Inside the internet of everything

Technology advances in smart devices, internet connectivity and processing power is enabling a highly connected world with billions of devices collecting huge amounts of data from a multitude of sources, what Cisco is calling the Internet of Everything

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Inside the internet of everything The Internet of Everything has the potential to deliver benefits across a very wide range of areas, says Dabboussi.
By  Mark Sutton Published  November 21, 2013

One of the most compelling trends in technology today is the rise of machine-to-machine communications (M2M). As sensors have gotten smaller, internet connectivity more pervasive, and devices have gotten smarter, so the possibilities of having devices communication with each other have started to emerge. With more affordable and accessible computing power to analyse the mass of data from connected devices, and new technologies such as wearable computing and embedded solutions adding people into the equation, technologists are making a wide range of predictions of about how this connected ecosystem will effect how we work and how we live.

Cisco is conceptualizing this broad ecosystem as what it calls the ‘Internet of Everything’ (IoE). Rabih Dabboussi, managing director and general manager for Cisco UAE explains that the company expects to see a massive increase in the number of connected devices of all types.

“The internet today is the internet of people, with about 7.5 billion people connected to it,” he says. “The internet of the future, by 2020, will be 50 billion things connected, and that 50 billion is mainly going to be non-people. It will be cars, trains, parking spots and street lights and so on.”

The ‘things’ in this new internet include a huge number of devices, from smart phones and games consoles, through to cameras, temperature sensors, smart utilities meters, automobile diagnostic systems, and even WiFi sensors to track the health of cattle.

Cisco part in the IoE is predominantly around providing the hardened, high bandwidth, secure infrastructure that will allow these connections. In September the company unveiled its Network Convergence System (NCS), its ‘Internet of Everything router’, the culmination of three years of work by 450 engineers and $250 million in funding. The NCS is a network fabric which is designed to serve as the foundation of a massively scalable, smarter and more adaptable Internet.

Cisco is not just delivering the equipment to enable the IoE however, it is also aiming to raise awareness of the potential of this connected ecosystem. The company believes that the IoE will create $14.4 trillion in total Value at Stake over the next ten years. This year the IoE is expected to generate around $613 billion in corporate profits, and an additional $544 billion could be realized in calendar year 2013 if companies adjust their strategies to take better advantage of IoE.

M2M adoption is already happening in some sectors, where the technology is being used to better monitor and optimise legacy systems such as power networks. Cisco says that four sectors - manufacturing, retail, information services and finance – will lead the way, and will comprise 70-80% of the initial business opportunity.

“The IOE will eventually touch everywhere, but it will start with those key industries like manufacturing. Manufacturing has been in the same condition with incremental use of machines, but not the ability to link them together, and not the ability to track production, to streamline the whole value chain of procuring and so on. There is going to be a lot of intelligence that is going to be infused into those four industries, to help us extract enough information to allow us to take that data, convert it into meaningful information, put it through processes and gain an output, which is going to be faster and better decisions,” Dabboussi says.

“The initial adoption of M2M is trying to use technology to optimise processes and optimise legacy systems. If you think of the power distribution system, the water distribution system, the old telephony systems, and all that is required to deliver the basic services in a city, you can think about them as the legacy infrastructure that hasn’t gotten replenished or renewed in a long time.

“From a telecom perspective, about 25 years ago the telecom world was going through a complete transformation, they were moving from a circuit switched voice based telephone call in a landline model to what became voice over IP and mobility, and the internet becoming integrated into their world. We are going to see the same kind of transformation take in place in industries,” Dabboussi adds.

The IoE is not just a business proposition however, Dabboussi notes. As processors and sensors become more pervasive, there will be benefits in areas such as healthcare, public safety, even the environment, both at the individual level and on a broader scale. A wearable device that monitors the health of a patient can provide alerts to medical staff so that they can provide treatment more quickly. At the same time, health data being collected from thousands, or tens of thousands of patients simultaneously and in digital form, will create a wealth of data to analyse healthcare trends. Automotive sensors gathering data on driver behaviour, weather conditions or road conditions could provide an early alert to the driver of the potential for an accident, before any incident occurs.

“That level of intelligence, will help us make decisions quicker, more intelligently, and gives us benefits, it makes our lives easier, faster more accommodating and more secure,” Dabboussi says.

With these highly connected ecosystems collecting data, there is a security element that needs to properly considered, he adds. Increasing volumes of sensitive data such as health or financial information, and the fact that data is being transmitted over much wider networks that before, will make security a major issue.

“Security is one of the key concerns here. Where [data] sits, how it is managed, how it is accessed, is going to be crucial to the success of the notion of the IoE. I wouldn’t say security is complementary to IoE, it is a core foundation. Without a proven secure environment, secure devices and secure systems, we will not be able to succeed with it.”

Dabboussi says that while some of the technologies of the IoE are still being developed, the evolution of this connected world is happening already, and it has the potential to impact of major social issues on a global scale.

“It is not something in the future, it is something we live with today. Every single day we see more and more things enabled with connectivity – there are toothbrushes now with WiFi chipsets in them, and it reports when your kids brush their teeth.

“Trees will be connected to the internet, potentially sensors will roam the atmosphere through clouds, to predict atmospheric changes, to predict weather patterns and so on. We believe that the benefit will be improving the environment, and potentially helping to solve some of the global issues such as world hunger, availability of natural resources and potable water, delivery of proper healthcare and education. Technology is not the only solution, but it is going to be one of the components that is going to deliver on better life for everybody.”

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