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Ethernet Turns 40 — and Continues To Influence the Technology Landscape

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

 – Winston Churchill

It is nearly impossible – even foolish – to look ahead without looking back. Glimpses into the past can give us inspiration for new innovations and even teach us what not to do. Behind every great technological innovation is a solid legacy product or solution that inspired it or played an integral part in its development. Behind the printing press was paper and block printing. Behind the telephone was the telegraph. And behind the Internet of Everything (IoE)? Ethernet.Ethernet Turns 40

Today – May 22 – marks the 40th anniversary of Ethernet. In 1973, technologist and 3Com founder Robert Metcalfe designed the Ethernet to allow computer devices to communicate with each other using radio-like signals over an antenna cable. Long used for reliable and efficient access to information, its implications on the networking world reach far past the local area network (LAN).

Over the course of 40 years, our quest for connecting the unconnected continues. Our connections have become increasingly complex since Metcalfe was tasked with connecting several Xerox computers to a single printer, and we need to understand the possibilities in both the number and value of our modern-day connections.

In a previous blog post, How the Internet of Everything Will Change the World…for the Better, I referenced Metcalfe’s law: the power of the network is greater than the sum of its parts. True. But the parts need to be recognized and optimized in order to maximize this power. The Internet of Everything is a large-scale metaphor for Metcalfe’s law. The combined connections of people, processes, data, and things don’t just amount to a list of things that are connected. The actionable insights that exist with the power of networked connectivity exponentially create the Internet of Everything.

Ethernet has helped further the progress that these connections – and the insights gleaned from them – will have on the Internet of Everything. So, today we celebrate not only the introduction of Ethernet, but also the technologies it made possible.


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Anytime, Anywhere Efficiency


As today’s workforce continues to become more mobile and adopt the “on-the-go” mentality both at home and at work, their needs are also evolving. Companies need to respond. Empowering employees to work anytime, anywhere will improve efficiencies and increase productivity. When the staff takes their work outside of office walls, an environment of knowledge, sharing and creativity across local, regional and global teams is created naturally. The Internet of Everything (IoE) is a clear driver in this new collaborative environment as companies continue to connect more people, devices, processes and data.  This collaborative environment, in turn, also empowers a company as a whole through the insights and data exchanged.

In one of my previous posts, How Not Where Is What Matters Most in a Collaborative Work Environment, I noted that mobile and remote workers have higher performance ratings than traditional workers. Are these connections increasing the comfort level with utilizing remote resources on a consistent basis, such as remote mentoring or collaboration with global teams? Is it the extended connection to global colleagues and customers to obtain better insight and decisions? Or, is it the combination? Read More »

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Connect This With That: What Is Next?

I wonder – what will connect tomorrow? What is going to connect next?

Thinking about the countless ways that different people, process, data and things will connect over upcoming years on the Internet of Everything can be almost overwhelming. As I mentioned in my last blog post, not a moment goes by in the day when I am not thinking of how different objects can work together to improve our world. Some of those connections are realistic; others are more visionary, difficult to grasp outside the context of IoE.

Cisco is already telling the story of these connections. You can explore the potentialities of the future for yourself through Connect This With That, an interactive experience that demonstrates the “how” behind the connections of today and tomorrow. On IoE, it’s possible for any two seemingly unconnected items to work together, creating a new reality for our world’s inhabitants. Imagine, as you pull in for a football game, the stadium automatically sends information to your car about where the best parking is located. As you enter the game, your wallet then talks to the admissions booth, so no tickets are required. What else is possible? For example, what are the technologies and products, current and future, that make it possible for an air quality index to talk to a school desk? Can a health organization connect with your bike, measuring average exercise patterns?

CTWT Screenshot

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Weird? Or Previously Unexplored?

A connected toothbrush that gives you a virtual checkup every time you brush – is that weird, or near-term reality?

I recently came across the article “25 Weirdest Things in the ‘Internet of Things’” in InfoWorld, which focuses on the different – and what many might consider unorthodox – ways in which the Internet is now playing a part in our everyday lives. The article outlines the many things that could someday be connected to the Internet, and the chain reaction that these connections(and their insights) will have.


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