t changed over time and you can’t claim you invented something that was previously thought of.

In retrospect I think I might have been wrong in my assumption of the data buoy model being the first Internet of Things. It might have been the smoke signals coming from Navajo Indian’s tee pees warning of impending danger. And hey, they were ahead of us on data security. Once the smoke was seen and interpreted, it literally vanished into thin air.