IoT Today


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As with many new concepts, IoT’s roots can be traced back to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), from work at the Auto-ID Center. Founded in 1999, this group was working in the field of networked radio frequency identification (RFID) and emerging sensing technologies. The labs consisted of seven research universities located across four continents. These institutions were chosen by the Auto-ID Center to design the architecture for IoT.1 Before we talk about the current state of IoT, it is important to agree on a definition. According to the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), IoT is simply the point in time when more “things or objects” were connected to the Internet than people.2 In 2003, there were approximately 6.3 billion people living on the planet and 500 million devices connected to the Internet.3 By dividing the number of connected devices by the world population, we find that there was less than one (0.08) device for every person. Based on Cisco IBSG’s definition, IoT didn’t yet exist in 2003 because the number of connected things was relatively small given that ubiquitous devices such as smartphones were just being introduced. For example, Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, didn’t unveil the iPhone until January 9, 2007 at the Macworld conference

Explosive growth of smartphones and tablet PCs brought the number of devices connected to the Internet to 12.5 billion in 2010, while the world’s human population increased to 6.8 billion, making the number of connected devices per person more than 1 (1.84 to be exact) for the first time in history.5 Methodology In January 2009, a team of researchers in China studied Internet routing data in six-month intervals, from December 2001 to December 2006. Similar to the properties of Moore’s Law, their findings showed that the Internet doubles in size every 5.32 years. Using this figure in combination with the number of devices connected to the Internet in 2003 (500 million, as determined by Forrester Research), and the world population according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Cisco IBSG estimated the number of connected devices per person. 6 Refining these numbers further, Cisco IBSG estimates IoT was “born” sometime between 2008 and 2009 (see Figure 1). Today, IoT is well under way, as initiatives such as Cisco’s Planetary Skin, smart grid, and intelligent vehicles continue to progress. 7 Figure 1. The Internet of Things Was “Born” Between 2008 and 2009


Looking to the future, Cisco IBSG predicts there will be 25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020. It is important to note that these estimates do not take into account rapid advances in Internet or device technology; the numbers presented are based on what is known to be true today. Additionally, the number of connected devices per person may seem low. This is because the calculation is based on the entire world population, much of which is not yet connected to the Internet. By reducing the population sample to people actually connected to the Internet, the number of connected devices per person rises dramatically. For example, we know that Source: Cisco IBSG, April 2011

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