50 Billion Internet Devices by 2020

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50 Billion Internet Devices by 2020

Mankind has long been characterized as a user of tools.  Although a few other animals share this trait, none come close to our relentless striving to design them, build them, and then implement them to improve our lives.  A prime example is how we have created devices that harness electricity, performing hundreds, if not thousands, of functions for each of us daily. 

Now, we are poised to enter a new era, in which the connectivity of billions of these electronic devices will transform how we interact with our world.  Some predict there will be 50 billion by the year 2020, all networked to what is being called "The Internet of Things."1  Chetan Sharma, an electrical and biological engineer now working as a private mobile analyst, envisions that this connectivity will be "making everyday experiences much better and friction free."2

It may seem that the addition of 50 billion more devices will "over complicate" our already device-infused lives.  But that will not be the case.  Consider how, even though cars have gotten more sophisticated and certainly more complicated to repair, no more knowledge or experience is needed to drive them.  The added technology works seamlessly in the background as we drive.  So it will be with the 50 billion connected devices as we go about our daily lives.  Picture these examples of what's to come:3

  • While shopping in a store, a "shelf sign" will scan us and then display promotions that are deemed appropriate based on our height and clothing style.
  • We'll create a shopping list on our phone for a nearby retail store.  At the store, the phone will communicate with the store network and prompt digital display signs to lead us through the store from item to item.
  • Refrigerators will keep tabs of their contents and suggest items that need restocking or need to be discarded. 
  • Hospital patients will no longer need sensors attached to their bodies because the beds will be outfitted with so much instrumentation.

The beginnings of this pervasive, noninvasive
connectivity can already be seen.  Consider:

  • Wireless downloads to Kindle e-readers are a good example of how this technology already does things for us, so we don't have to think about them.
  • Add-on devices are available that enable our cars to send messages if the speed exceeds a specific range or the vehicle moves beyond a set geographical area — potentially valuable information to the parent of a teenage driver. 
  • Micro-cameras the size and shape of a pill are being used to locate sources of illness and disease as they pass though the digestive tract, sending out thousands of images...

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