Here’s How the Internet of Everything Will Change Everything

Chief Technology Officer and the President of the Xerox Innovation Group When I look around the corner at critical technology opportunities and trends, here are some of the things I see:

  • A new Internet with better security, lower bandwidth requirements, and seamless mobility.
  • A world where non-experts can design and manage complex business processes without the help of a “techie.”
  • A smart home that not only monitors energy use, but your family’s vital signs as well.
  • Virtual personal assistants (maybe embedded in a contact lens or even in our bodies) that understand human behavior, help prioritize our work and encourage us to eat a diet that relates to our current health needs.

Those are some of the things that will be enabled by the Internet of Everything (IoE). I discussed the IoE during a recent retreat of global policy leaders who wanted to “look around the corner” at critical technology challenges and trends that are affected by regulations and governmental policies. A few days later I met with a group of Xerox summer interns, and one of the first topics to come up: the Internet of Everything!

The idea of everyday objects communicating with each other and the rest of the world is on the minds of both our youngest scientists and today’s top policy makers and executives. At the Technology CEO Council’s policy retreat I outlined three pillars that will make the Internet of Everything possible and fuel the future of the global economy:

  1. Everyday objects that sense and respond to their environment. This means connecting ordinary objects to the Internet and making them smart. Objects will provide useful intelligence about how we use and interact with them, and allow them to interact with each other. Miniaturization of the chips and radios that make the objects smart is essential for practical applications, as is low cost. Intelligent objects will exist everywhere, in our homes, offices, vehicles, cities – all around us. Wearable and implantable devices will sense and improve our quality of life. Cisco predicts 50-75 billion connected “things” within next 6 years, up from around 9 billion connected phones and laptops today. All future products will be intelligent and connected. In addition to doing their core function, products will become the basis for totally new services that leverage the data they generate. One such example is the Nest Labs connected thermostat start-up that allows new services benefiting the utility industry.
  2. A smart and secure flexible infrastructure. We are already struggling to deal with the volume of information traversing the Internet today. A new paradigm is needed that supports this array of intelligent everyday objects, and the need for connectivity and information delivery, all with the proper security. At PARC, we are developing the next generation Internet architecture: Content-Centric Networking (CCN) with partners. A CCN network promises to improve security, lower response and bandwidth requirements, as well as enable seamless mobility.
  3. Useable real-time insights. Today’s buzzword, “Big Data,” is an opportunity, but it’s not a solution. The challenge is to take the many streams of real-time data, seamlessly merge them and extract the knowledge they contain. These useable insights create value for people, automated systems and enterprises. What’s important is enabling the big data to tell a story. Making sense of anomalies in patterns, for example, can allow companies to proactively service critical equipment, or help doctors take better care of their patients. City officials can use this type of information to create a less congested, greener city, allowing all of us to live healthier lives.

When intelligent, ordinary objects, smart and secure flexible networks, and useable real-time insights work in concert, a “perfect storm” of functionality emerges. This storm will completely disrupt entire industries. “Googling reality” will become mainstream. Gartner predicts that the total economic value-add for the Internet of Things will be $1.9 trillion dollars in 2020. The more important value of the Internet of Everything will be measured in the good it enables: saving lives, making the economy work better, efficient energy usage, better education for our children, and the list goes on.

Disruption that comes with this sort of change is exactly what policy makers are thinking deeply about. The need for global standards, economic incentives, security, privacy and protecting civil rights were top of mind at the retreat I attended. A lot of discussion referenced a recent report from the White House that examined how Big Data will transform the way we live and work and alter the relationships between government, citizens, businesses and consumers. I am reading it, and I encourage you to take a look at it as well.

A recent questionnaire issued by the Pew Research Center Internet Project late last year asked more than 1,600 technology innovators, entrepreneurs, analysts and others if they think the Internet of Everything will have widespread and beneficial effects on the everyday lives of the public by 2025. The majority said yes, and so do I.

At Xerox, we have a track record of improving the quality and experience of life through the power of innovation. Collaborating with clients and partners, we are working on creating intelligent objects, a smart and secure flexible network infrastructure, and extracting usable real-time insights to make the Internet of Everything, and its positive impact on society, a reality.