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6 Need to Know Terms in IoT

Terms in IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is big, probably way bigger than you think. Experts agree — alongside AI, it’s expected to be one of the most transformative technologies of this decade.

There are a lot of feelings about that. An article from ZDNet warns, “IoT under attack: Security is still not good enough on these edge devices.”  One writer says, “IoT Needn’t Be the Internet of Threats.” Another explains, “Chinese IoT suppliers expose UK businesses to espionage and data theft.” 

It’s an acronymonious space (sorry, this blog is going to include a lot of acronyms, I really couldn’t help it) with a lot of newly popular jargon, buzzwords, and concepts.

But whatever you think about it all, you should probably start by understanding what all of “it” is. Let’s define some of the key terms in IoT, what they mean, and finally, how Onymos can start to help you leverage IoT securely (and, in fairness, at least 50% of that is avoiding China).


The big one. You already know IoT stands for Internet of Things. A narrow definition of IoT might be that it’s a network of physical objects that exchange data. That’s true, but it doesn’t describe the breadth of IoT ecosystems, which include apps for visualizing and controlling devices, cloud connectivity, and access to all of the resources and systems on the Internet. 

IoT encompasses everything from Romanian “smart forests,” where acoustic sensors listen out for illegal logging to… toasters with companion apps. 

Depending on your industry, you might even hear variations on IoT like IoMT (Internet of Medical Things), IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), or IoBT (Internet of Battlefield Things).


IoT is often identified as a subset of M2M, machine-to-machine communication. M2M itself refers to direct communication between machines. That certainly does include IoT, but when using the term M2M specifically, we’re generally referring to two devices using a point-to-point communication pattern — in other words, having a simple two-way conversation.

Your (probably) wireless mouse is (probably) an example of an M2M device. The mouse sends signals, like button clicks, to the computer, and the computer will return information to the mouse, like the cursor’s position on the monitor. 

On the other hand, IoT devices are usually part of more robust systems that include a larger number of machines and their asynchronous conversations. 

Edge Computing

Edge computing is closely associated with IoT. A device that uses edge computing is processing, analyzing, and/or transforming data closer to its source rather than sending it somewhere else for that, like the cloud. 

Suppose you have a healthcare app that requires new users to upload images of their Covid-19 vaccine card. Your software engineers could use Onymos DocID for its on-device machine learning to identify whether or not the image a user uploads is actually valid. Not only is that a great example of edge computing, but it’s also a good way to illustrate how edge computing isn’t an “IoT-only” concept (and not all IoT systems incorporate edge computing). 


The late Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens once infamously exclaimed, “The Internet is a series of tubes!” Maybe he just used VPNs a lot. VPNs, or virtual private networks, are encrypted tunnels through the Internet. VPNs can use one or more methods to encrypt the data passing through them.

When sold as a consumer technology, VPNs are primarily advertised as being able to hide a user’s IP address — but that’s just as useful to IoT devices. Some of the most common types of cyber attacks, like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and man-in-the-middle attacks, require the attacker to know the target’s IP.


IoT devices communicate with each other through a messaging protocol, which we can conceptualize as a sort of “language.” MQTT is one of these protocols, and I have a separate blog post all about it! Suffice it to say that MQTT is the most popular protocol today for its flexibility and scalability.

“There are lighter-weight protocols available (the Constrained Application Protocol, or CoAP, being one of the most notable) that use fewer system resources and consume less bandwidth, but that makes them harder to scale.

“And while there are more robust protocols with more features (looking at you, AMQP), MQTT seems to be in that Goldilocks Zone for IoT engineers.”

TLS Certificates

We can think of Transport Layer Security certificates as a lot like virtual IDs, comparable to your state-issued driver’s license. 

Just like how you can use an ID to access secure facilities or services, a TLS certificate can be used to access nodes (devices and apps) on an IoT network. They enable secure communication between devices and servers, providing important security features like authentication, encryption, key management (the secure storage of public and private encryption keys), and more.

Onymos IoT and System Integration

Onymos Edge is part of our Features-as-a-Service platform, and a universal translator for IoT protocols, that simplifies and secures communication between network nodes. 

But an end-to-end IoT ecosystem also includes cloud connectivity and user-facing apps for device management and data visualization. Our drop-in solutions like Onymos DataStore and Access have you covered there too. We use the best-recommended practices, the latest security processes, and rigorous third-party penetration testing to ensure they can defend against even the most tenacious cyber attacks. That’s why our customers trust Onymos to build IoT products and healthcare systems deployed in hospitals and pharmacies today. 

Your software engineers can use Onymos Features-as-a-Service themselves, or you can use our team of system integrators to build your IoT ecosystem for you. 

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