NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — After the dot-com bubble's bursting destroyed my income in 2001, I became intrigued by what is now called the "Internet of Things." (IoT)

I even gave a talk on it. At Stanford. Opposite David Brin . The crowd wisely followed him.

My Stanford talk described a world where sensors and motes acted as clients on wireless networks that would let you find your stuff, control your appliances, and monitor your health. I expected what I called "always on" technologies to revolutionize computing and daily life.

Thanks to lower-power chips, an IPv6 Internet that can give addresses to trillions of things and a few successful start-ups, this vision is now starting to come true. Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), and IBM (IBM) have all announced major "Internet of Things" initiatives, all in the last month. An open source operating system is being developed.

What Is the IoT?

The simplest way to describe the Internet of Things is this. Nearly all products can collect data. Your t-shirt can collect data on you. Your car and refrigerator can collect data on themselves. Your keys are always somewhere. The IoT collects this data, analyzes it, transmits that information through wireless networks, and gives you, or someone or some program you designate, control over it.

Industry is rushing toward this as fast as it can.

The Boeing BAE 787 will have enough sensors to create 500 Gigabytes of data on every trip. Monitoring and reacting to such data can reduce waste by $150 billion, according to General Electric GE, which has put $150 million into a joint-venture with VMware (VMW) aimed at doing that analysis.

Where Is the IoT?

If you have a Google Nest thermostat, you are part of the Internet of Things. If you wear a FitBit wristband to log your workouts, you're part of the Internet of Things. If you buy security products from Smarthome, you're part of the Internet of Things.

Today's Internet of Things products are one-offs, each linking to networks in their own way, usually through WiFi, and each dedicated to a specific task – heating, heart rate monitoring, security. What attracts a company like Intel to the field is the possibility of creating standards that will cover everything from motes that monitor the moisture in your soil to the systems managing urban infrastructure .

IBM and AT&T are going at this from the top-down. Their alliance is focused first on city governments and mid-sized utilities, analyzing data from police video cameras, optimizing traffic lights during rush hours, and monitoring social media for crime patterns.

Google is going at this from the bottom-up, not only buying Nest for $3.2 billion but also buying Deepmind, which creates learning algorithms on which IoT programs might be based, for $400 million. It sees its Android operating system, now used for tablets and smartphones, being extended into every area of everyday life -- controlling your car, telling you what's in your fridge, even monitoring your heart rate.