Cisco’s Internet of Everything Is Just Too Big

Cisco is touting the $14.4 trillion opportunity in the 'Internet of Everything' -- a world of ubiquitous communications between people, applications and machines. While it seems, as Cisco says, a huge opportunity for the taking, it’s not new and it’s probably already taken.

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Cisco Systems Inc. is no stranger to big numbers. The networking and infrastructure giant is fond of citing huge addressable markets for its products, particularly its core switching and routing gear.

So it should come as no surprise that Cisco’s “Internet of Everything,” or ubiquitous communications between people, applications and machines, is the theme du jour. Cisco pegs the Internet of Everyhing as a $14.4 trillion opportunity ripe for the taking. And, it says this All Things Internet market will drive it to the top of the IT world and create lucrative opportunities for partners.

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"Three to five years out, our major move will be to become the No. 1 IT player together, and we will do this with partners and in conjunction. To do that, we believe the major transitions will be around the Internet of Things," CEO John Chambers said at last week’s Cisco Live conference in Orlando. "And we will spend a fair amount of time on how we challenge each other and look at that. But, it literally, in our opinion -- and I think this number will end up being very conservative -- is a $14.4 trillion profit market for our joint customers over the next decade."

So, let’s put this in perspective -- the conservative $14.4 trillion opportunity. That’s a 14 with 12 zeros behind it. Or, put it another way, it’s roughly equal to the U.S. gross domestic product. That’s a huge number, considering the total address global IT market is just $3.6 trillion, according to analyst firm Gartner.

Driving this optimistic forecast is the increasing number of Internet-connected devices. Beyond conventional IT systems or even cloud computing services, Cisco and other vendors are increasingly looking to the opportunities in embedded systems, IP-enabled devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology.

Internet of Everything Not New

Cisco believes there will be as many as 50 billion connected devices by the end of the decade. That’s another big number. Estimates of IP-enabled devices actually vary wildly, from the low to high billions. Regardless, the bet on the Internet of Everything is that a fraction of a big number will still be a big number. So if you just capitalize on 5 percent of these numbers, the result will be $720 billion in new sales -- or 15 times Cisco’s current annual revenue.

But this isn’t a new opportunity. The Internet of Everything is already here. IP technology is a part of the fabric of everything from consumer devices, health care electronics, automotive systems, shipping and logistics, energy production systems, entertainment consoles and ordinary business IT infrastructure. The Internet already touches everything, and more and more will be added.

Will all this materialize into a $14.4 billion opportunity? Perhaps, but it won’t all come through the IT market -- at least as we know it. This Internet of Everything is being driven by electronics and systems manufacturers that don’t have a presence in the IT market or channel. The big number is made up of heating control systems, smart refrigerators, Internet-connected cars, and more. That’s how you get to a big number.

In this regard, the Internet of Everything isn’t the total addressable market, but rather the catalyst that will drive the complementary sale of IT infrastructure, applications and services that will support this potentially enormous market.

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