Cisco Coined the term "the internet of things" to describe a future where ultra-low-cost computing hardware meets affordable sensors and widespread wireless connectivity to drive a massive sea-change across the globe. Intriguingly, Cisco have also coined yet another zinger, "the internet of everything". Curiosity piqued, I leapt at the chance to catch up with Carlos Dominquez, the Vice President from the CEO's Office at Cisco to find out more.
PP: You've said that things are beginning to change rapidly, what sort of changes are these?
CD: What does a computing device look like? We're seeing the i-watch, Google glass - they're going to be eminent right?
And also it is kinda funny we're all carrying these devices around for how long? We might go to places were these devices are accessible they could be embedded in this table already, and what you'd do is put in your code and go to your personal cloud and all of the sudden it becomes your device.
Once you're done you log out and you walk out and you're done. all of the sudden we're not carrying anything around.
So these are all the things that are coming that will change things. The good news, and I firmly believe it in my heart of hearts, is we've always had to adapt to technology and the next generation is actually technology that is adapting to us and that's a fundamental change in what's happening.
PP: That is pretty exciting stuff
CD: it is - I'm very excited, I can't wait, that's why I am wearing all this crazy (shows multiple health monitoring bands on both wrists).. I actually have a fit bit too but I don't have it on today. I figured I was going to electrocute myself with all this stuff I'm wearing..
PP: You talk about the internet of things and the internet of everything, can you explain the difference between the two? I can see it being a point of confusion for many..
CD: Yeah I'm confused what did I say again? (laughing)
PP: (laughing) That's worrying, If you're confused, I'm definitely in trouble
CD: The internet of things is not a new concept, things have been connecting to the internet for a little bit and sensors started going on-line in 2004-5, maybe even earlier and there's a whole bunch of things going on there. What's happening with connections and sensors and stuff like that is they happen in silos.
So if I am for example a mining company I need to monitor geological information so I drop all these sensors out there and I have a collection system. There's proprietary software that's written and I got all this intelligence. It's a single purpose thing using private protocols and these are evolving in many many different ways all over the world.
We're doing it underwater, we're doing it on tornadoes - you've seen those crazy people who drop those little sensor pellets to monitor the storm, but it's all single purpose kinda devices.
Where it gets really interesting is when everything converges on something, something like this device (taps his smartphone) what makes this phone unbelievable it has nothing new - We had GPS before the phone, we had cameras actually we have better cameras, we had mapping and all the technology but now it's unified and when its unified it creates a whole new layer of capabilities.
So what's happening in the internet of things will continue to grow at an exponential rate. So what we're trying to do is to understand how to extract more value on things connected and what we're trying understand is that there's a difference on how people communicate with people, machines communicate with machines and people communicate with machines.
Like for example things are not always on - things go on and transmit data and then shut off, humans are always on, like god forbid you shut my phone off and I miss a call - it just doesn't work that way.
What we're trying to do with the internet of everything is actually build the systems approach to all of these things that are going to connect, and we're talking in the trillions, and do it in a way that we can add process and analytics to it and extract value so think of the internet of everything as a layer that you put over the internet of things to make it more valuable, manageable and intelligent .
PP: So one is a subset of the other?
CD: yeah we're just trying to say is let's just connect everything in a more organised fashion. One of the things about the internet of everything we're trying to work on is standards wouldn't it be great if there's a trillion things connected and they're all siloed - what value can you extract?
When I first worked at Cisco we had all these protocol converters that converted between DECNnet and HP you know all these different protocols and what made us great is that we could convert these... we spoke all these protocols well the same thing could potentially happen with the internet of things unless standards are done.
So what we're trying to do is take our experience and collective knowledge from the last 28 years in connecting things. We understand protocols, we understand standards, and connecting things when we helped build this thing called the internet and how do we help define our value in this new sort of world, what is this new environment like?
And then the second thing we're also doing is looking at how these things connect and what are the vulnerabilities - one of the biggest vulnerabilities is security - we're seeing hacks all over the world. imagine if you add one trillion connections. How about if you hack into a street light sensor and start changing the sensors, you can really mess things up and going from there you can do all sorts so what it brings to mind in a very clear path is that the intelligence, the security, the way information is processed has to move from the centre of the data centre and the top in the cloud and it's got to be distributed all the way down to the bottom.
The way we've been designing networks there's always been three layers - there's been a core network, a distribution network, and an access network. They all did different functions such as authentication and security etc. and what we've done now is we've taken the access network and moved it one layer down and put it as a field area network which is what is connecting the sensors and all the security all of the intelligence is going to be moved over time to the ground port level.
PP: So the way information is processed is going to have to change too?
CD: Big data always had a curve that the more data you had, the more valuable it became - it was measured by the three Vs velocity, variety and volume - so the more meteorological data we have the better we can predict it and this data was typically all centrally processed.
What is happening now is because of the sensor technology there is actually something now that we're calling data in motion. So imagine you're walking down the street and sensors detect you and street lights light up as you move under them. With the internet of things if you have to process sensor data in the data centre, it'll be too slow and too late so the lights wouldn't go on at the right time. So there's a notion that the value of data decreases over time and the value is highest right at the point where something is happening.
Data is being done in real time, its processed locally and you question if you want to store it or not. so you have two very different data sets and understanding what the data set it is and why is extremely important is where the real cool stuff is going to happen, especially when you take the data in real time and crunch it with predictive algorithms so you're giving me something that is going to change an outcome. We're going to get into more predictive stuff - The last billion dollars we spent was all on analytics..
The majority of this stuff is going to connect wirelessly - so there's a lot of investment in protocols and we've just come out with quantum which has a lot of analytics.
PP: so what will the business and political impacts of the internet of everything be?
CD: Well the business impact is that we're going to have more information about our businesses than we've ever had before. So how do you capture it and leverage it and how dos that change your business models is really important and the opportunity lies for us to take the products we deliver to our clients and how do we add more value?
PP: So what would an example for an average person look like?
CD: well I mean we showed an example of health care - One day my health profile is here and my is helping inform my health decisions - Think of yourself as a healthcare provider and my job is to provide health care services to you - and the provider could look at the data and say "Carlos you're not being healthy, your blood pressure is high but if we get your health right I'll lower your insurance premium", and even give you memberships to a gym because ultimately if I am healthy, it'll cost them less money - so all of the sudden these applications are making me healthy - they can monitor me and say if I am or aren't living up to my side of the bargain. So there's an outcome.
Or imagine If you were an electricity company wouldn't it be great if there were a central controller at your home and sensors everywhere and I could start shutting things down - with your permission - if there was a brown out and give you a credit to save the grid. So the notion of these sensors delivering all these sorts of outcomes is really powerful.
There's a really interesting video by a guy called Carlo Rossi out of MIT and what he did was he put RFID tags on 3,000 pieces of garbage in Washington state. By the time he switched the sensors on the garbage had migrated from Washington State all the way to Florida and Texas... For me I love that example because it makes us aware of things we didn't have any awareness of before. So that's how it's going to manifest itself in business....
PP: So what would the internet of everything mean to government?
CD: so the example I would say is , and I don't know what the story is in New Zealand, but in the USA the government has more data than they know what to do with , so what they've been doing in a public/private partnership and have set up data.gov to make data available and are actually requesting hackathons to make the data useful - inviting people to play with the data. People have been working with train timetables and crime and have tried to get a better outcome.
One of the more interesting ones done in New York City was that they plotted where people in prison grew up in and called these million dollar blocks (because that is what it costs to maintain someone in prison) and went into these areas and had early childhood interventions to get more programmes to get outcomes.. The wave of all these things that can happen is incredible, governments will have more information than they know what to do with.
PP: So what is your favourite gadget of the moment?
CD: well so let me not say favourite? This isn't my favourite but if I am without it I am dead (points to his phone). Actually did you know that there is a new disease called nomophobia - the fear of being without your phone?
We do the Cisco Connected World Report that I am the executive sponsor of and the one thing that always blows my mind with it is the usage patterns of people. When we first did the report there was a huge variance between youth and us and that has disappeared - It wasn't surprising to me - the first thing I do when I wake up I check my phone. there's this thing called TTS - time to screen - for gen Y it's less than 5 minutes - I say pffft - for me its 2 minutes. The reason I say that, is that true technology innovation is when it works its way into society in a way that changes everything. This (pointing at phone) is like water. I also love my Sonos, it's as good as it gets if you love music.
PP: So what will that look like to the average person?
CD: let's look at health. I have a lark life band and a Nike band - here's a way that sensors and technology are already integrated into my life and there are going to be all sorts of next generation pills - there's already this company called Proteus that has a sensor the size of a pin head in a pill you swallow and you wear a patch that has a battery, but is also powered by the human body - you take a Proteus pill and as it passes through you it passes information to the patch and you can see the outcomes such as any side effects of other meds - their original pill was a pill that replaced an endoscope - so instead of putting a camera on a tube down your throat you swallowed this pill... I don't think the camera pill was ever reused thank goodness (laughs).
We're all going to be connected and it depends on the outcomes you're trying to achieve - that's going to be one of the brilliant outcomes. We're living in a world where we seek information, but I think information will find you based on profiling and predictive algorithms