Looking ahead to 2050 - Communications trends II

Sergey Brin predicted a few years ago that by the end of this decade a search engine will be able to search for your keys, and in general for physical objects. That implies that objects are connected to the Internet, IoT.

Telecommunications used to connect human beings. Then it started to connect computers and then human to computers. Now we are seeing more and more connected things, among themselves and with humans.

At TTM 2016 an interesting panel discussed the future of IoT, Internet of Things. The first point touched upon was the meaning of IoT. Quite clear at first glance, it gets muddy as soon as one looks closely. The reason is the variety subsumed by the word “Thing” and the type of interconnection it may have with the Internet. One panelist from NIST actually proposed a name change, from IoT to NoT, with N standing for “Network”.

A “Thing” to be part of the IoT set should have, according to a panelist, four properties: 


  • Sensing
  • Communication
  • Computation
  • Actuation

As a matter of fact this is what another panelist characterized as IoT 1.0, leaving open the door to IoT 0.5 –characterized by sensing and communication or actuation and communication, and IoT 0.9 characterized by sensing, communication and computation.

At this point what would be IoT 2.0? Well, I can offer a Thing that creates a communication space and it is able to manage other Things, from a communication point of view, on its created network.
 Why stop with 2.0? A 3.0 IoT can be one that can create other “Things”, according to a Industry 4.0 paradigm.

Actually, I would consider a broader definition for IoT to include in the set also data, or data cluster, associated to processing and I/O, what I call Soft IoT.

The “communication” characteristics is seen differently by the telecommunication and the computer world. The former would consider as valid communication only the one that is directly established between the IoT and the network, wirelessly or wired does not matter. On the other hand, the computer world will accept as a valid communication whatever means, synchronous, asynchronous, direct, mediated as long as there is an identity associated with the “Thing”. Hence, an accelerometer embedded in a smart phone is not considered as an IoT by the former but it is considered an IoT by the latter. Similarly a sensor deployed in a field that can communicate only when a tractor happens to be nearby to establish a local communication.

Ericsson foresees 1.5 billion IoT equipped with a SIM by 2021

This may be correct but if we look forward to 2030 I feel implausible to have SIMs around, and even less in 2050.

Whatever the definition of IoT, it is a given that they will outnumber the cell phones and their communications needs will span from few bytes a day to several TB a day. The number of transactions will also show a broad range, from  few per year to billions a day. Recently, as I noticed in another post, Stanford researchers collected as many as 250,000 data packets per day from wearable from a single person.

It is therefore clear that managing their communication needs may strain the current network and new connectivity paradigms might be needed.

Sergey Brin few years ago stated that in the future search engines (and I guess he was thinking of Google) will be able to answer a question like: where did I put my car keys? To do that the keys need to be connected, one way or another to the internet, they have to become IoT.

Clearly this begs the question if you’ll like to have Google knowing where you left your keys, and wonder what would happen if someone manages to hack this information.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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