Fueling the Internet of Everything is the growing number of people and things connecting to the Internet. There will be more mobile devices and smartphones connected than the total global population by 2015; by 2020, more than 5 billion people will be connected, not to mention 50 billion things. And it’s not just the devices you’d expect will be connected, such as tablets, but other physical objects that can sense and share information.
However, the number of people and things getting connected isn’t what matters most, but rather the outcomes those connections make possible. People get better access to education, healthcare and other opportunities to improve their lives and have better experiences. Governments can improve how they serve their citizens and businesses can use the information they get from all these new connections to make better decisions, be more productive and innovate faster.
The increased connectedness we’re beginning to experience equates to a US$ 19 trillion global opportunity to create value over the next decade through increased profits for businesses as well as cost savings, improved citizen services and increased revenues for governments and other public-sector organizations.
It’s also beginning to change the way our cities operate, saving money and energy. For instance, 70% of the world’s energy is used by street lighting in cities. By equipping street lights with sensors and connecting them to the network, cities can dim lights to save energy, only bringing them to full capacity when the sensors detect motion. This can reduce energy costs by 70-80%.
Once you put the Internet of Everything in place, other possibilities emerge. For example, networked light poles can also be used as Wi-Fi hubs or even charging stations for electric vehicles, providing great services for citizens and new revenue opportunities for cities. This is not about technology; it is about how it changes people’s lives and businesses forever.
Even connecting something as mundane, but important, as waste management systems can make a big difference, offering cities a 30% reduction in operating costs. Garbage cans with sensors and network connections can alert maintenance staff when they are full, or let them know when they aren’t full and don’t need to be emptied.
Visionary leaders are already reaping the benefits of the Internet of Everything. The Spanish city of Barcelona is using the Internet of Everything today to operate more efficiently and offer citizens new services and richer experiences. It is one of the few cities in Europe that is running a budget surplus, and is viewed as an innovative example of how to harness the power of the Internet of Everything to positively impact cities and their citizens.
As one of the world’s leading Smart+Connnected Communities, Barcelona has implemented Internet of Everything solutions to improve water management, waste management, parking and public transportation – all of which are helping the city save money. For instance, through connected water management alone, the city is saving US$ 58 million a year. Connected street lighting solutions have reduced costs by a third, saving Barcelona US$ 37 million annually. And what its leaders view as an even more important benefit, Barcelona estimates that the Internet of Everything has created 47,000 jobs over the past seven years. For a city of 1.7 million people, this has made a tremendous economic impact for its citizens.
The Internet of Everything is about creating a world where everything is connected to everything else. It’s changing how we live – safer streets, smarter homes, better education and healthcare. It’s changing how we work – more information, better decisions, more agile supply chains, more responsive manufacturing and increased economic value. In short, the Internet of Everything is changing everything and as a result, everyone will benefit.
We now have the technology, the know-how and the experience to create a world with the Internet of Everything. I see 2014 as the inflection point for this major technology transition, which I predict will have a much bigger impact on the world than the first 20 years of the Internet. Are you ready?
John Chambers is the Chairman and CEO of Cisco. This piece first appeared on the World Economic Forum blog.