The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the rapid growth in devices and applications including industrial machines, cars, appliances and mobile devices, that send and receive data allowing them communicate with each other.
Estimates for the IoT market value are massive, with Cisco predicting that by 2020, $14.4 trillion (£9 trillion) could be unlocked in economic value for companies worldwide and 50 billion devices connected to the internet. And research from Gartner says it expects the industry to create $1.9 trillion for the world economy by 2020.
Evans, who joined Cisco in 1993, discussed the emerging platforms and applications for IoT and the potential threats to privacy and security at The Internet of Things World Forum in Barcelona last week.
What's does your role as Cisco's chief futurist involve?
My job is to gather data from a lot of different sources whether it's academia, customers or investment organisations, to understand where the world is going from a technology perspective and understanding how these technologies shifts like IOT, Internet of Everything, or transforming industries. One is to understand where the growth is going and to cover customers that understand some of these trends and implications to these businesses, so our customers can take advantage of it.
The various elements that make the IoT what it is have been around for a long time. So what has changed more recently?
I would classify it as a perfect storm of a variety of things that are happening. So it's not one thing. There are a lot of technologies, if you take RFID which was invented 40 years ago or 3D printing, now starting to take on. So we've had a tipping point in terms of adoption of technology. We're now starting to invest in and create the standards that allow similar systems to interoperate, so you're car can talk to your home can talk to a building and so on.
And also the price and availability and miniaturisation has now gotten to that point where something like a phone, which might have cost a $1m a decade ago, now you can pick it up for a few hundred dollars. So it's a variety of things. It's not one thing, but a storm of consumer adoption and IT maturity.
What industry do you see as being most affected?
There are some industries that are getting the value of IoT and rapidly adopting it because they're using to scale, improve operational efficiency and delight customers. There are some industries where it's so obvious we need to do, some industries will mature faster, but there's not an industry that will not be impacted by IoT.
A lot of retailers are looking at IoT, from improving their supply chain, replenishment of inventory, to even the experience in the store. Perhaps the product on the shelf knows that it's you and knows you have an allergy to something, so if you attempt to buy that product, it'll say 'hey you have an allergy and you shouldn't buy it'.
What do you think will be the immediate impact for the end consumer?
Well the next big thing for the consumer, as it relates to IoT, is wearable technology. I think today we don't wear any connected technology for the most part. Some of us have things like fuel bands and so on, but tomorrow you may have 20 different things on you that are wearable. For example, no one in this room has clothing that is connected to the Internet. Tomorrow you may have clothing that monitors your health and temperature. The child that you have may wear clothing that monitors temperature.
What sort of risks do you see if hackers get into the system?
There's always a risk when something is compromised through a virus. Our philosophy is we believe embedding security in the network layer. If a device happens to be defective or introduces a virus, it doesn't negate the device itself having some security stack on it. It means at the network level you can shut it off or you can adapt the network, which means you can protect the other assets. You also have economy of scale and you can react much faster than you can if it's simply the end device.
You can't predict necessarily what the device of tomorrow will be. The device of tomorrow may not have the appropriate software stack, but the network can. And the network can also adapt much faster.
What is the condition for standards and protocols?
One of the reasons why we're hosting this forum is that the collective industry needs to work together on standards. We need to address privacy, security and infrastructure. We're very active and sit on a number of committees, for example ITF and W3C, to help drive a lot of these industry standards.
Can you give some suggestion as to how the industry could affect social media?
We tend to think of social networks as things by and for people, but I submit in the coming years we will see more social networks by and for things. A building might tweet when there's an emergency or a car may tweet when it needs a tune up. Your home may tweet when you've got a leak somewhere.
As things start tweeting and feeding social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and then it's no longer about the sentiment about what's there now, it's also predictive analytics. So you've got a certain amount of data, can you extract it based on what you're seeing and perhaps you can start predicting things like the outcome of an election, market fluctuations and so on.