The Internet of Everything was first suggested by Kevin Ashton in 1999. It was originally referred to as the Internet of things before it's renaming by Cisco. The term is a catchall phrase describing the addition of connectivity and intelligence to 'things' to give them special features.
By adding a chip to just about anything, it is possible to create connectivity across devices and Internet ecosystems. From a point of view of technological evolution, we are now at the stage where devices can sense aspects of the real world, report data and act on it. Today, just about everything rolling off a production line has connectivity built into it. You merely need to look at the latest; home appliances, lights, wearable devices such as watches, health devices such as blood pressure kits, beds, wall clocks, factory and warehouse machines, farm equipment; you name it… everything is getting a computer chip and the moniker 'smart' added to its name. Even cars are being turned into 'smart cars'. This added connectivity, allows users to control and interact with devices via a smartphone, tablet or PC.
Cisco estimates that by 2020, there will be about 30 billion devices wirelessly connected to the Internet of Everything. The shift to IPv6 will aid greatly in this regard due to the huge IP address potential.
The Practicality of the Internet of Everything
Skeptics often point out that the Internet of Everything has been hyped up by techies and that it really isn't that big of a deal. But, nothing could be further from the truth. Ubiquitous connectivity between devices will change life as we know it.
Imagine a situation where your smartphone notes that your alarm is set to wake you up at 6am. However, your weather app accesses weather reports and notes that adverse weather is expected in the morning. Based on past data, the weather app predicts bad traffic conditions. Your alarm is therefore adjusted to wake you up earlier, at 5:30 am. Taking note of this change, your smartphone sends instructions to your water heating system to switch on earlier than usual. In the morning, the coffee maker goes on as soon as you turn off the taps in the shower. Based on past data that you take an average of 15 minutes to shower, the kitchen and dining room lights come on at 5:45 and the toaster begins toasting your bread. After breakfast, you leave the house and enter your car. By this time, your smartphone has already instructed your car to start the engine. Your car's on-board computer extracts the destination address from your smartphone's calendar and the GPS plots a route based on traffic conditions.
Does all this sound like utopia? This is all possible and much of what I have described above is already a reality.
So, where does Africa fit into all of this?
In Africa, there will be real challenges in terms of security and software skills. As cars, homes and even people's bodies become data sources, privacy concerns increase. The lax security environment in Africa needs to be addressed through initiatives such as putting in place public key infrastructure and securing communication networks. Companies need to implement security and privacy capabilities tailored to business models based on the Internet of Everything.
Governments in Africa will also need to evaluate and expand the software skills of their citizenry. There is a global shortage of people with deep data analytics skills and Africa is the most affected. In a connected world, people need to work with unstructured data, explore it and communicate the salient points to decision makers. The technology curriculum in Africa must evolve to meet the growing demand for these IT skills.