How the Internet of Things Will Change Everything—Including Ourselves

May 17, 2011 - 33 Comments

I  often like to ask audiences “What do cows, shoes, and cars have in common? My answer—the Internet of Things.

Born sometime between 2008 and 2009, when more things became connected to the Internet than people, the Internet of Things has the potential to close the poverty gap, improve distribution of the world’s resources, and help us understand our planet so we can be more proactive and less reactive.

In 2010, there were 12.5 billion devices connected to the Internet. Looking to the future, Cisco IBSG predicts there will be 25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015, and 50 billion by 2020. But how will having lots of things connected to the Internet change everything?

The answer lies in how humans learn. People process data and turn it into information that can be used in our daily lives. From the results, we gain knowledge and, ultimately, wisdom. With literally billions of sensors connected to the Internet, our ability to gather massive amounts of data has never been greater. With the right filtering and analytics, people across all disciplines will turn this data into new knowledge and wisdom that will change our lives for the better.

Already, advances such as Cisco’s Planetary Skin and HP’s central nervous system for the earth (CeNSE) are under way that will let us sense what the planet is doing in real time. This will allow us to be more proactive in our response to climate change and save lives by being more prepared for natural disasters. Another possibility is the placement of sensors at critical points across the country’s infrastructure—such as bridges and tunnels—that alert workers of problems long before tragic accidents occur.

Although the promise of the Internet of Things is great, several barriers threaten to slow its development. These roadblocks include the transition to IPv6, establishing a common set of standards, and developing energy sources for the millions—even billions—of minute sensors.

Even so, I’m optimistic. As businesses, governments, standards bodies, and academia work together to solve these challenges, the Internet of Things will continue to progress and change the world as we know it today. How quickly we get there is up to us.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. in both personal and work life I find all of this technology so useful but sometimes the good old fashioned way does work better. I hope we never see a day where the e-card replaces the traditional birthday card etc

  2. yes, I agree. Internet has become part of an important feature to the latest TV products. I believe someday the Internet will become an important part of all things, and of course as you say, including ourselves. Sorry for my bad English by the way , but I hope you understand what I’m talking about.

  3. Every one of us has a freedom, we can speak, we can act and we think freely. No one can stop us by doing what is good because we are human.

  4. Just like you said and I quote, “The answer lies in how humans learn.” At the end of the day, it still the human beings responsible for their own whether we use Internet for good or bad. It’s a matter of choices and I hope more people will use Internet in a good ways.

  5. @Dish – Thanks for the comment. I don’t think it’s detrimental – it’s like any tool, it needs to be used to augment experiences, not replace them.

  6. So as it becomes more of a daily routine to access the web from email to facebook to looking up an answer on a smartphone, how detrimental do you think it could be to mental or memory development if we rely on these external tools rather than our own head?

    For example, I know my way around NYC like the back of my hand, but a friend who has more recently moved here relies on his smartphone to guide him everywhere and never gives himself a chance to remember anything because the information is so readily available.

    Despite its heavy relationship to individual personalities, there must be SOME sort of advocacy on an individual basis for an ‘untethered’ existence. I hope I don’t sound like the Wachowski brothers.

  7. I’d only seen snipets of commentary on Cisco’s Planetary Skin and HP’s central nervous system for the earth (CeNSE), until visiting this post. I’ve since Googled several articles and will look into what you are working on now, Dave. The immense scope of this project and the potential it carries is quite compelling!

    • @Mitch, thanks for the comments. Take a look at for some more info on Planetary Skin.


      • ….sure thing. Thank you Dave.

        I was just browsing Planetary Skin’s second of two videos “Planetary Skin proposes an open and unifying approach…” and have to admit that the grandeur reminded me of a recent visit to Epcot’s Future World – Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Bravo!

        …now: if I could only get my home thermostat to sense, understand, and collaborate with my skin, living here in Central Florida would be grand 🙂

  8. Pretty good insight. For those of us who grew up mostly during the internet age, it’s very difficult to imagine the world without the internet.

  9. Internet changing world but only in regions where people has access to network. There are lots of places in africa, asia or south america where plastic bottles have more value than internet access. I thing the global access is current issue

  10. The net has changed and continue to change our lives and the way we live it. Each day internet blends better with our lives (thanks to engineers) and continue to do so..
    Security is an important issue with all this. Thats where the problem starts..

    • You are right. But I am pretty sure security has also made some huge steps to the better. A world thats full connected is surely gone have many security technics that will keep us protected.

  11. I think the idea of the CeNSE is really awesome. It’s so amazing when you think about how the internet has changed the face of humanity so much. From a learning aspect I think having so much information so readily accessible is great and allows for people of all ages to be able to learn and grow much more quickly than before. However because of the fact that things are so accessible, I’ve already seen side effects in the general population with laziness and impatience. I think it’s an overall good development for the world, as long as we don’t depend on it for everything. =)

  12. Internet has generated alot of new things.. I believe this will carry on.. New types of jobs such as SEO, Analytics, consultation and many more. I believe within the upcoming years, We will see “Digital Social Media” consultation, analtics more and more. And even others that we are not aware of just yet.

  13. Also think there might be more than 25 by 2015. Web globalisation plus the scales of web use by more everyday ( not to mention mobile web usage) gonna turn this prediction into real.

  14. Hello,I just want to say to all of you that i am addicted to the internet.The Internet really changed my life.My business depends on internet, i found friends that i haven`t seen for more than 10 years through internet, so i simply love the internet

  15. Awesome video . Just cant believe how internet advances !
    All this has happened and the internet is just 15 years old. We need more and more of such cool software to analyse all this data 🙂

  16. Dave: Very interesting blog post about the impact of Internet. Besides cows, shoes and cars, even horseback riding equestrians are on social networks connecting and sharing horseback riding tips with other horseback riding equestrians around the world. Internet has changed the planet – how the humans can connect and share with others around the world.


  17. For me it’s already changed everything, but it seems we are growing increasingly reliant on it, yesterday my internet went down for an hour and I was freaking out.

  18. Internet was originally conceived by the Department of Defense as a way to protect government communications systems in the event of a military strike.Now its growth to this level & its still growing

  19. It is amazing to think that all this has happened and the internet is only 15 years old.

    Revolutionised the world and it can’t even buy beer or drive!!

  20. Thanks for this benefical subject; but I can not watch the video. Is there any problem?

  21. Internet is good invention by human.. now we are connected each other through it. but even we should be beware of it.. every invention have good and bad features 🙂 same it do!!!

  22. The internet has been in the main stream for around two decades and society still exists similarly to how it did then. I can still watch an episode of the Simpsons from 1990 and relate to it as if it were today. I don’t think anything really changes that much.

  23. We wouldn’t know if this is actually evolution or involution. Theoretically, seems to be a very good thing for us. Also practically, if you keep in mind that Internet has to be used responsibly, what we have now is a start point for a future, better world.
    Very simple thing. Dutch were one of the shortest nation (around 5.3 feet tall on average male) in the mid 50s. Right now they’re the tallest nation of the world (6 feet average for males). Because of the high standards and excellent diet 🙂
    We could have the same evolution on a spiritual level. We can see kids are smarter (that’s no doubt). We could see everyone knows more earlier in life. I wonder what that means on medium and long therm. Can’t wait!

  24. Yes, you re right, that with the right filtering and analytics, people across all disciplines will turn datas from internet into new knowledge and wisdom that will change our lives for the better. But the filtering and analytics arent good enough in any countries and societies. Then, internet does not only change our live to be better, it can change our live to be worse too..
    By the way, thanks for sharing us this nice article..

  25. The internet is definetly changing the way we live today not in the past where communication was stable now its diversed…and i think it gonna be more than 25 billion by 2015.

  26. The way people are growing up, so heavily reliant on the connected world is quite scary. Scott Klososky’s book on the subject is a great read

  27. I am not sure that all this gathered data can be turned into knowledge that easy. The human brain can not handle that great amount of information nor he can process it. We need some incredible software to analyse all this data.

    • @Emma, you are right we’re not there yet, but we’re getting close. New technologies are emerging daily that process data in new ways. For example, DARPA recently demonstrated a new technology that can analyze video in real time. Even devices as ubiquitous as cell phones can process data that was impossible only a few years ago. Take Google Google’s as an example – it can perform language translation in real-time, recognize objects by their image, and even solve sudoku puzzles. IBM has a 10 year project called Blue Brain to create a human brain with software and hardware. Computing and networking capabilities are growing exponentially – the coming years will show some startling capabilities. We are witnessing just the beginning…

      • Dave,

        You wrote “Take Google Google’s” … I think you meant to write “Take Google Goggles” true?

  28. Thx on blog. It is very useful. I would like to add something which is no life without the internet this we are now internet addicted. The internet these days is indispensable for all people such as educators, businessmen, medical doctors. I can’t imagine how we lived in the past without the internet. The internet is the our oxygen.