At the Mobile World Congress 2015 we attended the 4YFN innovation sessions, many of which addressed the expected Internet of Things revolution.
The following is a summary of a presentation by Alexander Izomisov of Ericsson on the Internet of Things and why it will have more impact than most people expect. Ericsson supplies telecommunications hardware for many of the worlds network operators.
What is the Internet of Things?
The internet of things (IoT for short) is a buzzword in the high-tech and startup landscape. IoT encompases all the devices we are starting to use that access or put data on the internet. Cars, heart-rate monitors, vending machines, weather stations, thermostats and many more devices have suddenly become ‘smart’ by being connected to the internet.
50 billion internet devices in 2020
From a telecom perspective this changes the world fundamentally. Between 2010 and 2015 the voice connections handled by mobile networks doubled as more consumers adopted mobile phones. That number is expected to grow to 9,5 Billion users in 2020, after which everyone will have a phone and the volume of voice calls will probably flatten out (you can only speak to so many people on the phone or watch so many youtube video’s on your smartphone – even if you are a teenager 😉 ).
Data however is a completely different story. There is no real limit to the number of connected devices you can own. I have a connected thermostat, connected TV and connected solar panel in my home, my car connects to the internet, i can buy internet connected lamp bulbs and so on. And that is just the devices that i make decisions about. Manufacturers are increasingly adding IoT tech to everything from coffee vending machines to greenhouse equipment. Between 2010 and 2015 the volume of data that mobile networks handled grew 14 fold and is growing exponentially. Whatever the number of IoT connected devices in 2020 (50 Billion according to some) it is clear we have a completely different order of magnitude growth than we saw with voice connections.
The networked society
Numbers aside, the internet of things will have a profound impact on our lives. Commonplace objects in our homes, workplaces and public spaces will be connected. We are entering what some call the ‘Networked society’ in which the concepts of network and connected devices will be redefined. And it will happen in the next 5-10 years.
Mobile 3G and 4G networks using IPv4 simply cannot cope with the exponential growth of mobile data. 5G is the telecom technology that promises to keep the networks ticking over in the next 5 years. 5G promises much lower power consumption for connected, low power devices coupled with much higher bandwidth. It promises 100-1000x the bandwidth of current networks with much lower latency and the ability to cope with 100x as many devices. IPv6 will allow the 50 Billion devices to have their own address on the network.