Since Cisco began discussing the Internet of Everything (IoE) last year, two questions have arisen consistently:

1) What is the difference between IoE and the Internet of Things (IoT)?
According to Cisco, IoE brings together people (humans), process (manages the way people, data, and things work together), data (rich information), and things (inanimate objects and devices) to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before—turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.

To better understand this definition, it is helpful to take a quick look at the evolution of the Internet. In the early 1990s, devices connected to the Internet were essentially “fixed.” For example, you went to your desk to use your PC, dumb terminal, or other device. At its peak, this first wave reached about 200 million devices by the late 1990s.

Around the year 2000, devices started to come with you. Remember lugging around your first “brick” mobile phone? As the number of both fixed and mobile devices (including machines) ballooned, the number of things connected to the Internet increased, reaching about 10 billion this year. This wave of Internet growth ushered in IoT, or as I sometimes call it, the “Age of the Device.”


Cisco believes the third wave of Internet growth has already begun. As the things connected to the Internet are joined by people and more intelligent data (as Cisco’s definition describes), IoE could potentially connect 50 billion people, data, and things by 2020.

So, what is the difference between IoT and IoE? As the evolution of the Internet suggests, IoE (four pillars: people, process, data, and things) builds on top of IoT (one pillar: things). In addition, IoE further advances the power of the Internet to improve business and industry outcomes, and ultimately make people’s lives better by adding to the progress of IoT.

2) How do we address security and privacy in an even more connected world?
Hacking attacks are becoming a daily occurrence, and it seems no organization is immune. Given how easy it is to steal and misuse information in today’s connected world, it’s only natural to be concerned (even fearful) about this problem in the future as people, process, data, and things all become connected in IoE.

Professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a leading thinker on the subject of connectedness. He recently presented several interesting ideas that I believe can play an important role in addressing some of the security and privacy concerns that could, if left unaddressed, slow the progress of IoE.

  • Personal information becomes legally recognized as yours—While there is a push by the White House and others to implement a consumer privacy Bill of Rights that increases consumer privacy, a larger shift is already under way that will radically shift the security and privacy debate. In the future, you may own the data that exists about you or that you create online, rather than it being owned by the companies that collect it (like Amazon.com, Facebook, Google, and Twitter).
    For example, Facebook (not you) currently claims ownership of the photo you just posted on your personal news feed. Today, security policies, agreed to by most people without even reading them, govern the power (or lack thereof) we have over our “own” information. When you have legal rights over your information, you have more control over how it is collected and used. This view that data about you is property, and that you own it, is gaining momentum, such as in the United Kingdom, the World Economic Forum, and the European Union’s recognition of personal data protection as a fundamental human right.
  • Personal information becomes like money—If clarity around the data ownership issue takes hold, intelligence will be added to the relatively dumb data that makes up most of the traffic on the Internet today. Data blocks will be augmented with metadata to include information about where the data was created, who created it, and where it is going. In this way, data becomes more like the money in your online bank account that can be tracked, traced, and transferred. Importantly, this change will allow personal information to be audited to enforce policies and laws when issues arise. Additionally, the rights associated with ownership of personal data will be enforced through the legal and judicial systems, similar to the way intellectual property rights are supported today.
  • Personal data stores protect your information—In addition to enabling you to know about and control your own information, data ownership will allow you to protect your information. Data stores will also help us benefit from our own information. For example, we could earn a small fee or other type of compensation for allowing companies to learn about our personal preferences while keeping our data private and secure. Data stores can do this by using analytics to draw conclusions from our personal information. When a company wants to learn about us, it poses questions to the data store. The store, with our permission, then provides the answers without providing access to the data itself. According to research organization Ctrl-Shift, several personal data store services already exist.

In addition to these ideas, the network itself will play an important role in improving IoE security. Currently, network intelligence is mostly centralized and often resides far away from the “edge” of the Internet. As networks evolve along with IoE, the ability to make intelligent decisions based on data as it enters and flows over the Internet will be more distributed (located where ever it’s needed). With this ability, security threats, for example, could not only be stopped, but also identified and located before any harm is done.

While no one knows for certain how IoE will evolve, I believe that, just as in the past, individuals, organizations, companies, and governments will come together to solve the security and privacy issues that arise. I also believe that technology itself will be an integral part of the solution. In the end, we determine the outcome. It is up to all of us to get involved to ensure that as IoE unfolds, the Internet continues to be a powerful force for improving people’s lives.

As a futurist, my blogs often raise more questions than they provide answers. Please let me know if I answered your questions about the differences between IoE and IoT, and addressed your concerns about security and privacy in an even more connected world.

If you will be in Berkeley, California on March 28, come join me at The Economist Innovation Forum where I’ll be discussing how IoE will redefine the speed of business.