We’ve learned a lot since releasing our original research on the Internet of Everything (IoE) at the end of 2012. I created a top-10 countdown style review of these learnings, however, today, I’m jumping right to #1 (sorry David Letterman). Here it is: #1 – Context…not content…is king.

Same Person, Different Customer

I was recently on a business trip to the Middle East. Just before boarding, I realized I left my headphones at the hotel. Not wanting to be on a 10-hour flight without them, I ran to the electronics vending machine I saw on the way to my gate. Without regard to price, I purchased the headphones I wanted and headed to the gate.

Now, contrast this event to when I originally purchased the now-lost headphones. I went to Amazon.com. After reading the description and reviews, and doing some additional online research to make sure I was receiving the best price, I placed my order and waited two days for the package to arrive.

In both situations, I was the same 40-something male, yet in the airport I would have paid much more for a similar product. When I had more time, I was interested in getting the greatest value, which required comparing products, perusing reviews, and deciding on the best shipping method. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the difference between the two scenarios is context.


Smartphones: The Ultimate Sensor

So how can a retailer know when they could charge 2x more from the same person for the same product? Think about the capabilities of the smartphone or tablet that is in your pocket or purse right now. It’s remarkable. The iPhone can sense signal strength, power levels, sound, acceleration, magnetics, barometric pressure, proximity, humidity, temperature, orientation, gravity, and biometrics. When combined, the capabilities of the iPhone are nearly limitless.

The proliferation of smartphones and tablets along with new payments technologies like those just announced by Apple, mean that retail can be ubiquitous. Mobility is the single best tool for creating a frictionless environment. Once retailers know where we are, what we’re doing, and what our current situation is, they can literally sell us what we want, when we want it, no matter where we are. Of course, privacy concerns will need to be addressed as mobile and contextual technologies and capabilities emerge.

It’s clear, however, that as more and more things around us become part of the 50 billion devices that will be connected to the Internet by 2020, the ability to sense, understand, and predict human situations and behavior—context—will become a reality. And while retail is great for showcasing the benefits of contextual awareness, companies and organizations in any industry can benefit.

Smarter and Safer Work Environments

While manufacturers continue to focus on improving worker safety, it is still a dangerous profession. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) in the U.S., 4,405 workers were killed on the job in 2013. That is 3.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers on average, 85 a week, or more than 12 deaths every day. This is the lowest total since the fatal injury census was first conducted in 1992, yet any number over zero is too high.

As sensor capabilities advance to provide true contextual awareness, new applications will be able to further improve worker safety. Imagine an employee working in a chemical plant. A person outside the facility sees an explosion in the plant. They call 911 and almost immediately, fire, medical, and hazardous materials crews and resources are dispatched. What we don’t have in this situation is contextual awareness. How many workers were near the explosion? How were these workers impacted? Who is still in the most danger? Where are they located? What care do they need most? What is the current environment like in the plant?

Today, in situations where seconds count, we don’t have this information. In the near future, however, the combination of Wi-Fi and other special-purpose sensing networks combined with wearable sensors embedded in protective clothing will give emergency responders the information they need to respond appropriately to save more lives. Additionally, more advanced sensors on and around the machinery and equipment will be used to predict events and alert workers to vacate an area if, for example, an explosion is imminent.

Mobility: Accelerating Innovation

During our IoE value at stake research, we conservatively calculated for unknown advances and innovations. We also knew that the pace of innovation is on a logarithmic curve. As time goes by, it is becoming increasingly clear that mobility is one technology that is driving exponential change across all industries and the public sector.

To learn more about IoE and the impact it is having on companies and the public sector, visit: http://www.slideshare.net/JosephMBradley

Here are also some Cisco sites that should be helpful:

• IoE Information and Resources: http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/innov/IoE.html

• Cisco Consulting Services Thought Leadership: http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/index.html

• Cisco Context-Aware Software: http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/collateral/wireless/mobility-services-engine/data_sheet_c78-470925.html



Joseph M. Bradley

Global Vice President

Digital & IoT Advanced Services