The concept of the Internet of Things — or, as Cisco likes to call it, the Internet of Everything (IoE) — is hot and getting hotter by the minute. So much so that the estimated future worth placed on the IoE economy has skyrocketed.
During his keynote address  at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show  in Las Vegas, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers estimated the value of the IoE market over the next several years at an astounding $19 trillion. Chambers says the windfall will be driven by the revenue and savings opportunities generated in a world where anything and everything can be connected and networked due to technological advances in sensor and wireless technologies.
The IoE has the potential to save $10 billion per year in waste management, thanks to connected garbage cans with sensors that tell trucks if they’re full or empty. The technology could have a positive effect on the cost of lighting streets as well, by reducing energy consumption up to 70 percent.
2014 will be pivotal year for the IoE and connected machines, Chambers added. No longer a technology concept on the periphery, IoE’s mindshare has grown considerably among business and government leaders alike over the past year. For example, Chambers said that at last year’s CES, he likely would have had to explain what the IoE is. Today, that’s no longer true.
Chambers thinks the impact of the IoE will exceed even the invention of the World Wide Web. In 2010, there were 10 billion or so connected devices. That number is predicted to grow to 50 billion by 2020, which “is probably way too low,” said Chambers. By 2017, he expects the IoE “will be five to 10 times more impactful in one decade than the whole Internet to date has been.”
At one point during Chambers’ keynote, Forbes noted that he showed a video featuring Sarah Silverman talking about the IoE and how she “can totally see how this is going to change my entire life,” after which Chambers called the comedian, actor and writer onto the stage to join him.
Silverman told the audience, “I’m here to talk to you about the new Internet of Everything. It’ll cook your food for you, drive your car and make you more interesting. … And if you order it now, you will get a free set of Ginsu knives.”
A second, more serious video followed about fifteen minutes later, featuring the city of Barcelona, Spain, and how it has put the IoE into practice in the real world. Afterward, the city’s deputy mayor, Antoni Vives, came out on stage to tell the audience about how Barcelona has become a smart city.
“We've been working on the concept for a while because we're obsessed with the quality of life of our people,” Vives said. He then went through several brick-and-mortar examples of how the IoE is already impacting the lives of Barcelona citizens for the better. He spoke of how smart water is saving the city $58 million a year, for instance, and how Barcelona has increased parking fee revenue by $50 million, thanks to networkable smart devices. Vives added that Barcelona has created 47,000 new jobs through these and other smart city initiatives.
The IoE is now the backbone of all of Barcelona’s tech initiatives, making the city a leader in its application worldwide, according to Vives. “We get 180 official visits per year. Once every two days, I have a mayor of another city in my office,” he explained.
In discussing how IT shops will need to respond to the new IoE economy, Chambers said, “It’s going to be a new kind of IT. It’s going to, first of all, have to be very simple to use.” So IT leaders should prioritize services that can be deployed quickly — say, in a week — rather than offer those that take months or longer to develop.
Last month, Cisco became a founding member of the AllSeen Alliance, an organization tasked with helping to make this prioritization as easy and seamless as possible. Created under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, the purpose of the alliance is to develop an open-source framework for interoperability that would assist in fulfilling the IoE’s promise for business, IT and real-world consumers.
While clearly the result of advances in technology in a number of different areas (such as RFID, wireless, data, miniaturization), the IoE “will be bigger  than anything that’s ever been done in high tech in a decade,” Chambers said, as it “is not about technology at all” — rather, “it’s about how it changes peoples’ lives.”
“We used to think, if you have connectivity, that would do the job. But that doesn’t work,” Chambers said. “You have to get the right data to the right device at the right time, to the right person or machine, to be able to make the right decision.”
In Chambers’ view, the IoE is the engine enabling these smarter connections to happen.