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Internet of Everything

Since Cisco began discussing the Internet of Everything (IoE) last year, two questions have arisen consistently:

1) What is the difference between IoE and the Internet of Things (IoT)?
According to Cisco, IoE brings together people (humans), process (manages the way people, data, and things work together), data (rich information), and things (inanimate objects and devices) to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before—turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.

To better understand this definition, it is helpful to take a quick look at the evolution of the Internet. In the early 1990s, devices connected to the Internet were essentially “fixed.” For example, you went to your desk to use your PC, dumb terminal, or other device. At its peak, this first wave reached about 200 million devices by the late 1990s.

Around the year 2000, devices started to come with you. Remember lugging around your first “brick” mobile phone? As the number of both fixed and mobile devices (including machines) ballooned, the number of things connected to the Internet increased, reaching about 10 billion this year. This wave of Internet growth ushered in IoT, or as I sometimes call it, the “Age of the Device.”


Cisco believes the third wave of Internet growth has already begun. As the things connected to the Internet are joined by people and more intelligent data (as Cisco’s definition describes), IoE could potentially connect 50 billion people, data, and things by 2020.

So, what is the difference between IoT and IoE? As the evolution of the Internet suggests, IoE (four pillars: people, process, data, and things) builds on top of IoT (one pillar: things). In addition, IoE further advances the power of the Internet to improve business and industry outcomes, and ultimately make people’s lives better by adding to the progress of IoT.

2) How do we address security and privacy in an even more connected world?
Hacking attacks are becoming a daily occurrence, and it seems no organization is immune. Given how easy it is to steal and misuse information in today’s connected world, it’s only natural to be concerned (even fearful) about this problem in the future as people, process, data, and things all become connected in IoE.

Professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a leading thinker on the subject of connectedness. He recently presented several interesting ideas that I believe can play an important role in addressing some of the security and privacy concerns that could, if left unaddressed, slow the progress of IoE.

In addition to these ideas, the network itself will play an important role in improving IoE security. Currently, network intelligence is mostly centralized and often resides far away from the “edge” of the Internet. As networks evolve along with IoE, the ability to make intelligent decisions based on data as it enters and flows over the Internet will be more distributed (located where ever it’s needed). With this ability, security threats, for example, could not only be stopped, but also identified and located before any harm is done.

While no one knows for certain how IoE will evolve, I believe that, just as in the past, individuals, organizations, companies, and governments will come together to solve the security and privacy issues that arise. I also believe that technology itself will be an integral part of the solution. In the end, we determine the outcome. It is up to all of us to get involved to ensure that as IoE unfolds, the Internet continues to be a powerful force for improving people’s lives.

As a futurist, my blogs often raise more questions than they provide answers. Please let me know if I answered your questions about the differences between IoE and IoT, and addressed your concerns about security and privacy in an even more connected world.

If you will be in Berkeley, California on March 28, come join me at The Economist Innovation Forum where I’ll be discussing how IoE will redefine the speed of business.

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  1. Thank for the teaching, the IoE and IoT technology is strange to me though. Sir, i really want to know more about internet security. Sir, is there any way u can assist me with a scholarship to study CCNA. I really want u to help me build my career in networking. I have been trying to get certify since 2005. Thanks sir.

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  2. The concept of the Internet of Things has been around for a while now. What do you feel will be the catalyst, to propel adoption, across the general public?


    • @Santos, thanks for the comment. IoT is rapidly being adopted by the public already (consider all the consumer devices that are being connected – phones, tablets, TVs, DVRs, gaming consoles, thermostats to name just a few.) Already about 10 billion things are connecting to the Internet, and everyday we read about new things being connected (cars, energy systems, medical devices, etc).

      However, more work is needed. These systems need to interoperate, be secure, be manageable, easy to use, etc. We are very active in these areas, working closely with our partners to ensure interoperability, etc., via open industry standards.



  3. Thanks for the definitions of IoE and IoT, Dave. I agree that the more all-encompassing term is more accurate: just wonder if it is too identified with Cisco’s marketing to supplant IoT. I guess we’ll see!

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  4. Dave,
    Thanks for this insightful article. We are interested in your thoughts and Cisco’s vision of IoE as part of out Internet of Things Consortium. We are a San Francisco based nonprofit who’s mission is to accelerate the development of the IoT/IoE ecosystem with a focus on interoperability and usability, data openness and security, and market development.. We would love to have Cisco’s participation in this effort and I would like to invite you and Cisco to our upcoming launch meeting on April 9th. Please shoot me an email if you’re interested.

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  5. Hi Dave,

    I feel the concept of IoE, is nothing more than IoT itself, if you think deep enough. When u consider the objective of IoT, the whole point of connecting devices to a network, is to interact with device by using the device as an input or an output to a function of data processing. Which means the ‘additional’ things you consider as part of IoE (data, processes & people) are actually inherent in the concept of IoT. Hence what I feel is, while its important to highlight the role of people, processes and data in the concept of IoT, its not necessary to consider them as additional components which were not identified inside IoT. May be Im not thinking deep enough. Thanks.


  6. @Kushar – thanks. Yes, IoE is grounded in IoT, but explicitly calling out people, process and data is an important distinction – people, process, and data are not always considered when describing IoT.


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