IoT stands for Internet of Things.

Would a fitbit or device that connects to a mobile phone or computer through Bluetooth the be considered IoT? What about radio controlled devices?

What classifies a device as an Internet of Things device?


7 Answers 7


Following the Wikipedia definition, to classify something as IoT, it needs to be the internetworking physical device embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data. In other words, the IoT allows objects to be sensed and/or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructureHarvard by its direct integration into the physical world computer-based systems in order to provide improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit. The device should be able to operate to some extent interactively and autonomously.

Other used names for such devices are "connected devices", "smart devices", Internet of Everything, Machine-to-Machine communications or Industrial Internet.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been also defined by IoT-GSI (The Global Standards Initiative on Internet of Things) in Recommendation ITU-T Y.2060 (06/2012) which clarifies the concept and scope of the IoT, identifies the fundamental characteristics and high-level requirements of the IoT.

The IoT, things are objects of the physical world (physical things) or of the information world (virtual world) which are capable of being identified and integrated into communication networks.

Physical things exist in the physical world and are capable of being sensed, actuated and connected. Examples of physical things include the surrounding environment, industrial robots, goods and electrical equipment.

The minimum requirement of the devices in the IoT is their support of communication capabilities.

In general, we can classify the IoT devices into the following groups:

  • Data-carrying device

    A data-carrying device is attached to a physical thing to indirectly connect the physical thing with the communication networks.

  • Data-capturing device

    A data-capturing device refers to a reader/writer device with the capability to interact with physical things.

  • Sensing and actuating device

    A sensing and actuating device may detect or measure information related to the surrounding environment and convert it into digital electronic signals. It may also convert digital electronic signals from the information networks into operations.

  • General device

    A general device has embedded processing and communication capabilities and may communicate with the communication networks via wired or wireless technologies. General devices include equipment and appliances for different IoT application domains, such as industrial machines, home electrical appliances and smart phones.

Source: ITU-T Y.2060

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    In short: if it wouldn't be usable by Skynet to further its purposes, it isn't IoT device. Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 10:52

I think that an IoT device is any device than can: take enviroment data (sensors), do a enviroment change (actuators) or allow the communication between sensors/actuators and others marchines, implementing D2M (device to machine) or conventional protocols. Is important see Iot stack protocols.

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    The "allow commutation between" categorization has to be addressed with care; it should be intuitively clear that your everyday Ethernet switch or WiFi router is not an IoT device, yet it may be used to facilitate communication between things which are. Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 5:27

The Internet of Things is not generally limited to any protocols.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been defined in Recommendation ITU-T Y.2060 (06/2012) as a global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies.

Global Standards Initiative

Thus, any device that's connected to the internet (or an intranet) and uses or provides, or is necessary to provide an internet based service is an IoT device. The protocol that device is speaking is irrelevant.

  • While it is true that protocol is not a disqualifying factor, there is no meaningful qualifying factor proposed here. An IoT device definition that allows anything with a network interface such as the computer I'm typing this on, is obviously wrong. Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 18:41

In my opinion, an IoT device is a communication protocol-driven device that can be operated locally or remotely from another electronic device and performs a narrow and/or specific physical/sensing function. Physical functions can include voltage monitoring/controls, turning electrical motors, information querying/collection, audio/visual capture/display, and automated tasks.

I think the thing that makes it IoT in my mind is whether or not the device can be accessed or is part of a greater IoT ecosystem (e.g. radio-connected devices hooked up to a hub) accessible through Internet protocol . I'm not an IoT aficionado, but this is a starting point for discussion.


I'm a little worried that this is O/T because its opinion, or meta.

Yes, a fitbit is an IoT device. It is one of a large collection of things which collects data. That data is typically used in conjunction with other data (such as weight, diet logs) to achieve features through bulk analysis of the data.

The method of network connection is not important, and will frequently be using a gateway. Often the visible data transport is one-way.

Even a phone in a specific data collection application can be an IoT device (albeit a non-optimised one). Frequently data from an IoT device will be passed through to a different endpoint device (maybe a phone, maybe an actuator).

What defines IoT is probably machine-to-machine communication, distributed over a wide area or number of devices.

Relevant meta questions:


What classifies a device as an Internet of Things device?

As per my understanding, an IoT device:

  1. Serves a specific use case, e.g., Amazon Echo, Nest Cam, Belkin WeMo. This is key differentiation from computing devices such computers, smartphones or tablets.

  2. Can connect to a network for purposes of data transmission/reception. Mostly an IP network.

  3. Is designed to be ubiquitous and inconspicuous. These devices are slowly coming up everywhere and serve the purpose without getting in the way of users.

  4. Do have some sort of cloud back end so that they can be reached from anywhere anytime by the users authorized to use the devices.


Anything online/on the Internet is an IoT device.

The term Internet of Things (IoT) was borne out of marketing in the Information Technology (IT) space, highlighting the remaining exponential growth of Internet traffic as well as enabling major advancements in efficiency via connected instrumentation. The answer is in the name, Internet - as in Internet Protocol (IP). Common to all IoT devices is Internet connectivity which boils down to an endpoint having an Internet link and an IP, default gateway, and DNS server address.

So, while largely a marketing term, technically anything online/on the Internet is an IoT device.

ITU-T Y.4000/Y.2060 specifies:

3.2.1 device: With regard to the Internet of things, this is a piece of equipment with the mandatory capabilities of communication


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