Internet of Things Timeline

Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up (Yale Press, 2015),

Surveillance and censorship, creativity and altruism. The internet of things is the last best chance to build an open society. This timeline covers over 134 events and includes some credible predictions and likely milestones in the years ahead. It covers a range of social and engineering events related broadly to the development of device networks, and can be sorted by categories such as: drones and satellites, types of innovations, security, network trends, culture, politics and policy, and technical standards. Suggestions for new entries welcome, please send them to Phil Howard (pnhoward((at))

Battery-free Devices to Connect to Wi-Fi

University of Washington researchers introduced the prototype of the Wi-Fi backscatter, technology that uses radio frequency signals as a power source and reuses existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to provide Internet connectivity to battery-free devices. With this technology, small IoT devices such as sensors will not require a dedicated power source or battery to transmit their data.

Malaysia Airlines Missing Jet and Internet of Things

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared from the radars on March 8, 2014. All communications were lost. However, as data from satellite pings showed, the plane flew on for seven more hours. Even after losing all connections with the aircraft, more precise data, such as fuel consumption, speed, altitude and direction, could have come directly from the plane’s IoT-enabled Rolls-Royce Trent 800 jet engines. The problem in the case of Flight 370 was that Malaysia Airlines declined to pay about $10 per flight for real-time access to the engine's data. This resulted into an endless aircraft search process.

Digital Data reached 2.7 Zettabytes

The total amount of existing data in the digital universe in 2012 reached 2.7 Zettabytes (1 Zettabyte = 1,000,000 Petabytes). According to CISCO's estimations, the global internet traffic is expected to reach the amount of 1.3 Zettabytes annually by 2016. Estimations also show that 44 Zettabytes of data will be generated annually by 2020.

The Origins of Cloud Computing

American psychologist and computer scientist Dr. Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider wrote a series of memos exploring his idea of an “intergalactic computer network”. He imagined a system of computers connected to one another, and a space where all the data is available for everyone from anywhere. This idea paved the way to the creation of online banking interfaces, digital libraries, and cloud computing.

The First Chip Card

French inventor Philip Moreno demonstrated that a plastic card with a computer chip embedded in it can be used for electronic payments. Moreno is generally credited with inventing the smart card, which he called la carte à puce (“the flea card”). The card took eight years to become popular in France, and even longer to become widespread elsewhere. The first trials of ATM bank cards with chips were successfully conducted in 1984.

Metcalfe's Law

Metcalfe's law was presented, stating that the value of a network is the square of the number of connected nodes (n2). In the 1980s, the law referred to telephones and fax networks, but with the spread of the internet, it carried over to users and networks. The logic is that a single node is worth nothing, but every additional device increases greatly the total value of the network by introducing multiple new connections. The law can be used to illustrate the possible growth with the development of IoT.

Radio Frequency Identification Technology

Inventor Charles Walton first patented the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) device. The device, consisting of a small chip and an antenna, is used to transfer data wirelessly between connected objects. The technology was first developed for espionage in 1945.

The Internet Toaster

Computer scientists John Romkey and Simon Hackett connected a toaster to the Internet, making it the first device controlled over the Internet. Using TCP/IP connection, the toaster could be turned on and off. The darkness of the toast depended on how long the toaster was on. A human being still had to insert the bread. A year later, a robotic arm was added to pick up and insert the slice of bread. The arm could also be controlled from the Internet.

The First Live Concert on the Internet

Severe Tire Damage, a garage rock band from Palo Alto, California, performed the first concert live on the Internet. The band played on the patio of Xerox PARC in California, while viewers as far away as Australia reportedly watched the concert streaming online.

The First Botnet

American coder Robey Pointer created Eggdrop, one of the world's first botnets, to manage the IRC channel #gayteen. A botnet is a software network working on devices connected to the Internet to perform different functions. Botnets are often malicious and illegal. However, legal bots such as Eggdrop were designed to control and protect IRC from malwares. Eggdrop is the oldest IRC bot still being maintained.

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