In 400 years time our descendants will look back at our Age in the same way we look at the Stone Age
Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius, by combining his observations of the laws of nature with his passion for mechanical invention he managed to conceive early versions of the plane, the helicopter, the parachute, the machine gun, the tank, the car and the diving suit but while the internet was still 500 years in the future he already saw nature’s own internet at work, famously pronouncing that “Everything connects to Everything”. Over five hundred years later and his reflection will be more prophetic than even he, or us, could ever imagine.
Humanities ability to invent and explore is only limited by our vision and as creatures of habit we all too often use labels to create artificial boundaries that constrain and limit our thinking so for that reason I’m going to free your thinking by showing you why today’s Internet of Things and Internet of Everything nomenclatures fail to accurately encapsulate the category’s boundless potential.
The Internet of Things was first coined by Kevin Ashton of MIT in 1999 to describe “Systems of smart, connected devices and objects”, consequently it’s only a subset of the Internet of Everything which, as its name implies, includes everything – living and inanimate but, for reasons I’ll show, even this label limits our vision because IoE by its definition relies on sensor packed objects, or “Smart Nodes” as I’ll call them to be internet connected and as we’ll see, increasingly this isn’t going to be the case.
Transmitting data long distances is costly, inefficient and energy expensive – this is why companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon spend tens of billions of dollars every year building datacentres closer and closer to their customers and these same laws apply to the Internet of Everything.
Just ten years from now analysts predict that there will be tens, if not hundreds of billions of Smart Nodes that, for one reason or another perform their tasks better when connected to the internet but today there are already hundreds of millions of autonomous, self governing Smart Node clusters operating at the edge of the network that circumvent the internet and use Peer to Peer and Mesh Network communication technologies to share intelligence, collaborate and complete tasks – the Connected Car will be a great example of this where critical environment based safety decisions need to happen in nanoseconds not the seconds, or minutes that it could take if the information had to be relayed to and from a central Command and Control System hosted in the internet. Occasionally Master Nodes in some of these clusters will intermittently need to communicate via the internet in order to receive and relay pertinent information and instructions but as our world gets increasingly saturated with sensors these largely autonomous clusters will begin to make up a greater percentage of the sensor network and this is why I’d argue that the all encompassing name for the category should simply be “Connected Everything” because when we look at the market through this lens we suddenly find ourselves creating a new vision of our future – one that will radically alter both the size of the market, the speed at which it grows and the way that we architect, invest and interact with it. As the famous saying goes, people climb mountains because they’re there and similarly people will connect things because they can.
Our new world will rely heavily on the sensor technologies that underpin it and every time a new type of connected sensor comes to the market a new market opportunity will be born. Today there are already a plethora of emerging technologies, ranging from WPAN connectivity technologies all the way through to Nano and Photonic technologies coming together that will help unlock incredible new opportunities that even the most open minded of us will struggle to comprehend. Our society is on the cusp of a seismic change, one where in three hundred years’ time our great, great, great grandchildren will look back on our Age and view it in the same way that we view the Stone Age.
Imagine a hyper connected world where smart nano scale sensors can be ingested, injected or fed to living organisms – from trees and plants through to animals and humans to monitor minute molecular level biochemical signals that help us identify immune and carcinogenic disease before it starts to take hold so we can take remedial action or imagine a world where every part in every machine is monitored and dynamically tuned to deliver optimal performance. These two simple use cases alone are being realised today and when they eventually mature they will be worth tens of trillions of dollars but now imagine that there are millions, if not billions of use cases waiting to be discovered.
Whether it’s the Connected Car, the Connected Home, the Connected Patient, the Global Brain, the Industrial Internet, the Internet of Things, the Internet of Everything, Wearable Technology or just simply Human 2.0 the emerging “Connected Everything” market will, over time, irrevocably change every aspect of our lives.
Altering the name of the category will help us break down the barriers that constrain our thinking and let us all to play a role in building a new, all encompassing vision that one day could see us eliminate disease, reduce humanities environmental impact and create and tap into a new type of planetary intelligence.