If $19 billion doesn't get you excited, how about $19 trillion? If Facebook created a buzz at the Mobile World Congress with the announcement of its acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion, Cisco CEO John Chambers went a few orders higher with his $19 trillion figure – that's the economic value he attaches to the Internet of Things over the next decade.
The Internet of Things envisages a world in which your home, car and various devices are connected to the Internet and each other. For example, the car will automatically signal a thermostat to reset itself as you approach your home. John Chambers says the Internet of Things will have five to ten times as much impact on us as the Internet.
As a provider of Internet infrastructure, Cisco obviously stands to gain from this trend. So projections made by a Cisco CEO may not convince sceptics. But the number of innovators trying to connect things together, for the next big digital idea, suggests that Cisco is not the only one betting on IoT. Google for one placed a big bet with its acquisition of Nest, a maker of smart thermostats, for $3.2 billion in January.
From smart thermostats and fridges to Internet-linked billboards and traffic signals, from smart diapers and health monitoring systems to smart electricity grids and garbage disposal systems – the possibilities are endless. As Chambers pointed out, there were only about 1000 devices connected to the Internet in 1984 – when Cisco was born – whereas there are over 10 billion connected devices today – which is more than the number of people in the world.
Having said that, we are a long way from an Internet of Things world. It's not enough to connect devices to the Internet – smart people will have to figure out how they interact with one another. Will the same communication protocols be accepted by all the big manufacturers? In what language will a Volkswagen car talk to a Samsung fridge?
The $19 trillion value that Chambers puts on the IoT presupposes a lot of plumbing things falling into place first. But the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona had something more substantial than talk about the Internet of Things. A 'Connected City' was on display, and IBM invited companies to hook gadgets to its Internet of Things cloud.
This is a space worth tracking this year. If you have anything to share on the Internet of Things, do post a comment below.