For the first time, the number of “things” or objects that are connected to the internet has now outstripped the number of people who are connected. Cisco has predicted that, by 2020, 50 billion objects will be connected to the internet – 6.6 for every person on the planet.
Now, before we go any further, it’s important to make a distinction between the “internet” and the “web”. Whilst these are often used interchangeably, they’re actually two different things: the internet is the physical network (routers, switchers and so on) whilst the web is the application layer that translates all the information flowing between internet devices into an interface that we can actually use and understand. So, if you imagine the internet as a complex set up of lights and mirrors sending light waves bouncing around a room, the web works like your eyeballs, picking up and interpreting those light waves to turn what you’re seeing into images your brain can make sense of.
Whereas the web has undergone all kinds of changes and evolutions – the domain name “gold rush”, e-commerce, the social media boom – the internet has more or less stayed put. Until now, that is.
According to PwC’s 2014 trend report, some of the year’s most exciting developments will include sensors and beacons that feed information into the cloud to enhance a user’s experience. Cisco predicts that the market will bring in US $14.4 trillion by 2022. For retailers and manufacturers, this can mean monitoring things like weight, movement and wastage to improve end-to-end operations. Medical patients are beginning to ingest tiny internet devices that allow doctors to diagnose diseases and identify causes. Everything from animal health to gun control to smarter utility usage can be augmented using IoT innovations – and creative start-ups are leading the way in this exciting field.