Everything must go online

A lot has been said and written about the Internet of Everything (IoE), but it took Cisco's adoption of the term late last year to push it into mainstream consciousness. The term has been around some seven years - in his personal blog in 2006, Lightning Laboratories founder Gene Becker was probably the first to point out its inevitability and Qualcomm has been pushing it hard since April 2009. Although a fairly unscientific measure, some Google searches give a view of the term's association with major industry players, with IBM, Ericsson, Cisco, General Electric, Amazon and Qualcomm coming high up in the search results.

It was Cisco that grabbed the headlines by putting a 'value at stak' on the IoE of $14.4 trillion over the next 10 years for global private-sector businesses. Value at stake means the new value created plus value that migrates from companies that lag to those that take advantage of innovations, less the cost of implementation. It doesn't take into account the losses of the laggards, nor does it include consumer or public sector gains. It reckons that global corporate profitability could be boosted by 21 percent in aggregate during this period, which is one heck of a sprat to catch the business mackerel. The question is, is this just hype to refresh the Cisco brand, or could there be something in it?

We already have plenty of internets and intranets based on the Internet of Things and its subset, machine-to-machine (M2M). The IoE blends these with the most visible internet of all - the internet of people, their devices and their clouds of personal data. Many of the new services and opportunities will be those that directly touch people's lives. It is about getting many of the elements of the entire internet to combine in innovative ways to deliver new value. That value includes societal and consumer benefits, which will complement Cisco’s cold commercial calculations.

The oft-quoted example of deals popping up on your smartphone as you walk through a shopping mall suggest what can be done already but with the IoE these offers could be absolutely specific and tailored to your interests. How? By picking up details about you from your phone or your credit cards, figuring out your interests - perhaps by studying your spending patterns or looking at your profiles on social networking sites - and quickly grabbing your attention with a perfectly tailored offer. Just imagine the privacy, security and interoperability issues involved in that little scenario...

IoE explained

In simple terms, the IoE is the blending of information about people, places and things to deliver new value to individuals, communities or organisations. Internet-linked sensors send information about themselves or their environment to apps and databases for analysis. This could trigger requests for further information from other apps. Finally, commands are fired, either automatically or by humans, at an actuating device. This could be a valve, a screen, an automated phone call or anything else that can be activated with a digital signal. Many presently mute 'things' will gain a voice - domestic white goods, pallets, buses, clothing, pharmaceuticals and drains, for example- and some of them will be able to listen and act as well.

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