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The Future of Connectivity
Recently I attended the 2011 Internet World show at London's Earls Court. Among the usual array of stands from various SEO, hosting and email marketing software agencies, were a series of key note speeches from some of the worlds leading online technology businesses. One that caught my eye in particular was a seminar by CISCO's CEO Phil Smith about the future of connectivity and 'the Internet of Things'.
As we steer toward a future in which all our objects and environments are connected we will eventually find ourselves living a technologist’s dream, with everything part of the network. But how will people experience and interact with it? Will users see it as a logical step in the evolution of the WorldWide Web? Or is it going to be understood as something radically different from anything we have seen before? In a modest way, the 'Internet of Things' is already here. During the second quarter of 2010, more than twice as many connected devices as people were added by carriers in the US. Different kinds of gadgets and gizmos are gradually turning into hybrid devices that are services, as much as they are physical objects.
These days, the pads and pods - in all their different shapes and forms - are also expected to be the portals to an integrated ecosystem of services and applications changing the way people work, learn and play. And the trend is spreading to devices such as TV's, hi-fi equipment and even cars. Is this the beginning of a new era of innovative, intertwined, combined products systems and services that utilize the power of the networks? Perhaps, but first there are some problems to address:
The Internet has run out of Internet addresses… sort of. Perhaps you’ve heard the news: the last blocks of IPv4 Internet addresses have been allocated. The fundamental underlying technology that has powered Internet Protocol addresses since the Internet’s inception will soon be exhausted. When IPv4 was set up with a capacity for 4 billion unique addresses, the technologists of the time could not have conceived they would need to revise the protocol within their lifetime. Now, a new technology will take its place. IPv4′s successor is IPv6; a system that will offer far more numerical addresses reaching units that sound like something from an Arthur C Clark novel (approximately 340 Undecillion*) or 3.4×1038. 'If you think of IPv 4 as a golf ball then IPv6 is the sun'.
So what does this mean?
The internet has undergone a series of revolutions in it's short history. A business revolution took place early in it’s inception, in which companies realised the potential benefits of an online presence. Next, the power and focus shifted towards the consumers with information instantly and freely available on an unprecedented scale. Now, with 500 million people moving into cities of the future, the world is urbanising and the internet is set to undergo a new industrial revolution. When you talk about the future, you can talk about smart, connected communities. Intelligent urbanization.
Such large scale urbanisation will inevitably lead to numerous social, economic, and environmental issues, but planning with the future of connectivity in mind will give us the opportunity to create intelligent cities with architectures that address everything from green initiatives, smart electricity, productivity, government services such as education and health care, intelligent transportation and smart buildings.
Imagine a central command and control that receives information from an integrated Sensor Technology Network which connects every function of the urban environment. Data is combined and aggregated to produce information, which in turn is analyzed and inspected to derive knowledge and insight. This allows city management to collect data about everything going on in an urban environment and retain this information indefinitely.
Not only does this help the city to react in real time to situations and conditions, but also the amount of history stored enables continuous optimization of all city functions, giving the ability to predict the outcomes of events. This includes examples ranging from traffic control to climate and energy management to home automation.
Consistent architecture of information means new applications and features can be added inexpensively and conveniently. Extending the management of cities and service offerings to residents and visitors, these new applications leverage the information provided from sensors, mobile devices, and people interacting with systems in the city. This unlocks the creativity of developers, and provides for new revenue streams and business models to be generated on an ongoing basis.
This new industrial revolution is NOT set to take place in the future. It has already begun.