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The Internet of Everything: Creating Better Experiences in Unimaginable Ways

Futurists have long envisioned a world where fabulous innovations transform our lives in mind-boggling ways. And while some of their ideas may remain far-fetched, the most exciting thing about their future is that so much of it is already here, today (flying cars notwithstanding).

Indeed, we are living in an age of unprecedented technological transformation, one that stands to eclipse even the first Internet boom. This next wave of change is being driven by a massive upsurge in connectivity, from 10 billion connected things today to 50 billion in 2020. The world may seem connected. But only 1 percent of the objects around you are endowed with smart connectivity. That is changing fast. Your car, your refrigerator, your parking space, the bridge you drive over, the shelves at the local retailer, and the supply chain that feeds them — all of these “dark assets” are being “lit up” with smart connectivity, altering our lives in profound ways.

Cisco calls this the Internet of Everything (IoE). We define IoE as the intelligent connection of people, process, data, and things. And, of course, the “people” element is paramount, since the whole point of technology is to create a better life experience for everyone.

At Cisco, we estimate the Value at Stake from this transformation to be $14.4 trillion for the private sector alone over the next 10 years, which represents an opportunity to increase global aggregate corporate profits by about 21 percent.

Cisco’s projections are based on deep research and analysis into potential use cases. But we are not the only ones sensing the potential impact of this game-changing, global transformation.

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From Information to Innovation: The New CIO in an Internet of Everything World

In my role at Cisco, I have taken interest in understanding how we, as people, are driving the need for innovative technology to fuel change in our world. As we find new ways to interact as consumers or communicators, we demand that technology keep pace – to be fast and to adapt.  

Today’s Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are well aware of Internet of Everything (IoE) and are already thinking about how connected their unconnected people, processes and things can help them gain efficiencies as well as a competitive edge. Massive shifts in technology and consumption models brought about by cloud, security, mobility and programmable networks are accelerating new markets and new business models. These new models are transforming communication and massively disrupting the role of IT.

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There’s No Place Like (a Connected) Home

It doesn’t take long to realize it’s going to be one of those days.

You drag out of bed, bleary-eyed after a bad night’s sleep in a stuffy, overheated room. Desperately in need of a caffeine jolt, you then discover that you’re out of coffee. You turn on the TV but are too harried to take in the morning news. Rushing out of the house, late, you suddenly can’t find your keys. A mad, time-wasting search ensues before you drive off to work, finally. Then, stuck in traffic, your mind begins to fret: Did you turn off the TV? Turn out the lights? Water the plants? Lock the door?

Now, imagine the same morning routine in a home enabled by the Internet of Everything (IoE), the explosion in connectivity that is transforming the world as we know it.

You wake up rested, since the temperature, air quality, and lighting in your bedroom have been carefully synchronized to your sleep patterns. You tap your smartphone to start up the coffee machine and turn on some light morning music. During a short but vigorous pre-breakfast workout, the temperature in your home gym drops automatically. Later, a sensor tells you exactly where you left your car keys the night before, just as a separate prompt informs you that the plants are fine — except for the thirsty hibiscus, which you water on your way out.

You don’t need to lock the house or turn off the appliances; a proximity sensor detects when you leave the house, locks and shuts off everything, and then sends an alert message to your car’s central screen. There’s no traffic, because your (connected) car is managed through the best routes — and finding a (connected) parking space is a breeze. During the morning meeting, the refrigerator tweets from home: milk and coffee are low. But not to worry — it has automatically ordered fresh cartons of your favorite brands from the local retailer.

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Wearable Tech: At the Nexus of IoE, with a Sense of Style

Science fiction writers have often mused about the merger of humans and machines. But while RoboCops and bionic superheroes aren’t likely to fight evil anytime soon, some exciting wearable smart technologies are already here. They may not match Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, but they are enabling ordinary people to interact with the wider world — and the Internet of Everything (IoE) — in intriguing (and sometimes stylish!) ways.

So, if you think your smart device is generating and processing a lot of data today, get ready for an even closer connection with your personal technology in the near future. Wearables are infusing sensors into bands, watches, shoes, shirts, bras, glasses, earrings, necklaces, and helmets. And these technologies are ready to generate reams of data — as well as real-time insights — about the ways in which we live, play, learn, work, exercise, maintain health, you name it.

I expect wearables to be a core topic of conversation at the Internet of Things World Forum in Barcelona later this month. As a further evolution of IoT, IoE is all about connecting people, processes, data, and things in amazing new ways. And while we often hear about IoE’s potential to transform supply chains, factories, retailers, and assorted megaprojects, wearables are a good reminder that the people element of connecting the unconnected is paramount. Armed with these new technologies — and the ability to connect via the key pillars of IoE, such as cloud, mobility, video, and analytics —individuals will be able to monitor and quantify their lives like never before. Wearables add another dimension to the Quantified Self movement, which I covered in a previous blog.

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Using Cutting-Edge IoE Technologies To Deliver Old-Fashioned Customer Experiences

Ever step into a small-town “mom and pop” store? The owners seem to know everyone in the community, along with their individual needs, likes, dislikes, and current life situations.

It’s not easy to scale that kind of old-fashioned customer intimacy to a larger retail setting, online or off. But in the Internet of Everything (IoE) era, the same technology that is leading us headlong into the future may also help us take a step back. In the process, it may go far to improve customer experience and cement brand loyalty.

While IoE can’t conjure a kindly couple to help with a purchase, someday soon you may enter a store, bank branch, or car dealership and be guided through the steps of the process via your smart device. You’ll be greeted at the door with a personalized message. And while you’re browsing, talking to a salesperson, or engaging with an expert, you will receive content automatically to support your customer journey and your eventual buying decision. All of these suggestions will be rooted in your past purchases and browsing history, and reflect your individual needs, likes, dislikes, and current life situation (sound familiar?).

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