Jun 3rd 2014

Cisco Live and the problem with the Internet of Everything

Capture 3As inevitable as Liverpool throwing away a three-goal lead or Facebook buying out anyone standing in its path, the Internet of Things was always going to be shortened to IoT in the acronym-heavy tech industry we work in. Yet for so long the idea of a world where things are connected to one massive network was a bit of a pipe dream; it’s only in the last five years that we have been able to have a fully connected smartphone – is it really time for washing machines, thermostats or lighting to join the party?

Cisco Live took place recently in San Francisco, no doubt one of the world’s most self-proclaimed techy cities, and it turns out Cisco is pretty hot on IoT. So much so, in fact, that Cisco Live took the idea of IoT a step further by saying the concept can and will evolve into the Internet of Everything. Or IoE. Shudder. 

It all seems to hinge on the telescopic nature of the evolution of technology. Suddenly we are all expecting to be able to use our phones to do everything- to turn on the lights, check the roast chicken in the oven, mow the lawn and, occasionally, call someone.

But what all this expectation boils down to is the fact that, for the first time in a long time, the technology industry can’t decide what its next revolutionary product should be. It has to settle for the Internet of Everything and it’s a lot harder to fall in love with a concept, especially one that’s so vague and futuristic. It’s a point my colleague Max made back in January and not a lot has changed in that time.

Cisco has devoted an entire branch of its thinking (and its mammoth budget) to the Internet of Everything, describing it as:

“…bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before- turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.”

The ‘things’ are the exciting products like the self-driving cars and talking fridges. When Cisco promise a “faster path to strategic insights and increased profitability” or “rapid delivery of differentiated IoE-enabled services and experiences” it just doesn’t excite, even if the concept is impressive both in ambition and scale.

A case in point is Apple – a company that has without question shaped the way we live via the products it has given us. Apple harnessed the power of the portable music player with the iPod and paved the way for the concept of app-driven technology with the iPhone. Yet recently, Apple has struggled to create hype in the way it used to. With the announcement of Apple’s connected home plans comes their inevitable submission to the idea of IoE – the problem being, there is no one product to make this concept a reality.

The news barely made a ripple because there is no product. I think we all agree that the idea of IoE is amazing, and will undoubtedly happen- but the twenty-first century’s need to hype absolutely everything will not apply to it. Everyone agrees with Cisco that the IoE is a concept, a gradual building of an unfathomably huge network of everything. They can worry about implementing it. For the rest of us, let’s just sit back and let it happen because the more we talk about it, the less impressive it becomes.


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