Trading Jet Packs for an Internet of Things




The future doesn’t always turn out as flashy as we imagine it will be when we’re kids, but that doesn’t mean what it brings can’t be inspiring. In an article for Wired, Equinix’s Jim Poole explains the emerging Internet of Things, which aims to connect billions of previously mute objects worldwide to us and to each other.

Poole writes that the innumerable applications of the Internet of Things range from the profound to the profoundly mundane. The prospect of shipping pallets communicating about their contents with passing weigh stations, for instance, doesn’t have the allure of the jet packs a younger Poole figured would be standard transportation by 2013.

But the Internet of Things will prove to be infinitely more useful, he writes, if we can figure out how to build the sprawling global infrastructure needed to host it.

The Internet of Things describes the trend of using radio sensors, image recognition and other technologies to interconnect billions of physical objects not typically thought of as being “smart.” Poole, Equinix’s vice president, global service provider vertical marketing, writes those things could include anything from a vending machine that can report it needs a refill to a pill that measures digestive tract health.

Cisco estimated there are 1.5 trillion things in the world and less than 1 percent of them are connected to the Internet. Poole explains that as that percentage grows, this new machine to machine communication will transform an Internet that, until now, has been entirely dependent on human beings for information. The change brings huge potential to reduce waste, loss and cost. But Poole cautions that it also comes with unprecedented challenges.

Every object within the Internet of Things must somehow be bolted to the Internet, he writes, even though they have enormously different communications needs. And somehow, we must enable instantaneous communication between these various things, while also fanning out data to countless devices simultaneously.

But Poole says some of this has been done before. He compares the need for the ad hoc networks that develop in an Internet of Things to converge in one place to the needs of Internet networks in the late 1990s. He notes that’s when Equinix was founded as neutral site for networks to meet and trade Internet traffic. This “peering” enabled the Internet’s explosive growth and Poole predicts it will do the same for the Internet of Things.

Poole writes that, given projections it will produce $14.4 trillion in value by 2022, the Internet of Things is part of a future well worth waiting for, even if there are no jet packs in sight.