Those Darned Internet Things
Back in 2011, researchers at Cornell University hooked up two chatbots for a conversation, which is intriguing, to say the least. But my favorite part begins with one chatbot's question to the other, 'So you are a robot'. The other initially denies it but eventually comes around to conceding that both of them are robots. To which the questioner responds 'I'm not a robot. I'm a unicorn'.
Really? A machine pretending to be something else? Isn't that what people do on the Internet?
And now the machines are on the Internet too. And apparently have been for some time. In fact, somewhere towards the end of the last decade the number of people on the Internet was surpassed by the number of 'things'. Creating the Internet of Things (IoT), a fourth generation global network of things, devices and machines. So what? Well, the number of these connected 'things' is predicted to grow exponentially - from 9 billion to 24 billion between 2011 and 2020 - to deliver a global opportunity to enterprises worth $4.5 trillion through a range of value levers - you know... increased efficiency, enhanced productivity, reduced costs, streamlined operations, improved customer experience, new innovation opportunities and so on.
That being said, the IoT opportunity is not about the ability to connect 'things' - you can tag a toilet seat to a network should you so prefer. It is about what comes next - lots of data; 2.5 quintillion bytes per day according to one estimate, including new types of data. And it's not just about data volume either, it's about fast data and the ability to capture, store, manage and analyze this superabundant deluge of data on the fly. Because by 2020, 40% of all global data will come from machines.
According to a recent Cisco Global IT Impact Survey, less than half (42%) of enterprise respondents claimed 'to be vaguely familiar with the Internet of Things'. That's probably because IoT's current momentum derives largely from refrigerators that order milk, toasters that talk and cows that are connected to the Internet. At the enterprise level, we can feel the potential of the IoT. But we still need more clarity on the 'things' that need to be networked, the information that they should share and the data that has to be collected and analyzed.
You simply don't want to start by connecting every enterprise device there is, only to realize later that some of them are unicorns.