M2M and the Internet of Things

Just how many "things" are connected to the IoT?

Published on: 2015-02-05

One of the most common questions we get about the Internet of Things is just how many "things" are actually connected together on the Internet today? Not surprisingly, this turns out to be a very difficult question to answer, since everything from the definition of a "thing" to the means of connection and capability of the device must all be called into question. For example, does a web-enabled TV count as a thing? Or is the moniker reserved for more traditional M2M "things" like remote sensors and field monitors?

Unsurprisingly, we're not the only people unable to answer this question, and in fact if you look around on the Internet, many have asked, and many, many more have attempted to answer. One of the better sets of solutions that I've come across comes from the Quora area on the IoT (they actually have a pretty active IoT community, which is nice):

Rob Soderbery, a Cisco guy (arguably the company with the most insight into the sheer number of connections being made on the Internet), seems to think the answer is "8.7 billion in 2012.  There are a number of estimates out there by others, but they are generally in the 8 to 10 billion range.  This number would include traditional compute devices, mobile devices as well as the new industrial and consumer devices that we think of as things."

He goes on to cite the usual caveats (e.g. "what is a thing?"), but notes that based on this number, Cisco expects the volume to grow five-fold by 2020 -- that is, to 50 billion devices in just the next 7 years. Their own connection counter lists just over 10 billion device connections as of the time of this writing in 2013, so there's quite a long way to go if that prediction is going to come to pass!

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