CIOs and technology thought leaders — Jeroen Tas, Tsuneo Kawatsuma, Vito Di Bari, Mark Hurst and Dr Joseph Reger — map out the route to a device-dominated world.
Since the end of 2008, there have been more computers connected to the Internet than people. And in coming years, as all kinds of products and everyday objects are chip-enabled and come online, objects with an IP address will outnumber Internet-connected humans by an order of magnitude — or more.
“By 2020, there will be something like 50 to 60 billion things on the Internet — so it will be a device-dominated network,” observes Dr Joseph Reger, CTO for EMEIA at global ICT company Fujitsu. And that embedding of processing and communications capability into many of the products we use every day will have a transformational impact across business and society, from supply chains and ecommerce to product design and healthcare.
IT has already become ubiquitous, observes Mark Hurst, business author and president of Creative Good. “Technology is everywhere, data is everywhere. New kinds of devices, new kinds of sensors and new kinds of bit streams are flowing everywhere, impacting individual people’s lives.” But that is just a taste of things to come.
“We’re at a turning point,” observes Tsuneo Kawatsuma, CTO and CIO of Fujitsu, where the application of ICT will become truly universal, where “all products will include computers and everything physical will be IT-enabled. The Internet of Things will open up new frontiers in all industries as everything is connected to the Internet.” Fujitsu technology is already being embedded in microwave ovens, in shoes, clothes and shirts, he says.
The world redesigned
But the digitization of all manner of objects and products will in itself precipitate a revolution in form and function. According to innovation designer and futurist Vito Di Bari, “almost every product, every service will have to be redesigned, re-engineered and resold,” he outlines, and as a result that will induce a new economic renaissance.
One area where that is already becoming evident is in healthcare. “We see a big change towards digital health,” says Jeroen Tas, CEO of Philips Healthcare Informatics and the former CIO of the Dutch electronics giant. “We see a big change in the way people connect to us, enabled through the digital changes around us” — from how individuals want to use their mobile devices to low-cost sensors that are part of wearable devices and help people control their vital signs, and ultimately their health.
Companies such as Fujitsu already have embedded sensors in mobile phones that enable users to check their pulse-rate simply by taking their own portrait, and other sensors that are attached to the skin and use body heat to generate power and send data gathered to a relevant network.
In that way, people can get insight into their health and are motivated to manage their health, says Philips’ Tas. So technology “becomes truly human-centric, helping people live better lives.”
Indeed, in all the excitement around of the Internet of Things the human element has been somewhat overlooked, argues Di Bari. “I believe we should stop calling it the Internet of Things. The best of it is we’re communicating with things and things are communicating with us. So at least we should call it the Internet of Things and People.”