Mark Skilton    Copyright 2019  ©

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What the digital spaces of the Internet of Things will mean?


The Internet growing up


From the early days of the Internet to a global system of interconnected computer networks and devices, the internet links billions of devices across personal, business, government and pervading across all industry sectors.  From its inception in the 1960’s in the US government research labs, growing in the 1980’s to a backbone for academic and military networks. The creation of communication protocol standards by Tim Bernes-Lee in Cern Research lab, Switzerland, and others saw the internet expand rapidly accumulating in the first commercial networks in the early 1990’s connecting businesses and marking the transition to the modern internet. 

The Internet is now a global phenomenon, just consider what happens in one second in a day in 2016 (1) 

  • Over 7,181 Tweets sent in 1 second

  • Over 718 Instagram photos taken in 1 second

  • Over 1,110 Tumblr posts in 1 second

  • Over 2,009 Skype calls in 1 second

  • Over 53,890 Google searches in 1 second

  • Over 121,126 YouTube videos viewed in 1 second

  • Over 2,483,812 emails sent in 1 second (approx. 67% of emails are spam)

The size of the internet has grown with over 3,352,861,200 Internet users in the world, approximately 45% of world population of 7.4 Billion on planet earth (2). This population has generated over 1,017,024,022 total number of websites and with devices and machine data generating over 34,435 Gigabytes of Internet traffic in 1 second (or approx. 15,000 movies) representing 300 Petabytes (or 300,000 PC’s hard drives filled with data per day). That’s equivalent to 300 times all the content in the U.S. Library of Congress every day, by its own claim the largest library in the world (3).  In one year over 1 Zettabyte (1000 Exabytes) of global Internet traffic data a year is forecast by end 2016 (4) and predictions to grow 10-fold by 2020 to over 40 Zettabytes as the Internet of things takes off (5).


We are at a tipping point

This growth is rapid and no signs of slowing down. Several surveys from international bodies, governments and technology vendors are predicting figures of 50 billion things connected to the internet in the next few years and scaling to trillions of objects and connected events within the coming decades. Many new business models and customer experiences are starting to emerge from the convergence of technologies that drive this data traffic and usage such as cloud computing, mobile devices and mobile apps, social networks, wearable devices, machine learning, robotics, artificial intelligence creating new augmented and virtual realities.  This “ecosystem of connectivity” is made possible by the massive scaling and consumerization of powerfully computing power, falling prices of massive data storage capacity and faster and faster telecoms network coverage spanning modern economies and pushing into the developing world.

We are at a tipping point that is seeing these not as separate things but and internet of connected experiences and services shaping our everyday lives and our future and with significant consequences for society, wealth creation, productivity, personal privacy and quality of life that are yet to be fully understood and realised.

The Personal Computer that grew up in the first wave of consumer computing is now extended with smart mobile phones as the “second screen” but we are now seeing a third era of everyday objects becoming connected to the Internet too. An Intelligent web of connecting things called the “Internet of Things” is forming.


Sensors everywhere with humans and machines

There is now virtually a sensor for everything!  From the light, temperature, accelerometer, magnetic compass, GPS location finder, finger print, Voice and finger print recognition that can be found in many everyday mobile devices.  We also have a multitude of others found in consumer products and appliances and in industrial systems that not only collect data but can enable new senses and actions between humans, humans and machines and machines to machines. Examples include ambient light, moisture, color light recognition, barometric pressure, Ultra Violet, infrared, radioactivity and many other spectrums, humidity and atmospheric pressure, magnetometer, altimeter, air quality, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and other chemicals in the environment. The human body can be instrumented in medical and lifestyle capturing Heart rate, Blood pressure, pulmonary function, Blood sugar and many other biochemical, Electro Cardiogram and MRI imaging to muscle movement paraplegic augmentation enabling better outcomes for human wellbeing, activity and behavior.

New capabilities in human and machine interfaces from gesture and proximity movement, ultrasound, ultrasonic range, Vision and face recognition, Voice recognition, Voice to text and text to voice, fingerprint and iris biometric recognition, galvanic skin sensors to prosthetic limbs, wearable and embedded sensors for lifestyle to medical sensing and alerts.

New machine to machine capabilities and smart materials are also forming new realities. Nano engineering miniaturization in new generation embedded micro-machinery in pumps, refining, engineering controls; bioengineering of genetic sequencing to biochemical developments of drug therapies and organ replacements. Net shape and 3D printing of materials and smart composite materials driving new additive manufacturing and digital supply chains, to robotics and automated materials handling are enabling new automated assembly, smart tooling and components in intelligent factories and smart products and services.   

The power of sensors and machine intelligence are now in real-time thanks to the power of computing and ubiquity or more telecoms networks and emerging local networks such as Bluetooth, near field communication and large scale sensor meshes; and miniaturization and improvements in power efficiency of being able to place sensors in locations and connect remotely.  They extend the human awareness, creating new capabilities and intelligence that was just science fiction a decade ago.

What’s more these are falling in price to become readily available and consumerable at almost every touch point place and object you can think of.  This is the internet of things and it is just limited by your imagination as to what could be possible in ways to combing and build possible futures.


What this means that the ocean of data that is forming is not just about transactions, products and services but is becoming ever more rich and detailed about you, your location, your activity, your body your social network and wider context in a connected world.


Connected people, objects and spaces

We now have connected spaces, digitized content and information, that are instrumenting and empowering how everyday objects, rooms, buildings, transport, to larger communities and cities are entwined with living and working areas and beyond in a connected economy and society.

Just look at some of the possibilities that may be in the near future in the coming decade and starting to arrive today

Connected home

  • Connected living room with smart lighting that adjust the ambient lighting automatically to personal preferences. Connected curtains, smart seating, smart tables, connected interactive art and smart walls and decorations that can be remotely controlled, adjusted and used to personalized setting.  Connected Television, telephone, gamming and radio, broadband modems and routers that enable and can act as services hubs for customized programming to online services, video calls and connected inter-room services.

  • Connected kitchen with connected fridges, smart Cookers, smart Kettles, smart cups, smart knives, smart forks, smart pantry stores, smart washing machines, robotics vacuum cleaners and potentially many other things able to be used remotely, monitor, reorder stock automatically based on past preferences and tastes and personal choices, synchronized with calendar diary tasks and events, and sense their living environment.

  • Connected bedroom and bathroom with smart bed posture and sleep assist, smart clock and smart mirror that act as information interfaces to your personal schedule; smart showers, smart baths, smart toilets and smart toiletries, smart tooth brushes, to smart cloths and smart draws that offer personalization in lifestyles, health feedback to automated sanitation.  

  • Connected rooms and building facilities management included smart heating, connected thermostats, solar panels, smart bins and other recyclable systems for energy and wastage management. Proximity movement and video monitoring for security control and remote alerts to garden and garage automation with automated hydroponics, robotic garden mowers, smart garden tools, to smart external doors, smart fences, security lighting and perimeter management.

Connected Work

  • The connected office will have automated entry and exit face and voice recognition and proximity tracking. Smart office desk scheduling, smart room meeting allocation and smart stationery and office services enabling flexible working and resource allocations for jobs and tasks.  Smart walls and surfaces will enable immersive environments to display and communicate messages, brands and community activities. 

  • Employees and extended contractors and collaborative working will be enabled through virtual work markets, working on-line with video, voice and data sharing.

  • Smart ID badges, mobiles, tablets, watches will bring work apps and proximity data to enable employees to connect with their work location and their workspace of data, files and personal schedule, the “office goes with you”

  • Being able to work remotely at home or on the move through connected devices will extend the in-office resources to be the “office in any location”

  • Machine learning will augment and replace human tasks in many areas from searching and ordering to increasingly more diverse areas of knowledge and decision making. Artificial intelligence from automated response in customer service avatars to decision support in many areas of business. Human productivity will be augmented by robotics from materials handling, automated assembly to actuators and assistants that work alongside or replacing tasks such as movement, metrology (measurement), testing, simulation, designing and analytical decision support to protecting access to hazardous areas.

Connected Commerce

  • The shopping experience will become increasing connected and automated with everyday locations and the connected products and services around them. 

  • A visit to the physical store will have smart services that connect with customers before, during and after the shopping experience. Interactive smart display advertizing, in-store locators for easy product finding, automated mobile advertizing for personalized in-store offers. Automated isle and check out services, smart loyalty benefits to personalized lifestyles

  • The smart connected supply chain will drive automated replenishment of stock, automated delivery to homes, work and other locations beyond the physical store location. This increasingly as 24/7 round the clock availability and 10 minute to sub-1-hour delivery or “click-and-collect” type functionality will empower shoppers and their lifestyles.   Gamified services drive discounts and product offers that are targeted to personalized consumption and “likes” collected from the digital footprint left from social media, search and transactions. 

  • Digital payments and block chain enable new “digital wallets” and forms of currency and self-governance that automate and integrate financial behavior with physical and virtual trading.

  • The rise of “uberization” and “bundling of content” means that assets such as rooms, homes, cars, people skills, open source content and social experiences can be valued, resold and rented as-a-service. The old traditional concept of product ownership is shifting from long term to ideas of subscription and a per-use or per-journey model that is more fine-grained and refined to specific needs and communities of interest. Shopping malls will be “connected villages” microcosms of the smart city living with collections of stores, restaurants, fast food, market stalls, cinemas and theaters, utilities services that represent immersive “collected connected experiences” for shopper and visitors in these connected spaces.  The idea of local and global merging as connected markets from different geographical places remove barriers for access online in the virtual world. 

  • Outside the physical store, the ability to connect into the home, at work or on the move, will extend the store into these spaces.   Connected Home appliances like the smart fridge or cooker can act as the “shop front in the home” enabling sensing automatically “what’s in stock?”  to suggestions for recipes, “what shall we eat tonight?”, “what’s in season?”, automatically reordering from home when stock is low or from personal lifestyle choice from past eating or buying behavior, or by touch, voice command or remotely from email or app anywhere.   

Connected lifestyle health

  • Smart devices that monitor personal health include wearable devices and smart clothing for fitness tracking and activity and dietary monitoring and behavior feedback.  

  • Lifestyles can be connected to exercise and gym clubs to automate classes, get online coaching advice, crowd source and share experiences and gamification of shared motivation goals.   

  • Medical services connect to patients though mobile devices, wearables to monitoring proximity (geofencing), physiological movement and vital signs connected physicians, clinics and first responder services.

  • Miniaturization as well as non-invasive on-skin wearables act as connected platforms for medical data collection. Devices such as heart pace makers, artificial valves, drug delivery systems can be implanted or swallowed enable augmented bio-technology enhancements. 

  • Electronic patient records enable connected drug and treatment therapies and services between doctors and patients and pharmacies.

  • Medical research between laboratories and the field trials and volunteers can be connected to rapidly collect and build research data translating from the lab to increase new pharmacy drug development and better health data insights

  • In-the-community care can be through connected services and citizen self-help portals that drive remote doctor advice access and improved out-of-care from hospital visits.  

Connected Transport

  • Connected transport with embedded sensors in the components, frame and engine, steering and power management with automate and optimize transport efficiency. Smart maintenance, spares management will integrate through-life management of the car connecting back to garages and to original equipment manufacturers al “always connected” to their customers.  Always connected cars will continue to be updated with firmware to improve the driving experience, collecting feedback from drivers and developing new features that continually innovate and enhance driving performance.

  • Vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity and driving conditions and environment sensing will increase driver, passenger and pedestrian safety. Smart road signs, smart road surfaces for repairs and driving conditions, connected emergency and breakdown services with GPS alerts. Information on flows will improve emissions reductions, traffic planning, parking and route capacity management of modes of transport, road, air, rail, sea.  

  • Connected vehicles with on-board infotainment systems and services will connect with driver mobile apps and 3rd party content services integrating personalized in-car preferences such as temperature, heating and links to personal diary, travel plans, refuelling and destination services. Remote work and lifestyle services will connect to on-board systems enabling “work on-the-go” as an extension of the mobile device and living space.

  • “Uberization” of shared transport and services will change the business model of taxi and delivery transport as connected logistics extend beyond fleet management into personal vehicles.

  • Self-driving cars, lorries, trains extending the autopilot of airplanes will automate travel experiences, creating different forms of car ownership towards on-demand as-a-service. 

  • Transport hubs at airports, train stations, bus terminals will be connected transit spaces that have smart services to facilitate passengers, partner services and transport carriers in their inward arrival, while at the hub and outbound journeys.   

The connected life

In understanding the significance of these connected spaces describes a world that is highly instrumented and potentially highly invasive and immersive. Potentially any device, object, wall or surface could be a “access point” and a “proxy” for connected services to other appliances, rooms, places or services.   The local vicinity of the connected house, the local community where you live could share services and feedback for crowd sourced information and community information. The wider town or city and region could be connected from the home to work and between work places building a connection of spaces that cross link with supply chain and markets.  The notion of work and personal location will blend together as mobility and sensors will enable mobile remote working from any location. In retail and potentially any product or service it will be continually connected to customers and marketplaces, tracking consumption and buying habits. The notion of shopping and services selection will be anywhere connected in the home, the car, at work, around the city and overseas.   Whether at rest or in-transit, the personal choices and lifestyles can “follow you” with your mobile device, wearables and the smart objects in the locations that can connect with you.                  


The intelligent ecosystem  

We live in times of unprecedented technology change creating a connected society that will change the way we work, rest, play and live.   With all new technology paradigm shifts a new language is forming. Terms such as quantified self and quantified life describe connected living in the personal lifestyles, social experiences shared increasingly blurring the boundaries of communications and relationships; defining friendships, bringing people and themes together often from far off geographies as digitization shrinks distances.  New terms such the Industry 4.0 are describing new digital manufacturing and supply chains that underpin the digital backbone infrastructures forming within and across industries. These are not without the challenges of changes in privacy, cyber threats, disruption in employment and business models; creating new skills, removing old skills and altering productivity in an increasingly digitized marketplace and workforce.

New ecosystem of connected journey experiences will disrupt the traditional products and services industries.   Firstly, these journeys can be vertical connected experiences are being formed up and down the supply chain as we see in connected retail, connected manufacturing and connected health as the shopper, product designer to medical services are more interconnected with the suppliers, physical operations and their online services.  Secondly, as these become more prevalent in many industries, cross-connected services will form “lifestyle services” that increases the scope of products and services to the connected shopper, integrating into a range of manufacturing and purchased products to a wider community. Thirdly, more connections will drive horizontal connected experiences to “jump” across industries joining up the connect home to the connect travel journey to connected work and the connected lifestyles and services.

The Internet of things is the ecosystem that can enable this and many things that will define the new horizons of a connected economy.


Professor Mark Skilton

May 2016



  1. Internet LiveStats project (2016)

  2. World Population

  3. U.S. Library of Congress

  4. Cisco Virtual Networking Index

  5. IDC Global Universe Study 2014