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Internet of Everything

This week I had the privilege of speaking at Cisco Live 2013 about the coming explosion in connectivity among people, processes, data, and things, which Cisco calls the Internet of Everything (IoE).

This massive technological and societal shift promises to transform and accelerate our lives in profound ways as the number of connected objects soars from 10 billion today to 50 billion (and rising) by 2020.

Yet even before I left for Orlando or gave my first Cisco Live presentation, I saw ample evidence that IoE is not just a vision of the future. Increasingly, it is the Internet of today—and evolving rapidly all around us.

IoE represents the orchestration of a bevy of emerging technologies, including Big Data analytics, video, mobility, cloud, and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. And it will ultimately infuse almost everything—roads, jet-engine parts, shoes, refrigerators, soil, supermarket shelves, you name it—with cheap, tiny sensors that will generate terabytes of data to be sifted for key insights.

But what good are cool, futuristic technologies if grumpy passengers still get backed up at the airport?

The good news is that nascent IoE technologies are already putting a dent in long airport lines. Before I arrived at San Francisco airport for my trip to Orlando, I knew that my gate had been changed — thanks to an M2M-driven prompt on my smartphone! Having scannable boarding passes on our smartphones enabled us to bypass lines and get to our seats faster (not to mention those aforementioned sensors in airplane parts, which will cut maintenance-related delays and save airlines tons of money through manpower optimization).

However, I did notice a few hiccups along the way. Some airport workers were not up to speed on the new technologies, and frustrated passengers had to explain why they were holding up their smartphones instead of paper documents. But these represent our current transitional phase of IoE adoption. Change is never easy or seamless, but I predict that many of these technologies soon will be commonplace and much better understood. And more lines will shrink.

That is, if the Universal Orlando Resort is any indication. Before Cisco Live commenced, I had the opportunity to stop by the theme park and have a little fun! My first impression is that it is already an IoE wonderland, where some relatively simple applications are transforming and enhancing the ways in which people interact with one another and with technology. Once again, the ability to manage long lines is one of the most visible benefits of this change. I saw customers with smartphones checking for real-time updates on the length of lines to particular attractions; others kept track of family members who had gone off to enjoy separate rides. In short, technology enabled them to maximize their time at the theme park for maximum fun.

Universal, like many other theme parks, has also monetized those wait times in new ways. For example, the Fast Pass enables customers to bypass the lines—if they pay a premium. The pass is intelligent and connected, allowing the benefit to be used once. Smart targeting makes it available for purchase where and when lines are longest (and frustration is highest).

Meanwhile, the rides themselves are getting more personalized and interactive. Whether the theme is Star Wars, Transformers, or a disaster movie, there are new ways to integrate visitors into the experience in real time—their image, their reactions, and so forth.

When I purchased my ticket, Universal also took a digital image of my thumbprint. So the ticket—and the storage locker and, in the near future, additional purchases—all matched to my thumbprint, ensuring security and making the overall experience faster and more efficient (and, yes, further cutting time on lines!).

Throughout my entire experience at Universal, I wasn’t just benefiting from data; I was generating it. Reams of data, along with all the other guests. Universal had a clear picture of my interests, my preferences, and my purchases. All of which can be analyzed for trends and applied to create an even better customer experience in the future.

Universal Orlando has had great success in playing up its science fiction themes. But IoE technologies are another story. From what I have seen, IoE is science fact and already enhancing our lives.

Do you have a story about IoE in action? Share your stories with me, @JosephMBradley, on twitter!

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