I often like to ask audiences “What do cows, shoes, and cars have in common? My answer—the Internet of Things.
Born sometime between 2008 and 2009, when more things became connected to the Internet than people, the Internet of Things has the potential to close the poverty gap, improve distribution of the world’s resources, and help us understand our planet so we can be more proactive and less reactive.
In 2010, there were 12.5 billion devices connected to the Internet. Looking to the future, Cisco IBSG predicts there will be 25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015, and 50 billion by 2020. But how will having lots of things connected to the Internet change everything?
The answer lies in how humans learn. People process data and turn it into information that can be used in our daily lives. From the results, we gain knowledge and, ultimately, wisdom. With literally billions of sensors connected to the Internet, our ability to gather massive amounts of data has never been greater. With the right filtering and analytics, people across all disciplines will turn this data into new knowledge and wisdom that will change our lives for the better.
Already, advances such as Cisco’s Planetary Skin and HP’s central nervous system for the earth (CeNSE) are under way that will let us sense what the planet is doing in real time. This will allow us to be more proactive in our response to climate change and save lives by being more prepared for natural disasters. Another possibility is the placement of sensors at critical points across the country’s infrastructure—such as bridges and tunnels—that alert workers of problems long before tragic accidents occur.
Although the promise of the Internet of Things is great, several barriers threaten to slow its development. These roadblocks include the transition to IPv6, establishing a common set of standards, and developing energy sources for the millions—even billions—of minute sensors.
Even so, I’m optimistic. As businesses, governments, standards bodies, and academia work together to solve these challenges, the Internet of Things will continue to progress and change the world as we know it today. How quickly we get there is up to us.