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Can the Internet cope with the world’s growing demands?

David Eden, future technologist and product innovator, Tata Communications | Nov. 10, 2016
Will the Internet will be able to cope under the extra pressure of data-hungry technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), driverless cars and virtual reality (VR)?

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Did you know that there are around 1 billion WhatsApp users and more than 80 million Netflix users in the world, and that an average person spends around 4 hours on their mobile device every day? Figures like this show how reliant people have become on communicating and consuming content over the Internet. Yet, it is probably fair to say that for many people the Internet is today simply a utility like electricity or gas - which we tend to take for granted. With Internet Day coming up on 29th October, it's worth taking a moment to think about what it takes to keep us all connected and enable us to lead the digital lives that we've become so accustomed to. Crucially, with the continued emergence of new devices and applications which rely on Internet connectivity to function, will the Internet will be able to cope under the extra pressure of data-hungry technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), driverless cars and virtual reality (VR)?

Managing tens of billions of connections

Real-time analytics of supply chains and equipment, robotic machinery, portable health monitoring and retail inventory tracking, biometric and facial recognition locks... all of these different IoT applications require superfast connectivity and an innumerable number of connections. In 2006, there were 'just' 2 billion connected objects. In 2020, there will be 50 billion - so around 7 smart objects for every human being on Earth. The amount of data traffic that these objects will generate could cause network-wide issues if things were to go wrong. So, as the IoT hype is starting to become a reality, policy makers need to start thinking about IoT traffic differently to traditional data traffic, due to the potentially disastrous consequences of a network failure on transport systems and future healthcare.

Another connected technology that has been in the headlines recently is driverless cars. It's now feasible that seeing a self-driving car on the road will turn from an oddity to an everyday occurrence in the next 10 to 15 years. Yet, the many incidents experienced by Google, Tesla and other companies testing autonomous vehicles show that it is still early days for the driverless cars revolution. For self-driving cars to become truly autonomous vehicles, these companies must look at the connectivity which this smart technology will rely on. There needs to be a deeper understanding of the demands that the data traffic generated by hundreds, thousands and ultimately tens of thousands of self-driving cars will put on network infrastructures around the world. Whether the autonomous vehicles revolution happens in our lifetime will depend on the availability of ubiquitous, intelligent and highly robust networks, which will underpin the safety and reliability of these vehicles.

 

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