Cisco predicts 50 billion things connected by 2020 – what does it mean to connect?
Cisco predicts that by 2020 50 billion things will be connected in the Internet of Things (IoT). That’s 4 billion people, 25 million apps. Wow! Of course, it doesn’t seem like anything in the tech world is measured with less than millions or billions. Data collection seems to invent new terms just to describe how much bigger and more impressive it is.
But what does 50 billion connections mean? Connections themselves are evolving. Let’s look at where we came from to see what this 2020 prognostication is heading to become.
Getting on board the Internet
At first, there was darkness . . . and then the Internet was born. It was a brave new world of connecting from being unconnected. What is the “world wide web: and how do I get there? Computers connected to other computers, displaying stagnate pages of text with a couple images, and nary a video. The internet was more like a 24/7 infinite array of billboards with information and advertisements. If you wanted interaction, you would call or connect somehow with a real world entity – a person or business. It took several years (eons in tech industry lifetime) for the platforms to actually collect information and even a couple more (eons) to finally interact with the user. Hence in the beginning it was called “surfing”. There wasn’t much to do beside read page after page. It was boring to stick to one site too long so you’d skip along the top lines to see whether the site was worth reading. The pages took forever to load so you might want to keep going unless you really though it had potential.
Pushing the envelope
Mobile phones extended the reach of connections further and further out on the long tail. At first people used cellphones to say hello to the real world by talking to other people – from anywhere. It was a big deal to not have to be at your desk or kitchen. It made making all those phone calls “easier” because it was always with you, but that’s all it did. And then there was the iPhone, and the world hasn’t been the same since. (Lots of things do that but this is one event people remember where they were when they found out/saw one/bought one kinda thing.)
The cell phone also had to evolve to inform, to report, and to transact. So now there were more than computers talking to computers. Around the time the term IoT was coined in 1999, other “things” emerged as well, such as a spike in RFID tags. When RFID made tracking shipments and items within shipments into shorter feedback loops and eventually real time, connecting that information pumped up the volume. As more systems and processes switched from analog to digital, other types of nodes (and technology) were added from surveillance, operations, and transportation. When the friction of cost smoothed considerably, it made more and more sense to connect that information to the Internet.
Act smarter, not harder
Connections then became more intelligent, linking you to whom or what you want and interacting in ways that increasingly made more sense. Your phone could tell the weather and traffic, how to get from here to there, or what was near that you didn’t know. Ads on your computer started popping up according to your browsing. The internet was getting to know a bit about you, not just vice versa.
Today you can also direct physical actions utilizing those “things.” Lock your front door. Check the thermostat. Feed the cat. Industry can do that and so much more. Sensors are planted with crops that constantly provide feedback to the soil’s properties, such as moisture content, mineral composition, and density. The automated watering systems then provide precise amounts meter by meter, not acre by acre, determined by real time monitoring. For utility companies, wireless, battery-less sensors are placed on power lines to determine flow efficiency and predict failure. And ah yes, cameras capture you running the red light.
Underway; Making Way
The next iteration underway is autonomous connections. The people, products and services you want will emerge by learning your patterns and desires. Your “things” know your environment and come to you to let you know your milk is low or expiring. Your utility bill is spiking because a faucet is dripping, and you missed yoga on Tuesday but you can make it up Friday because the meeting was cancelled. You find out how your father in another town is doing with his diabetes by reading the blood sugar tests, seeing his exercise levels, and receiving the care program feedback. By following social media and checking your calendar, IoT tells you exactly latest-best gadget your niece wants for her birthday next week. (It’s in your Amazon cart with her address for sending… and a text is queued to tell her parents you got it … ready?)
The Edge and back (or vice versa)
Notice the shift in information. Wherein data used to be created at the core and disseminated out to nodes, now greater than 40% of Internet of Things data is processed at the ends (The Edge). Learning happens at the billions of sensors and pulls into decision points; however, those decision points are not necessarily a core. For the corporate world, distributed comprehension is underway, allowing for edge computations to stay local to the observation at the tactical level such as in the agriculture example above. Higher level data bubbles its way to the various interested parties, such as marketing, operations, or corporate strategy. Each player seeks and interprets their “swim lane” information for further efficiency or profit.
What does that mean for the Personal IoT experience? A million dollar question, well actually it’s a $4 TRILLION dollar question. Your produce and fresh meat will have individual (edible) sensors to make sure they’re not over ripe. The options and opinions for better health should explode. The biggest impact may be though in the things you don’t realize are happening, as they already are. There’s some hurdles with scalability and security as you can imagine, but some of the best and brightest have already voted with their bank accounts. Stay tuned for more:)
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