There’s a lot of noise at the moment about the Internet of Things (or IoT) and its impact on everything from the way we travel and do our shopping to the way manufacturers keep track of inventory. But what is the Internet of Things? How does it work? And is it really that important?
What is the Internet of Things?
In a nutshell, the Internet of Things is the concept of connecting any device (so long as it has an on/off switch) to the Internet and to other connected devices. The IoT is a giant network of connected things and people – all of which collect and share data about the way they are used and about the environment around them.
That includes an extraordinary number of objects of all shapes and sizes – from smart microwaves, which automatically cook your food for the right length of time, to self-driving cars, whose complex sensors detect objects in their path, to wearable fitness devices that measure your heart rate and the number of steps you’ve taken that day, then use that information to suggest exercise plans tailored to you. There are even connected footballs that can track how far and fast they are thrown and record those statistics via an app for future training purposes.
How does it work?
Devices and objects with built in sensors are connected to an Internet of Things platform, which integrates data from the different devices and applies analytics to share the most valuable information with applications built to address specific needs.
These powerful IoT platforms can pinpoint exactly what information is useful and what can safely be ignored. This information can be used to detect patterns, make recommendations, and detect possible problems before they occur.
For example, if I own a car manufacturing business, I might want to know which optional components (leather seats or alloy wheels, for example) are the most popular. Using Internet of Things technology, I can:
- Use sensors to detect which areas in a showroom are the most popular, and where customers linger longest;
- Drill down into the available sales data to identify which components are selling fastest;
- Automatically align sales data with supply, so that popular items don’t go out of stock.
The information picked up by connected devices enables me to make smart decisions about which components to stock up on, based on real-time information, which helps me save time and money.
With the insight provided by advanced analytics comes the power to make processes more efficient. Smart objects and systems mean you can automate certain tasks, particularly when these are repetitive, mundane, time-consuming or even dangerous. Let’s look at some examples to see what this looks like in real life.
Scenario #1: IoT in your home
Imagine you wake up at 7am every day to go to work. Your alarm clock does the job of waking you just fine. That is, until something goes wrong. Your train’s cancelled and you have to drive to work instead. The only problem is that it takes longer to drive, and you would have needed to get up at 6.45am to avoid being late. Oh, and it’s pouring with rain, so you’ll need to drive slower than usual. A connected or IoT-enabled alarm clock would reset itself based on all these factors, to ensure you got to work on time. It could recognize that your usual train is cancelled, calculate the driving distance and travel time for your alternative route to work, check the weather and factor in slower travelling speed because of heavy rain, and calculate when it needs to wake you up so you’re not late. If it’s super-smart, if might even sync with your IoT-enabled coffee maker, to ensure your morning caffeine’s ready to go when you get up.
Scenario #2: IoT in transport
Having been woken by your smart alarm, you’re now driving to work. On comes the engine light. You’d rather not head straight to the garage, but what if it’s something urgent? In a connected car, the sensor that triggered the check engine light would communicate with others in the car. A component called the diagnostic bus collects data from these sensors and passes it to a gateway in the car, which sends the most relevant information to the manufacturer’s platform. The manufacturer can use data from the car to offer you an appointment to get the part fixed, send you directions to the nearest dealer, and make sure the correct replacement part is ordered so it’s ready for you when you show up.
Find out more
We’ve got lots of examples that show the Internet of Things in action. Check out Olli, the self-driving car, or Candy, the cognitive sweet dispenser that will only dish out the sugar when you ask nicely. Got questions? We’d love to hear them! Let us know in the comments below.
There are multiple reasons the back button in an Internet browser may not work every time it is used. Below we have provided details about several of the most common reasons for the back button not to work.
A new window or tab was opened
While browsing the Internet, some websites open their links in a new window or tab. When this occurs, all your previous search history will not move over to the new window. Examine the back button or the number of tabs at the top of your browser window. If the back button is gray or non-responsive, it is more than likely that you are in a new window. Or, if you can see that there are more tabs than there were previously, a new one was opened.
To get back to your previous window, close the new tab, or click the earlier tab, located to the left of the new one.
A web page automatically forwarded you to an alternate page
Sometimes, when you visit a web page, it automatically directs you to another page. If this occurs and you press the back button, you will immediately be re-forwarded to that same page again. To resolve this issue, you can try one or more of the following solutions.
- Press and hold down the mouse button on the back button to get a list like that shown in the picture.
- Press the back button two or more times quickly to get you back to a previous page. If you go back too many pages, push the forward button until you see the desired page.
- Some browsers have a small down arrow next to the back button. Pressing this button displays the last few pages you have visited recently. Once this list is displayed, you can select from pages you have already visited.
Script preventing you from going back
If neither of the previous sections resolved your issue, you have encountered deliberate, poor, or malicious code. Some websites add code to their pages that prevent users from using the back button to leave their pages or site. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to fix and get around that type of code. You may need to manually access a web page you visited several pages ago to get away from the page that is preventing the back button from working.
There are also scripts that can be maliciously loaded into the browser through a web page that prevent the back arrow from functioning properly. To resolve this problem, close and re-open your browser or visit a different site.
Corrupted Internet browser
It is possible for an Internet browser to become corrupted preventing some features and functionality to stop working. To fix a corrupted Internet browser, you can attempt to uninstall and reinstall the browser to see if that fixes the issue. You can also try to restore Windows to a previous date when the problem was not occurring.
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NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-.
Created: October 28, 2009 ; Last Update: August 19, 2016 ; Next update: 2022.
The nervous system is made up of all the nerve cells in your body. It is through the nervous system that we communicate with the outside world and, at the same time, many mechanisms inside our body are controlled. The nervous system takes in information through our senses, processes the information and triggers reactions, such as making your muscles move or causing you to feel pain. For example, if you touch a hot plate, you reflexively pull back your hand and your nerves simultaneously send pain signals to your brain. Metabolic processes are also controlled by the nervous system.
There are many billions of nerve cells, also called neurons, in the nervous system. The brain alone has about 100 billion neurons in it. Each neuron has a cell body and various extensions. The shorter extensions (called dendrites) act like antennae: they receive signals from, for example, other neurons and pass them on to the cell body. The signals are then passed on via a long extension (the axon), which can be up to a meter long.
The nervous system has two parts, called the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system due to their location in the body. The central nervous system (CNS) includes the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. It is safely contained within the skull and vertebral canal of the spine. All of the other nerves in the body are part of the peripheral nervous system (PNS).
Regardless of where they are in the body, a distinction can also be made between voluntary and involuntary nervous system. The voluntary nervous system (somatic nervous system) controls all the things that we are aware of and can consciously influence, such as moving our arms, legs and other parts of the body.
The involuntary nervous system (vegetative or autonomic nervous system) regulates the processes in the body that we cannot consciously influence. It is constantly active, regulating things such as breathing, heart beat and metabolic processes. It does this by receiving signals from the brain and passing them on to the body. It can also send signals in the other direction – from the body to the brain – providing your brain with information about how full your bladder is or how quickly your heart is beating, for example. The involuntary nervous system can react quickly to changes, altering processes in the body to adapt. For instance, if your body gets too hot, your involuntary nervous system increases the blood circulation to your skin and makes you sweat more to cool your body down again.
Both the central and peripheral nervous systems have voluntary and involuntary parts. However, whereas these two parts are closely linked in the central nervous system, they are usually separate in other areas of the body.
The involuntary nervous system is made up of three parts:
The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems usually do opposite things in the body. The sympathetic nervous system prepares your body for physical and mental activity. It makes your heart beat faster and stronger, opens your airways so you can breathe more easily, and inhibits digestion.
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for bodily functions when we are at rest: it stimulates digestion, activates various metabolic processes and helps us to relax. But the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems do not always work in opposite directions; they sometimes complement each other too.
The enteric nervous system is a separate nervous system for the bowel, which, to a great extent, autonomously regulates bowel motility in digestion.
IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.
Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. We do not offer individual consultations.
Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.