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The Internet of Lots and Lots of Things

The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of linked computing devices, both digital and mechanical machines, objects, or living beings that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction [1]. These devices use the internet to share and transfer data.

To estimate where the future of the internet of things is going, it is important to understand how we got to this point in the first place. In the early 1980s, graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University created a Coke machine that could report its contents through a network [2]. This experiment jump-started the IoT era. In the 1990s, a toaster connected to the internet became the first IoT device [3]. By the 2000s the world saw it’s first internet-enabled refrigerator. By the end of the 2000s the world experienced its first international conference on the Internet of Things [3]. In 2014 the amount of IoT devices exceeded the number of people. The beginning of the 2020s is expected to see nearly 36 billion devices connected to the internet [3].

The number of devices making their way into the internet of things is a growing domain. What exactly is a “thing” on the internet? It could be any natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and can share and transfer information over a network. This could be a dog with a microchip implanted, a smartwatch or a smart lock on your home. Bain & Company estimates that the IoT market will grow to about $520 Billion in 2021. The market is defined by six core technology and solutions areas: system integration, data center, and analytics, network, consumer devices, connectors and legacy embedded systems [4]. With such a broad market, it is easy to allow the imagination to take hold with what objects can be connected to the internet next.

With the growing number of the internet of things, it is important to consider the implications it will have on the network. An increase in the number of devices adds more traffic and data to the network, requiring more data processing and analysis. The increase of IoT requires network infrastructure evolutions from both implementers and suppliers. Developing these spaces to optimize bandwidth is key. With an estimated 36 billion devices being added to the network by the early 2020s, the need for bandwidth and connectivity will only increase. Networks will have to evolve or risk stifling the future of IoT development.

By the beginning of the 2020s, there are estimated to be nearly 36 billion devices connected to the internet. This increase in devices does not blanket all industries. Certain environments can expect more of an increase than others. Environments such as higher education institutions and school districts will see an increase, along with manufacturing industries and hospitals. Networks traditionally not used to such activity and device number will have to evolve to fit the new demand.


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