Let’s start on a light note. For a brief period of time, the Internet of Things became associated with the fridge that orders milk by itself. This retro-futurist icon is a great example of a common tendency for extremely disruptive technological waves to first enter the public realm in the form of low impact nice-to-have use cases (personal computers and robotics suffered the same fate at first). Besides being amusing, these are also instructive. The small-mindedness of a fridge that has a direct line to the supermarket is a great way to make a really important point: the value of the Internet of Everything (IoE), ultimately, is about the network, not the individual connections.

The IoE will treat the home as a living system of devices; the manufacturing sector as a society of robots and sensors; the retail sector as a never-ending multi-channel interaction; and the city as a hive of homes, retail outlets, factories, utilities and infrastructure. Accordingly, its disruptive nature will not primarily lie in the time-saving effect of automating simple tasks but rather feeding from, and feeding back into, intricate economies of network and of scale. The IoE will manifest itself in enabling previously unthinkable efficiencies and capabilities.

We are nearly there. Ubiquitous sensing, connectivity and processing are enabling continual data capture and exchange in a rapidly increasing variety of physical settings. These mini-nervous systems are still islands – the home, the hospital, the school, the manufacturing plant – but soon they will be subnets of an emerging interconnected network of the physical and industrial world. This is how it starts. But the end goal, invariably, is not just to sense, but to make sense of, to understand, to predict, to control. This is a superhuman task when faced with a sea of machine chatter. Machine nervous systems require machine minds.

Luckily, we can now build those. The last few years have seen a cascade of Machine Intelligence victories, reaching milestone after milestone: vision, translation, medical diagnosis. The list of tasks where machines now routinely outperform humans is growing at an unprecedented rate. All things considered, we don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the first half of the 21st century will be remembered for the convergence of two of the most disruptive technological waves in human history: the IoE, and Machine Intelligence. As machines become able to comprehend sensory input of various types and impossibly high dimensions, plugging them into a vast nervous system will mark a turning point in technological history. Machine Intelligence is the value driver that can turn continual streams of data into actionable insights.

A new paradigm is needed to address the challenges and opportunities of this new era of increasing data velocity and variety. We need machine intelligence designed to deal with data in motion. Data in motion will dominate the sea of data generated by the IoE. And the ability to efficiently process, analyze and produce actionable insights from streaming data in ways that can be consumed efficiently by humans will be paramount to bringing the vision to fruition. Real-life processes change over time and designing systems with adaptability and scalability as core principles is paramount. Business intelligence can yield a lot of insights, but we truly need to be able to deploy at scale the full arsenal of machine learning capability in order to leverage the wealth of structured and unstructured data generated by the IoE.

Mentat Innovations feels privileged to be able to collaborate with Cisco to deliver the vision of a connected, intelligent IoE to the world. We can now finally imagine a shift from diagnostics to prognostics in manufacturing plants, smart electricity grids and intelligent retail solutions. We can imagine a connected healthcare system offering early warnings for life-threatening conditions without additional burden on overworked doctors. Use case by use case, across all verticals, a bigger picture is emerging, of a new economy where ambient machine intelligence empowers humanity to build a better future. This starts now.