The Internet of Things: Everything and Tomorrow

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7 March 2014 | 0

The now famous smart fridge may well be a part of it, together with our toasters, but we can also expect a modicum of smarts in our traffic lights and street lamps, airport runways and aircraft wheels. Smart hospital trolleys will make it easier to count our corridor patients (and re-equip ambulances) while smart collars will mind our domestic pets and farm animals.

It hardly matters whether we call it the Internet of Things (IoT) or, in Cisco’s preferred term, the Internet of Everything. The point is that the next generation Internet will bring us into a joined-up world. The tin of beans may not be smart but the pallet probably will be — and the truck bed, forklift, conveyor and waypoint. But each bean tin will have its own RFID tag. The point is that anything can be connected where there is potential value in so doing. Tracking goods in supply chains and retailing is obvious. Monitoring volumes and levels and throughput and any other variables is clearly of enormous potential significance, from traffic flows to floods to the vital signs of medical patients and determined exercisers. The migration paths of wild creatures offers scientific and potentially economic value. So does the movement of people in a shopping centre.

It is not the things or indeed the connectivity in itself that generates the value. It is in the data and the consequent increase in our understanding and therefore control or change for the better in delivering products or services, Ian Foddering, Cisco Systems

Today’s smart devices will continue to proliferate from an estimated 1.5 billion PCs and around a billion phones that are currently web-connected. But they are being joined by geometric growth in other smart devices, mostly dedicated single-purpose units but probably capable of multiple functions and occasional re-programming. IDC reckons perhaps 16 billion devices of all kinds will be web-connected by next year while a recent forecast by Ericsson says the total will be 50 billion devices of all kinds by 2020. Cisco estimates there are already over 200 connectable things per person in the world today. Given all the sheer range of possibilities, that 50 billion is probably conservative but of course the governing factor is the time scale.

“The Internet of Things is a term that has been around for a long time. It’s about providing connectivity to things that were previously unconnected,” says Ian Foddering, Cisco Systems CTO for UK and Ireland. “But we use Internet of Everything as a term to bring together people, process, data and things. The things have the connectivity, but the other three are where the value lies and in many, many different ways. In fact, I think the enormous possibilities that the IoE opens up are just beginning to be understood. We are producing masses of unstructured data from multiple sources that we would not have considered or thought of bringing together just a few years ago. The insights and the value that can be derived from stuff we would not even have recognised before will begin to drive some fundamental decisions around the way that business and government operate, for example.”

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