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The Internet of Everything: Where Technology and Innovation Meet To Make the World a Better Place

What will the future be like? As depicted in today’s popular movies and books, the future is either one of bright promise—where the world’s greatest problems have been solved by technology and greater human enlightenment—or it’s a dystopian world where today’s problems have only gotten worse, technology has gone bad, and the very survival of humanity is at risk.

As Cisco’s chief futurist, it’s my job to think about what the world will look like in a few years, and how our actions today will impact that future. And while I’m not ready to put on my rose-colored glasses just yet, I do have an optimistic view of what the future may bring, enabled by the Internet of Everything (IoE). Within 10 years, there will be 50 billion connected things in the world, with trillions of connections among them. These connections will change the world for the better in ways we can’t even imagine today. But here are just a few things I can imagine:

Better supply of food: Sensors all along the food supply chain, together with Big Data analytics and the intelligence of the cloud, will help us optimize the delivery of food from “farm to fork.” Sensors in the field will be combined with weather forecasts and other data to trigger irrigation and harvest times for each crop. And sensors on the food itself will alert merchants and consumers about when the “sell by” and “use by” dates are approaching to prevent spoilage. All of this will significantly reduce food waste—which today amounts to about one-third of total world food production.

Better supply of water: Similarly, about 30 percent of our water supply is lost due to leaks and waste. Just one faucet or leaky pipe dripping three times a minute will waste more than 100 gallons of water a year. “Smart” pipes can reduce this waste significantly by sensing and pinpointing the location of leaks that would otherwise go undetected for months or years.

Better access to education: Affordable access to education is one of the most important ways to lift people out of poverty. Soon, time and distance will no longer limit access to an engaging, affordable, high-quality education. With connection speeds going up, and equipment costs going down, distance learning is going beyond traditional online classes to create widely accessible immersive, interactive, real-time learning experiences.

Better access to healthcare: Urbanization and population growth are putting a strain on healthcare resources—especially in rural areas. After the devastating 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, Cisco was a strategic partner in creating a networked medical delivery system, including four telehealth networks that allow doctors to meet with and examine patients remotely. But those capabilities are just the beginning of what IoE will make possible. Soon, women with high-risk pregnancies will be able to wear a tiny, always-on fetal monitoring electronic “tattoo,” which will communicate to the cloud whenever the woman is within range of a wireless network. The analytics capabilities in the cloud will alert doctors at the first sign of trouble, and even tell the mother-to-be when she needs to drink more water, or get more rest.

While sensors and machine-to-machine communication are important parts of these solutions, it’s not just the “Internet of Things” that is making all of this possible—it’s the Internet of Everything—the networked connection of people, process, data, and things. And Big Data analytics is what brings the intelligence to all of these connections, enabling new kinds of processes, and helping us make smarter decisions.

I’ve highlighted just four areas where IoE will change the world for the better. But there is not a single part of life that will not be impacted in some way—whether that means improving your drive to work, speeding you through the checkout line at the grocery store, saving energy through smart lighting, or minimizing your wait at a traffic light. The Internet of Everything is not a silver bullet that can solve all the world’s woes, but with the spark of human innovation, IoE can be the engine for a better future.

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Beyond Things: The Internet of Everything Takes Connections to the Power of Four

Over the last year, I (and many of my colleagues) have spent a lot of time talking about the Internet of Everything (IoE) and how it’s transforming our world. I thought, however, it would be good to pause in this blog and clarify what we mean by the “Internet of Everything” in just a little more detail. I’ve mentioned in the past that IoE consists of four “pillars”: people, process, data and things, but let’s take a closer look.

Many people are familiar with the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT). Not only does it have its own Wikipedia article, but last month the Internet of Things was added to the Oxford dictionary, which defines it as “a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data.” So it’s not surprising that people might be confused when we start talking about the Internet of Everything. What’s the difference? Is IoE simply a rebranding of IoT?

The fact is, the Internet of Things is just one of four dimensions — people, process, data, and things — we talk about in the Internet of Everything. If we take a closer look at each of these dimensions, and how they work together, we’ll begin to see the transformative value of IoE.

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Why Connections (not Things) Will Change the World

Much has been made of the “Internet of Things” and a growing array of “smart” things that will soon change nearly every aspect of our lives — from Google’s driverless car and iRobot’s Ava 500 video collaboration robot to “smart” pill bottles that will automatically renew a prescription and remind you when to take it.

While we often think that it’s all about the things, it’s not actually the “things” that create the value, it’s the connections among people, process, data, and things — or the Internet of Everything—that creates value.

You can see the power of connections by adding a sensor and an Internet connection to any “dumb” thing. Consider, for example, your front door lock. It has no “intelligence” of its own — it’s simply a mechanical device that allows you to open and close the front door of your house. But if you add a sensor with a connection to the cloud, that “dumb” device can take an image of your face, send it to the cloud for analysis, and determine whether or not to let you into the house, based on facial-recognition technology. The lock itself doesn’t have the intelligence or compute power to make this decision, but the cloud does. It’s the connection that makes this “dumb” thing “intelligent.”

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Will The Internet of Everything Change the Way Students Learn?

August 16, 2013 at 9:30 am PST

Think back to your favorite class in school. How would that class be different if it took place today? My favorite was a 7th grade art class. While it’s hard to imagine Mrs. Vincent in a modern classroom with a tablet or smartphone, I know she would be on the cutting edge of art education.

The dynamics of what a traditional classroom looks like have evolved from the old chalkboard and teacher-centered classrooms into connected technology hubs, with online lesson plans, virtual fieldtrips, flipped classrooms and MOOCs. As technology advances, it is changing the way students learn and access education.

In his recent blog post, Dave Evans examines what the future of education looks like through the lens of of the Internet of Everything (IoE). Students will experience a rich virtual classroom—attending lectures, asking questions, participating in real-time discussions with instructors anywhere in the world. Read More »

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Beyond Online Classes: How the Internet of Everything Is Transforming Education

Over the next few weeks, students will be heading back to school for the fall semester. In fact, my oldest child will be starting college for the first time, and I have another one not far behind. So naturally, I’ve been thinking about the future of education, and the opportunities and challenges 21st century technology might bring.

Technology has had an amazing impact on education in the last few years. But what we’ve seen so far is nothing compared to the sea change that will be created by the Internet of Everything (IoE) in the coming decade. The networked connections among people, processes, data and things will change not just how and where education is delivered, but will also redefine what students need to learn, and why.

When we talk about technology-enabled learning, most people probably think of online classes, which have had mixed results so far. On one hand, online courses can make higher education much more affordable and accessible. On the other hand, not all students can stay engaged and successful without regular feedback and interaction with their instructor and other students. Even the best online classes cannot hope to duplicate the rich spontaneous interactions that can take place among students and instructors in the classroom. Read More »

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