February 22nd, 2013

Cisco & the Internet of Everything

Written by
Category API Management, M2M

Cisco and the Internet of EverythingJohn Chambers, CEO of Cisco, just published a good blog entry about the potential for change caused by universal connectivity – not just of our mobile gadgets but of pretty much everything. Recently, much has been said about the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT), of which Cisco is expanding the scope, going so far as to make a bold estimate that 99.4% of objects still remain unconnected. This, of course, is great fodder for late-night talk show hosts. I’ll leave this softball to them and focus instead on some of the more interesting points in Chambers’ post and the accompanying white paper.

It strikes me that there might be more to Cisco’s “Internet of Everything” (IoE) neologism than just a vendor’s attempt to brand what still may be a technology maverick. Internet of Everything sounds so much better than the common alternative when you append “Economy” to the end – and this is how it first appears in Chambers’ post. And that’s actually important because adding economy in the same breath is an acknowledgement that this isn’t just marketing opportunism as much as a recognition that, like mobility, the IoE could potentially be a great catalyst for independent innovation. In fact, Cisco’s white paper really isn’t about technology at all but is instead an analysis of the market potential represented in each emerging sector, from smart factories to college education.

It is exactly this potential for innovation – a new economy – that is exciting. The combination of Mobile Access and APIs was so explosive precisely because it combined a technology with enormous creative potential (APIs) with a irresistible business impetus (access to information outside the enterprise network). The geeks love enabling tools and APIs are nothing if not enabling; mobile just gives them something to build.

I0E, of course, is the ultimate business driver and –  with APIs as the enabler – it equals opportunity of staggering proportions. Like mobile before it – and indeed, social Web integration before that – IoE will come about precisely because the foundation of APIs already exists.

It is here where I disagree with some IoT pundits who advocate specialized protocols for optimizing performance. No thank you; it isn’t 1990 and opaque binary protocols no longer work for us, except when streaming large data sets (I’m looking at you, video).

Security in the IoE will be a huge issue and Cisco has this to say on the topic :

“IoE security will be addressed through network-powered technology: devices connecting to the network will take advantage of the inherent security that the network provides (rather than trying to ensure security at the device level).”

I agree with this because security coding is still just too hard and too easy to implement wrongly. One of the key lessons of mobile development is that we need to make it easy for developers to automatically enable secure communications. Take security out of the hands of developers, put it in the hands of dedicated security professionals and trust me, the developers will thank you.

As IoE extends to increasingly resource-constrained devices, the simpler we can make secure development, the better. Let application developers focus on creating great apps and a new economy will follow.

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