The Next Big Thing in Compute!

The Next Big Thing in Compute!

“The Pundits Are Wrong…
IoT really is The Next Big Thing… the history of compute offers the proof.”

Here is what I tell everyone about IoT.

The big mainframe had a small installed footprint.

Mainframes created a compute-evolution by calculating so much, so fast. Mainframes advanced space exploration, scientific research and advanced mathematics. Mainframes allowed economists to more accurately forecast markets and business to used new data sets to understand customer models. But, mainframes had limitations. Only the largest companies had the compute challenges to justify the capital and operational costs. Only a handful of government agencies had the budgets to buy mainframes and hire the programming teams. The mainframe’s limitation was return on capital. A less expensive “department level” compute technology was needed. So, the industry created the mini-computer…

Mini computers addressed the cost of capital but not the cost of programming.

In the 1980s mini computers computerized business processes and automated machine control. Industry specific software application packages were marketed to mid-sized business. But, even “packaged applications” required expensive customization. To leverage the power of mini computers companies had to train teams on new work flows to leverage their new “department computers.” The cost of purchasing, updating and training on applications limited mini-computer adoption. Each person needed their own computer and affordable “off-the shelf” software. So, the industry iterated again creating the personal computer…

At its peak 350 million PCs were sold each year.

And although that yearly number is now about 240M/year, there are billions of PCs in use today running easy-to-buy and easy-to-use applications. But PCs need to connect to the internet to deliver real value and even as PC prices drop below $500, if you don’t have connectivity, the PC is not terribly valuable. Wi-Fi networks are great in the office, your home or at your favorite coffee shop but Wi-Fi is not free everywhere in the world and cellular dongles for PCs and Tablets come with expensive service fees. Continuous connectivity is the PC’s limitation. So, the industry iterated, again, creating a use anywhere compute and communication device – the smartphone…

About 5 billion active smartphones on cellular networks and more coming.

To reach the 7 Billion people in the world, smartphone makers are working to lower device costs and cellular carriers are expanding coverage. Someday- and I hope in my lifetime – every person in the world with have the power of the internet in the palm of their hand. Even when we have both affordable smartphones and cheep cellular everywhere, we will not likely have more than 10 billion active devices. There just are not enough people! The smartphones’ limitation is the number of persons in the world. So, what makes compute and communications unlimited? The Internet of Things..

An IoT network connects things to things and there are Billions and Billions of THINGS!

An IoT “thing” does not use expensive hardware. It connects to the internet through a WiFi radio costing about $2, its MCU costs about $4 and a full IoT module can be sold for less than $20. An IoT device usually runs on an open source embedded RTOS or Linux so there is nearly unlimited programming expertise available. An IoT device is not restricted by number of people on earth. It is only limited by the number of things we want to connect….

How many things will be connected? That’s anyone’s guess. But current thinking is more than 20 billion things by 2020. More than all the Smartphones, PCs, Mini Computers and Mainframes combined.

The number of IoT devices that will be deployed is only limited by our enthusiasm to connect things to sense, learn, provide data and reveal new insights and understanding. The internet of things is the next big, audacious, game changing and nearly unlimited phase of compute.

How is your company thinking about the next big thing? Are you having a conversation about how a world of connected devices impacts your business and your customers? Would you like to create new business models and develop new revenue streams by leveraging IoT?

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