Blog Post

A Planet of Connected Devices

Earlier this morning, while swapping my computer bags, I had one of those moments when the future flashes right in front of your eyes.

On the table were a cornucopia of devices. I had a Kindle (s amzn), iPad (3G) (s aapl), Lumix GF-1 with Eye-Wi, a Sprint Overdrive (MeFi), an Apple iPhone, an Android-powered (s goog) HTC Droid from Verizon (s vz), my trusted old and beat up BlackBerry Bold (s rimm) (from T-Mobile) and my Macbook Air. They all are connected to the Internet — at any given time.

These connected devices are the tip of the iceberg. Yesterday, Stacey wrote about the dawn of the age of the Internet of Things, pointing to the furious pace at which carriers are adding connected mobile devices: 2.6 million in U.S. alone during the last quarter. There are 20 million connected devices (and more than a single person’s share of them are in my bag) in the U.S., but that may change soon.

Ericsson (s eric), a company which makes radios and other gear for wireless networks, predicts that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020.

From iPads to Kindles to connected microwaves and Internet-enabled televisions, any device that lacks a connection will indeed be deemed dumb in the future. These new connected devices are going to open up massive opportunities, and even bigger challenges, in the coming years.

To give you some context of the kind of wireless infrastructure we might need, here’s a statistic: it took Ericsson 20 years to see the first million radio base stations. The next million have come within three years.

With LTE, WiMAX and other networks popping up at breath-taking speed, it’s not hard to imagine more demand for the wireless backhaul gear, regardless of who makes it — Ericsson, Nokia (s nok), Siemens (s si), or the Chinese giants, Huawei and ZTE. Incidentally, the major impact of this shift is one of the major themes at our upcoming conference, Mobilize 2010, scheduled to be held in San Francisco on September 30, 2010.

Meanwhile, I’m back to musing about what devices I should leave at home and what I should carry?

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

The Internet of Things: What It Is, Why It Matters

Enjoy this TED Video of Kevin Kelly talking about the next 5,000 days of the web (circa 2008)

7 Responses to “A Planet of Connected Devices”

  1. I’m a minority here, for sure. But allow me to question the reason behind going in for a multitude of similar devices. Yes, each device is different than the rest, but the similarity (in most cases) is more than the difference. The question then is:

    Is our love for devices any different than Imelda Marcos’s love for footwear? Nothing wrong with it though. Just that, more often than not, this diversity (an essential part of the evolution) creates more complexity than we really need. Complexity in our daily lives, complexity in technology (ex. the existence of a plethora of standards, de-facto or otherwise), the problems of compatibility etc etc etc.

    Choice is good, but too much of anything is not good. Connected toys included.

  2. A thought: we tech heads have had more than one gadget in our bag for a while. In fact, I’d say pretty confidently, we’ve had more than one gadget connected to the network in our bags for a decent while.

    What was missing was sync: the ability to have the same data on every device. Between Google’s IMAP for email and protocol-agnostic PIM sync, and tools like Dropbox, now every device has all the data on it. Which is what makes it so difficult: should I take my iPad or my netbook? My Android or my iPhone? Earlier, I had to make a choice about the data and thus picking the device was easy. No longer.

    Thank you, Google, Dropbox, and the ilk. I like having this dilemma.

  3. Artruro Jayson

    Om likes to mention the Chinese “giants”, but China will never disclose anything beyond inflated figures for anything that leaves its walls, from census to saturation, and we won’t be getting any such open figures from them in our lifetimes. Reciprocally, America does the opposite, specifically now in an overseas open war time. This mootness, however, does not subtract from mobility being a great developed arm of the internet that is having its great era in our present. How this contributes to the future of the other devices that we use, such as the large heavyweights of towers to mainframes and where they fit into an internet inhabited by clouds of mobile devices, would be a welcome insight. You might want to offer an analysis of mobile in India and how open growth has developed there.