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Four years ago, Dana Blouin was working as a network technician at a communications company in Rhode Island. Today he's working on a PhD in Thailand, conducting research on the Internet of Things (IoT).

His radical lifestyle change underscores just how big of a thing the Internet of Things really is — a fact that's especially appropriate to recognize today, the fourth annual Internet of Things Day.

The IoT is going to going to change everything, Blouin said.

"When the opportunity to do research on the Internet of Things presented itself, I knew I had to jump on it. The writing is on the wall: the IoT will impact the world just as much if not more than the Internet itself. I wanted to be part of that, and now that I am, I can't imagine doing anything else," he said. 

Blouin, a CMSWire contributor, is conducting research at the Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology (SIIT) at Thammasat University on low power IPv6 wireless networks — small sensors that can communicate reliably with Internet enabled devices.

"It's an exciting time," he said. "Once devices start working together on common platforms, the rest of the pieces of the IoT will fall into place and we will be living better for it."

Ubiquitous Connections

Making the switch from industry to academia is a "scary prospect," Blouin said.

But for me the idea of being involved early with the Internet of Things and having a chance to make a difference far outweighed any feelings of reluctance. The exciting part about the IoT is that everything you do has implications across so many fields. The technology will enable us to make improvements in so many ways … the possibilities are really endless."

By anyone's estimate, the potential of the IoT is massive. Gartner has projected that growth in the IoT will include 26 billion units installed by 2020, which will result in billions of dollars of additional value for suppliers. 

During his keynote address at 2014 International CES, Cisco CEO John Chambers pegged the value of the evolving Internet of Things (IoT) — or Internet of Everything, as Cisco calls it — at $19 trillion.

The IoT is loosely defined as connections between devices, cities and people. But the IoT is actually a collection of vertical markets and industries — and references the way they will be affected by connected devices and consumers.

Chambers, in his keynote, gave many concrete examples: Cities saving money and increasing revenue by monitoring parking, lighting and water systems; connected homes with smart security and entertainment systems controlled by mobile apps; and, eventually, smart healthcare through an array of monitoring systems.

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Look around: There are already Philips light bulbs, Audi cars and Samsung laundry machines that can communicate with smart phones. Google has spent billions of dollars in the past few months buying up companies that specialize in smart appliances and machine learning, including Boston Dynamics, Nest and DeepMind. 

There is an ever growing array of wearable technology. Jawbone's UP and the Fitbit Force are two of the more popular connected devices you can strap on to track your activity levels. Then there's Samsung's new fitness minded smart watch, the Gear Fit.

Yep, there are already more things than you can fathom connected directly or indirectly to the IoT.

Hug a Plug, Squeeze a Sensor

According tot he  IoT Council and Postscapes, sponsors of the fourth annual IoT Day, today is a chance for the #IoT Community to "join a Meetup, host a hackathon or just share a beer or coffee with a friend or fellow collaborator focused around the Internet of Things and its implications."