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How many ways are we connected? Let me count the ways.

by Hu Yoshida on Apr 16, 2012

Last month after I had visited Asia, I blogged about how information is being made available to a whole new population of users who were not connected to the e-life of the internet but are now connected to the m-life of the mobile phone: Information: No Longer for the Privileged Few

I estimated there to be potentially a billion new users in developing countries. Industry sources say that there are 5.9 billion mobile subscribers in 2012. If the ratio was one person per phone, that would be 87% of the world’s population! I recently read that mobile subscriptions in China alone just surpassed the one billion mark. But these mobile users now appear to be the tip of the iceberg if we look to 2020.

There is a research company in the UK, Machina Research who advises on the M2M and mobile broadband market. They recently published a report, which had some very surprising statistics on what they call “connected devices” which they define as all devices that are used for transmitting or receiving packet data telecommunications via any wide area or local area network. Cell phones, PCs and tablets may be the least of these devices. Here are three key predictions for connected devices:

  • Overall connected devices will treble over the next 10 years from 9 billion in 2011 to 24 billion in 2020.
  • The lion’s share will be machine-to-machine connections
  • The growth in PC/laptop, tablet, and handset data usage will result in a massive increase in data. Machina Research forecasts that global mobile data traffic will increase from 4 exabytes in 2011 to 42 exabytes in 2020 with 60% coming from PC/laptop connections and 37% from handsets.

You can see the full report here.

We are already seeing an increase in machine-to-machine connections, like those that monitor every Boeing 787 flight for efficiency and safety, surveillance monitors for security, and sensors for weather monitoring. Aside from these industrial applications of connected devices, we are seeing more and more in our personal lives. Using this definition of a connected device, try counting up the number of connected devices that you use. You may be surprised.

I started to count up the number of connected devices that my wife and I share in our home. We both have cellphones and laptops, we have two landline phones which we converted to Verizon wireless, one iPad, an ePrinter, a Direct TV set top box, and a smart meter from PG&E for a total of ten connected devices. In the future we are told that our cars will be connected, as well as our refrigerators, toilets, solar panels, treadmill, heart monitors, etc.

This all means a lot of data that needs storage and a lot of information to be analyzed to enhance our lives.


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