Coming Next: The Internet of Everything

Detecting and nurturing breakthrough technologies is critical to the success of IEEE

7 March 2014
Roberto
Photo: Ron Newkirk

Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to become involved with the IEEE Future Directions Committee, first as a member and eventually as chair. Working on where technology is headed, not only in my pursuits but also across the span of our professional community, is incredibly inspiring and rewarding.

In the past, the work of the IEEE Future Directions Committee has breathed life into a number of technical communities. Some of the most recent success stories include IEEE’s smart grid, life sciences, transportation and electrification, and cloud computing communities, all of which trace their genesis to the work of this visionary committee.

The charge of the Future Directions Committee has been to anticipate and determine the direction of existing and emerging technologies, identify significant technical issues related to IEEE activities, and spearhead the investigation and development of those technologies by IEEE.

Detecting and nurturing breakthrough technologies is critical to the success of IEEE. It is also important to attract to our activities young professionals at companies developing these technologies or launching new enterprises that will create applications for novel platforms. Efforts have already begun to foster initiatives in green information communications, smart cities, and perhaps one of the most interesting areas of all: the Internet of Things (IoT) or, as some call it, the Internet of Everything.

We are witness to an unprecedented era of connectedness, even in what is still only the infancy of the IoT. Today, networked sensors improve manufacturing processes by providing real-time, machine-to-machine data. In the European Union, the elderly are moving into ambient-assisted living homes, which are smart structures able to monitor a resident’s health and daily routine and to warn when conditions move beyond a certain threshold. And all around us, fitness enthusiasts are donning sensor-equipped accessories that send quantifiable biorhythmic data to laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices. Soon we will be living in a new “sensorized” world.

challenges ahead

The IoT envisions a complex, self-configuring, and adaptive system of networks of sensors and smart objects whose purpose is to connect all things, including commonplace and industrial objects. The idea is to make things intelligent, programmable, and more capable of interaction with humans.

The IoT promises to be the most disruptive technological revolution since the advent of the Internet. It is also likely to be the biggest system ever built; projections indicate that more than 50 billion humans and objects will be connected to the Internet by 2020. IEEE recently approved an IoT initiative that includes, among other efforts, the first IEEE World Forum on Internet of Things, taking place this month in Seoul, South Korea.

However, the international IoT community faces many challenges in ensuring that this new phase of Internet development is successful. Some of these challenges are technological, and others are social. Still others are related to the search for effective business models.

Two of the largest technical challenges are guaranteeing connectivity for such a large number of mobile and energy-dependent objects and how to best develop standard protocols, interfaces, and open platforms for creating services. Social issues could prove even more challenging, because they revolve around trust and privacy.

The IoT community is already addressing trust and privacy issues. In June 2012, a two-day event in London culminated in the production and signing of a statement by 85 participants, the IoT Bill of Rights. It focused on key principles and goals for an open IoT: determining the accessibility of data to and by whom, timeliness of access, preservation of privacy, transparency of process, and setting data-licensing provisions.

More recently, of course, the Edward Snowden affair, which involved the release to the media by a former U.S. National Security Agency contractor of an extensive portfolio of classified documents, has renewed the call, from several governments, for a new Internet governance model. This need will become even more acute when the avalanche of data generated and transported by the IoT begins to impact our daily lives more deeply.

Solving this pressing problem will require the establishment of a constructive dialogue between government officials and the Internet community. In my opinion, IEEE can play an important role in solving this intricate global problem.

I urge all of you to involve yourselves not only in IEEE’s growing IoT community but also in all of IEEE’s continual efforts to identify emerging technologies and support their growth and evolution within our community. Please share your views on emerging technologies and the IoT with me at president@ieee.org.

RdMt_signature2014 J. Roberto Boisson de Marca
IEEE President and CEO

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