What will happen when 28 billion devices are connected online?

The Internet of Things is already well on its way. Here’s how it will impact our future.

What will happen when 28 billion devices are connected online?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network that connects a staggering array of devices, from household appliances to factory machines. During a panel discussion at Cisco Live 2019 in June, two leading figures in IoT shared their thoughts on this rapidly evolving technology that has already transformed the world.


IoT as we know it has been around for about a decade, and its growth has been explosive. According to a Cisco research report, the Internet of Things is expected to connect 28 billion devices by the year 2022. Guy, at this moment, where are we in its development—are we at 2.0?

Guy Diedrich, vice president and global innovation officer, Cisco: I think we’re still at 1.0—we’re just now starting to see some of the value that can be brought through IoT. You mentioned we’ll reach 28 billion connected things by 2022. Well, by 2030, it’s estimated that number will be 500 billion. It’s a brave new world out there—and we’re just getting started.

In your role at Cisco, you see IoT being applied on a large scale. Can you share an example of one of your current projects?

Guy Diedrich, vice president and global innovation officer, Cisco

GD: I run a program called Country Digital Acceleration, where we partner with governments around the world—dealing with presidents, prime ministers, ministries—to help them digitize faster. They all have a digital agenda, but they don’t have a road map for getting to the value. We help them get to that value much faster.

Right now, we have 29 countries in the program. India is one of them; they have a massive challenge ahead of them. Every year, they’ve got 13 to 15 million people coming into the cities from agrarian regions to make a better life for themselves. And they estimate that in the next 10 years that number could reach 600 million. So, they are facing a number of huge challenges: congestion, pollution, quality of life, sanitation, water…the list goes on.

What we did was take one area in one of India’s busiest cities, which we called the Golden Mile. And we and our partners took every type of urban-facing IoT innovation we could think of and put it in this Golden Mile. We studied it for six months and used that research to build an optimal package for the cities in India. The government signed up for funding 100 “smart” cities, with another 400 to follow. We’re now on city number 60. It’s going to change everything for them.


George, working for the city of New Orleans, you’ve been rolling out these technologies with the Real-Time Crime Center. Could you give us some understanding of this project?

George Brown, IT section chief, New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness: The Center was created to help three sections of public safety in New Orleans—the police and fire departments and EMS—increase their effectiveness by making them more efficient with their time.

I’ll give you an example: A criminal incident occurs, and a business or homeowner has relevant video. To get that video in the hands of the police, a police officer would be taken out of service to go out and retrieve the evidence. Coming from the New Orleans PD, I know it can take an hour-and-a-half to complete that basic task.

We now have about 450 cameras in our network of public-safety cameras. If one of them happens to capture something with some evidentiary value, we can easily upload that video and send it to the right people.

In 2018, we saved about 3,000 public safety man-hours, by taking that task out off their hands and letting our officers be more effective with their time. This gave them more time to respond to calls, more time in the community, and more effective law enforcement.

I’d like to talk about the journeys your teams took towards the completion of these projects. Guy, can you share a facet of the Golden Mile project that yielded a surprising outcome?


GD: One of our first deployments tackled the issue of smart parking; parking and vehicle congestion is a huge problem facing major cities. Our solution was that when you drive into a city and come within 100 yards of available parking spaces near your destination, those spots will show up your phone. You can select one, and digital signage will reserve that space for you and bill you for as long as you park there.

That one innovation in India, as well as the city center of Paris, reduced congestion by as much as 30 percent. The other immediate benefit of this system is if you’re not driving around for 20 or 30 minutes looking for that parking space, you’re not polluting.

Can you talk a bit about the technologies that allow these things to happen? Sensors and devices are obviously important but I would think that connectivity is the critical component.

GD: It absolutely is. And that’s one of the areas in which Cisco brings so much value, in bringing all of those connected things into a central data-management portal. And for our projects like Golden Mile, we have what’s called Kinetic for Cities, which gathers all sorts of data—from different environments, deployments, and technologies—into a single place where you can actually manage it.

In India, for example, we created the India Urban Observatory, which gathers and stores data from all of our current deployments. When we finally have those 500 connected cities, it’s going to gather all that information and help planners make decisions that they’ve never been able to make before.

And taking that notion of a single Urban Observatory, adding a dozen others around the world, we’re creating a network of networked cities. We now have the opportunity to create a smart, connected world in a very real way.


George, what are some of the new ways your Center wants to deploy sensors or devices to be incorporated into your data networks?

George Brown, IT section chief, New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness

GB: A new hurricane season just started. Of course, storm-related flooding is a huge concern for New Orleans. An afternoon rain shower can be a pretty heavy lift for public safety across the board. So, there’s a strong priority to deploy sensors and early-adopt ways to collect data so our department heads can make better decisions.

New Orleans is a major port. Obviously, a worst-case scenario would be some kind of accident—a spill or some noxious gas leaked into the air. In the past, we have people filing reports from the field, working in a dangerous environment, in harm’s way. But now we can have sensors at these locations to collect data about prevailing winds and wind speed, when toxic things might potentially reach residents, and send out early alerts to warn people this is taking place.

So, taking our existing infrastructure—growing it, adding more cameras so we can help the police, but then combining it with all these different types of sensor technology—really helps us in our mission to promote public safety.

What are the technologies or policy developments—say, three to five years out—that have you most excited?

GB: One area is the idea of a public-private partnership. New Orleans can’t afford to continually hang more and more cameras and pay for that increased connectivity and storage. We’ve seen cities around the world that have 30,000— even hundreds of thousands—of cameras. But at some point, you begin to lose a return on that investment.


So, we have homeowners in New Orleans sign up for a program called SafeCam Platinum. This lets them send their home-surveillance video feeds into the cloud and add it to our public-facing cameras. I look at this explosion of how quickly and how responsible citizens can grow our camera network. And that’s just one example of the future in which citizens and the city can create an effective partnership.

GD: I’m particularly excited about the future deployment of 5G and Wi-Fi 6. I think it will be game changing. The primary reason is that these networks can handle a broad spectrum of requirements, from low-end, such as [sensors] in a city, all the way up to the highest end, like autonomous vehicles. I look at what we’re doing in the port of Rotterdam—creating the world’s first totally digital seaport. It will allow for an autonomous ship to come in and dock itself, unload itself, reload itself, and take off again for its next destination—entirely without human interaction. That’s the sort of thing that I think really changes the world.

To dig even deeper into this engaging conversation about the Internet of Things, watch the full discussion below.

This article was created for and commissioned by Cisco.


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