I call it the "year of the whatever" phenomenon. Tech pundits and industry trade groups love to say that next year, or the year after that, is going to "the year of" fill-in-the-blank. Way back in the 1990s, there was going to be the year of the laptop (it finally happened.) There was going to be the year of virtual reality and 3D (it didn't) and the year of the smartphone, which is turning out to be the decade of the smartphone.
Next up is "the year of the Internet of things," and a world of 20 billion (or is it 30 billion?) connected devices. As I hit the end-of-year tech events hosted by the likes of Cisco Systems and Broadcom, there was endless talk about the utterly connected world, and now there's even a new trade group -- the Allseen Alliance -- that will talk standards and do its best to ratchet up the hypemeter.
[ What is the Internet of things, really? InfoWorld's Galen Gruman cuts through the hype. | For quick, smart takes on the news you'll be talking about, check out InfoWorld TechBrief -- subscribe today. ]
With visions of profitable hardware and software sales dancing in their heads, Intel and other tech giants are dedicating engineering, marketing, and executive talent to new internal groups aimed at pursuing products and sales for the Internet of things. Wireless engineers and developers take note: There are going to be lots of jobs here.
Cisco, which has more to gain than almost anyone if the network expands to cover almost everything, is of course a charter member of the Allseen Alliance and even has a vice president with the awesome title of General Manager of the Internet of Things. His name is Gudo Jouret and he figures that driverless cars are part of the brave new connected world. Although he's not quite ready to declare "the year of the driverless car," Jouret makes a bold prediction, saying that "in five to seven years, most of us will have to pay more for driving ourselves," because human drivers are worse insurance risks than computer-controlled cars.
Mighty bullish. But then when you're talking about 30 billion new devices, you'd better be bullish. And not worry so much about what might get in its way.
The Internet of things will cause more global warming
One of those "year of" things that's not so much fun to imagine is the "year of global warming," and sadly it's getting awfully close. Although you might not see the connection, the Internet of things could make a bad thing even worse, says Cisco CTO Dave Ward. "By 2018 or so, 120-megawatt data centers will be scattered around the U.S. and Europe."
That's because all of those 20 billion devices -- plus all the other digital stuff already in use -- will have to be powered by something and connected to a powered network, which is, in turn, connected to a powered data center.