IOT: Powering the digital economy

12 tech terms you need to know

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The devices and systems we use seem to change or get updated on an almost daily basis.

As our lives become increasingly interconnected, a range of new words and phrases are being added to the technological lexicon.

Here's a few that have already popped up during "IoT: Powering the Digital Economy," a CNBC special report looking at how smart technology is radically changing the way we live.

Artificial Intelligence

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Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a term that can mean different things to different people.

For its part, analytics business SAS states that AI "makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks."

Autonomous vehicle

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A vehicle, such as a car or truck, that uses technology and sensors to drive without the need for human assistance.

Uber, Tesla and Hyundai are just some of the big businesses working on self-driving technologies.


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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security describes biometrics as being "unique physical characteristics" that can be utilized for "automated recognition." Think fingerprints, iris scans and voice recognition.


Blockchain technology
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A distributed digital ledger that records transactions.

Instead of different parties in a transaction keeping their own records of that transaction — which could potentially differ and cause confusion — blockchain creates one "master" record. This cannot be changed once a transaction has been recorded.

As technology giant IBM notes: "All parties must give consensus before a new transaction is added to the network."

Cloud computing

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The term "cloud computing" has been used with increasing frequency over the last few years.

It's described by Microsoft Azure as "the delivery of computing services" like software, servers, storage and databases, over the internet, or "cloud."


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A cashless method of paying for goods and services. In the U.K., contactless payment technology can usually be used for payments of £30 or under, although there are some exceptions.

Contactless payment technology can be incorporated into a range of devices, from debit and credit cards to smartwatches and smartphones.


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DDOS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. The U.K.'s National Crime Agency (NCA) says that DDOS attacks take place when a group of "compromised, controlled computers" send messages to another computer or server simultaneously.

The messages are sent involuntarily – that is to say without the consent of the computer's owner – the NCA adds. DDOS attacks are malicious and can make websites slow down and crash, making them inaccessible to users.


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An amalgamation of the words "financial" and "technology."

According to the Central Bank of Ireland, fintech "describes the use of technology to deliver financial services and products to consumers."

Examples of fintech include mobile banking and contactless payments.


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As the Royal Horticultural Society states, hydroponics refers to "the science of growing plants without using soil, by feeding them on mineral nutrient salts dissolved in water."

Some hydroponic systems are located underground and use LED technology to grow crops such as micro greens and salad leaves throughout the year.

Internet of things

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The European Union describes the internet of things as merging "physical and virtual worlds, creating smart environments."

Think of devices that are connected to the internet and able to "talk" to one another. One example would be a thermostat in your home that you control with your smartphone from your office.


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Wearable technology includes devices like smartwatches and fitness bands.

These devices are usually connected to the internet and can carry out a range of tasks, from paying for goods and services using contactless technology to monitoring and analyzing a user's heart rate.