In Class Exercise I: Defining the Internet of Things

Learning Objective

The Internet of Things is an incredibly large, amorphous and intangible concept for many. As a result of the scale of this vision, it has been described that “we each see the piece closest to us”. In other words, the concept is so large, we often focus on explaining the parts which are accessible to us. Knowing that it is hard to define and that disciplines and practitioners often hold different perspectives and views on what IoT means, this exercise challenges you as a multidisciplinary group to develop a shared understanding and build a coordinated definition of what the IoT really means.

The goal is to draw on the individual perspectives to ‘patch holes’ in individual understanding and facilitate a shared conversation about what the nature, goals and value of the internet of things might be.

By the end of this exercise, students will:

Time Required

30 minutes - 1 hour (depending on time)



Imagine you’re about to go on TV as part of a technology news segment. You’ve been asked to explain the Internet of Things to the world. How would you do it?

Part 1: Brainstorm

  1. Divide the class into small groups of approximately 4-6 persons.

  2. For 20 minutes, each person should write down as many things that you feel represent the big ideas behind the Internet of Things, its features, and what it should offer. This should be completed in the small groups and using the post-its provided. Discussion should be limited at this point.

  3. The groups should next spend 10-20 minutes, reviewing, organizing and prioritizing these elements (affinity diagramming).

Part 2: Distill

Using the organized information, the group should develop the following:

For the oral presentation: Imagine you are explaining the IoT to a lay person (someone with no prior knowledge). How can you clearly explain why they might want to take notice of it? Why is it relevant to them? What is it going to do for them? What are the things that they need to know? and How do you explain the complexity of it succinctly.

Part 3: Reflect

Once all groups have reported out (and if there is time remaining), reflect on the similarities and differences in the ways the groups understand and represent the IoT vision, and the facets that they focus on. Possible points of discussion include:

Submitting your work:

Create a Post in the #projects channel on slack of your one sentence and explanation by the end of class and include a photo of your brainstorming work / process.