Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Guess What? This Mobile Internet Thing Just Might Be a Big Deal.

Networking giant Cisco Systems today revealed the latest version of its Visual Networking Index, its regularly updated look ahead at how big the Internet is going to be someday — the bigger the better, because Cisco hopes to sell the gear to enable it, natch — and, well, there’s really nothing about it that you didn’t already intuitively know.

Still, the numbers that Cisco has in its survey are impressive (that’s the fun with this type of study): Between now and 2016, traffic on wireless networks will multiply 18 times, and will account for 130 exabytes of data per year.

What’s driving it? All those iPads, iPhones and other smart mobile devices — and every one of them will be streaming music and video to such an extent that traffic for this purpose alone will grow 95 percent a year.

But here is a far more interesting (to me) observation by Cisco: Machine-to-machine communications. Our experience with the Internet is largely shaped by the human-to-consumption-device paradigm. We sit at a PC, or with a smartphone and tablet, and consume digital information of one kind or another that’s stored somewhere on a server as needed and desired.

But what about the machines? There’s a huge but growing demand and interest in using one machine to automatically communicate with another machine, without much direct interaction from a human. A basic example might be remote weather gear that automatically reports temperature and atmospheric conditions to a master machine that stores gigabytes of weather data no human will look at on a day-to-day basis, but which will be used for analysis later.

Sensor networks can monitor the condition of machines like generators or air-conditioning units or pipeline pumps. Imagine any kind of machine that’s designed to run for a long time independently, and someone probably wants to put a remote sensor on it to make sure it keeps running properly.

And by the way, that data collected by all these remote devices watching other devices? They’re going a long way toward creating the huge big-data analysis problems that are driving the adoption of things like Hadoop and Splunk, and that gets companies like IBM excited about such things as its Smarter Cities and Smarter Planet initiatives.

Cisco says these smart thingies, combined with all those tablets and smartphones, will amount to about 10 billion devices on the network by 2016, and that’s more things on the Internet than there will be people on the planet by that time.

On that note: Cisco made a cutesy video to go along with its release today, depicting a lonely French guy named Claude who appears too distracted by all the gadgets he’s brought to the cafe to notice the girl sitting behind him. There’s an ironic comment in there somewhere, but I’m not feeling clever enough to make it this morning.

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