In a column before CES I outlined 8 trends likely to come out of the show. But I omitted a key trend – the Internet of Everything (IOE) – because it was implied throughout some of the trends listed. Having now digested the events of the show I should have called it out as a trend in its own right, because ultimately that became the true theme of this year's CES.
This became very clear to me during a meeting I had with the CEO of Cisco, John Chambers, where he outlined Cisco's thinking on IOE. Chambers predicts the impact of IOE in the public sector alone will be worth $4.6 trillion (£2.8 trillion), no less, and believes it will have a dramatic impact on everything from city planning to first responders and health. When I hear numbers in the trillions I become sceptical. However, when you look at the ultimate idea of what IOE is, these numbers could be on the mark.
The Internet of Everything has become a catchall phrase to describe adding connectivity and intelligence to just about every inanimate object and giving it specific functionality. At the show there was a crock-pot connected to the Internet, allowing you to control when it came on and adjust the settings even if you were in Kathmandu. Various car vendors introduced the next generation of connected cars; all referred them as part of IOE. Smart cars, smart appliances, smart watches; they gain the "smart" moniker in front of them as they become tied to the Internet and part of an ecosystem of software and services. Sleep Number even announced a smart bed that monitors sleep patterns.
In Intel's keynote, CEO Brian Krzanich introduced a lot of devices based on Intel's Quark processors that can be placed in wearables to connect them to an ecosystem of apps and services. Examples ranged from baby monitoring systems to other devices for the home. Intel also introduced the Edison SoC, a complete system the size of an SD card for use in wearables and other mobile devices. Intel made it very clear that the company plans to be a major player in IOE.
One company extremely well poised to take advantage of IOE is ARM. During the 4 days of CES ARM shipped over 100 million chips. More than 95 per cent of smartphones and tablets are powered by ARM technology, and more than 80 per cent of digital cameras are based on ARM processors. Also, over 70 per cent of smart TVs shipped have ARM inside, and 95 per cent of portable gaming consoles use ARM chips to power them. Most ARM chips are shipped in products from Apple, Samsung, LG, Sony, and hundreds of other partners that use them in everything from smartphones to tablets, cars, and more.
Another important player in IOE is Nvidia. The company is pushing the envelope when it comes to mobile processors, and its new Tegra K1 mobile processor brings console-class gaming performance to smartphones and tablets. This is important since many endpoint devices will eventually need this type of performance to deliver their part of an IOE solution.
I also see Qualcomm as being one of the really big winners in IOE, since the firm attacks it at two levels. Its mobile chips and radios are used in millions of smartphones and tablets now and it has actually been championing IOE for two years. But Qualcomm has also been pushing something it calls the "Digital Sixth Sense," which relates to the other really important part of IOE: Sensors.
Qualcomm's sensors are called Gimbal processors. Billions of sensors will be shipped each year to give devices such as lights, beacons, appliances, and home automation systems a connection to other devices and Internet ecosystems. Qualcomm can deliver these sensors in dedicated products such as beacons and home automation, and they can also be added to its Snapdragon mobile processor to add sensor capabilities to systems with Snapdragon inside.
Ultimately this is what IOE is about. Devices connected to sensors, connected to an ecosystem and infrastructure around the Internet. What struck me after my discussion with John Chambers is how IOE is the next infrastructure that supports devices, sensors, and new forms of connectivity that use the Internet as the overall backbone. But perhaps a better way to think about this is from the various chip and vendors standpoint – that this is really about the Internet of me.
When I think about IOE I am most interested in what I can do with it, and how it makes my life better. I may not personally need a connected crock-pot but I am certainly interested in IOE as it relates to my car, home, work, and play. At the show there were connected golf clubs, basketballs, and tennis rackets, all of which monitored the devices' performance and analysed how to make my use of them better. I use my Nike Fuelband to monitor health related issues – and that is important to me. From a user's standpoint I am more interested in the Internet of me than I am the Internet of everything.
Over the next two to three years, Cisco and similar network architecture players will have a huge impact on helping the public sector build out the infrastructure to support IOE in places such as healthcare facilities, the police, fire, military, governments, etc. And most of the semiconductor companies will provide the core technology that will deliver the endpoint devices and sensors that can connect to these IOE networks and services.
As John Chambers suggested to me, 2014 will be seen as a turning point in IOE, and will put it on a fast track towards making networks, devices, and services much smarter. I also think that when we look back at CES 2014, we will see that it served as a major launching pad for IOE. From this point on we will see all tech companies trying to innovate around the IOE trend, attempting to deliver interesting new devices, apps, and services to bring the Internet of Everything to life.