Rebooting the IT Revolution

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Rebooting the IT Revolution

The marvelous advances in computing and communications that have revolutionized our lives and businesses over the past few decades have been driven by relentless progress in semiconductor technology.  From computers that filled entire rooms in the 1960s to those that now fit on the edge of a coin, devices are increasingly smaller and more powerful. 

Now, as the technology is increasingly embedded in everyday objects connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) it’s crucial that the United States remains at the forefront of the Digital Revolution.

According to a report issued by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), the U.S. will need to invest $500 million in a focused research initiative over the next five years, to avoid losing its technology leadership.

That amount seems reasonable considering that the payoff will be many times greater.  As reported on BGR.com, Cisco CEO John Chambers told an audience at the Consumer Electronics Show that by 2024, fifty billion devices will be connected to the IoT, and they will create $19 trillion in “economic benefit and value.”1  While BGR points out that Chambers didn’t provide a source for this estimate, the Trends editors suspect he mistakenly moved a decimal point in the research firm Gartner’s prediction that the IoT will generate $1.9 trillion in value.

The disparity between these numbers—$17.1 trillion, or the size of the national debt in 2013—highlights how hype and high expectations are running wild as the future of technology unfolds, shattering paradigms and threatening the balance of power in the global tech hierarchy. 

Yet, even the lower figure of $1.9 trillion is substantial.  It’s precisely the amount that Boeing believes the explosive growth of the Asia-Pacific market will be worth over the next twenty years to the airline industry in the form of 13,000 new jet airliners, according to an unrelated YouTube video by Saxo Bank and TradingFloor.com.2

But just as the IoT represents an opportunity for American tech firms, it’s also a threat.  The report from the SIA and the SRC cautions that the ocean of data produced by the IoT is likely to exceed the capabilities of the industry’s current processing and storage technology.3  According to SRC president Ken Hansen, “The IoT, from ubiquitous sensor nodes to the cloud, will be orders of magnitude larger and more complex than anything we know today...

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