How many networked devices and sensors will be on the Internet in the next few years, comprising the Internet of Things? There has been a bidding war of sorts on that topic lately.
Ericsson president and CEO Hans Vestberg has predicted that there will be 50 billion interconnected devices by 2020.
Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) has been saying 15 billion by 2015.
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is out in front of everyone with a prediction of 100 billion networked things within the decade.
We can all agree: Whatever the number for networked things, it's a whopper.
"In the not too distant future, hundreds of millions, then billions, of individuals and businesses, with potentially billions of smart, communicating devices, will stretch the boundaries of today's business and social systems and create the potential to change the way we work, learn, entertain, and innovate," says Harbor Research president Glen Allmendinger. The firm's 2010-2014 analysis, released early this month, is among the latest forecasts offered.
In the overview to the report, Harbor Research analysts maintain that, following Web 2.0, the next stage "includes shared and secure Internet access for device interaction -- in many cases with no human intervention at all -- as well as network-based services such as status monitoring, usage tracking, consumable replenishing, and automated repair. These new services are based upon the convergence of networks, embedded computing, control, content, and sensor feedback."
That will network hundreds of millions and then billions of devices. But will it hit 50 billion? That's a grabby number, but largely guesswork.
The consulting company said:
Sensors and machines (intelligent devices) being connected to the Internet in 2010 will reach 10% of the volume of IT and telephony devices and will grow at three times the pace of traditional IT and telephony systems over the next several years. Harbor expects Smart Systems, driven by the networking of non-IT devices, will reach 10% of all information and communications technology investment in five years.
Investment in this sector will be higher than in maturing IT systems and network infrastructure, Harbor maintains, and the research firm sees growth in platform technology, devices and hardware, business process integration, and value-added application services.
How the Internet of Things is Distributed Today
Source: Harbor Research
A post on Harbor's Smart Systems blog states: "As Moore’s law takes over and the price of embedding intelligence and connectivity into devices continues to fall, networked devices will push further and further into the mainstream. This process is somewhat self-reinforcing as low prices are driven by high quantities, and vice versa, making these devices increasingly prevalent in our lives and businesses."
In a separate report Harbor said: "Smart Systems will drive a multi-year wave of growth based on the convergence of innovations in software architectures; back-room data center operations; wireless and broadband communications; and, smaller, powerful and numerous client devices connected to personal, local and wide area networks."
The 2010-2014 forecast points to growth in "health monitoring devices on the body, telematics in vehicles for safety, automated service scheduling, and driver convenience as well as smart grid equipment and meters that can monitor real-time electricity usage -- all delivered via the Internet."
The report sees a machine-to-machine world where climate control systems, shipping containers, and other assets become more self–aware and, if you will, more self-actualized.
A host of factors are driving the smart systems trend, including lower costs and fees, increased storage capacity, ubiquitous broadband, miniaturization, continued IT development, and greater regulatory and economic stimuli.
But a Harbor newsletter says a machine-to-machine boom will require structural changes and must overcome some obstacles. Changes needed include:
- New business models
- Reconfigured delivery ecosystems for services and solutions
- Greater alignment between vendors and IT
- Vertical solutions in a largely horizontal supply-side world
As for the number of connected devices, who can really say?
— Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at Michigan State University's School of Journalism, and founded journalism careers Website The JobsPage.