At the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, Spain earlier this week, the global cellular trade group GSMA said the total number of “connected devices” is on track to hit 24 billion by 2020, with a global business impact of US$ 4.5 trillion from new revenue streams, by the end of this decade, based on Machina Research estimates.

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The group characterized the study as the "Impact of the Connected Life" looking forward to 2020, a time when "...mobile connectivity in cars will be the top connected application," according to the GSMA. That growth stems from 9 billion connected devices today, both mobile and stationary, the research group said.

Matt Hatton, Director, Machina Research, said:

By 2020, there is no doubt we will live in a much more connected world, which will have a fundamental impact on the way we live and work. This impact will not only open up new revenue opportunities for operators, but it will also facilitate a host of new business models, improve the way that companies do business and improve efficiencies in innumerable ways. Our estimate of the value of this is US$ 4.5 trillion, but the impact on and benefit to society is immeasurable.”

Revenue by Region

Machina Research breaks out by region, the staggering US$ 4.5 trillion revenue numbers in 2020 as follows: 

  • Asia Pacific US$ 1.6 trillion
  • North America US$ 1.23 trillion
  • Europe US$ 1.12 trillion
  • Latin America US$ 272 billion
  • Africa US$ 114 billion
  • Middle East US$ 63 billion

Michael O'Hara of GSMA said to look for cross-sector collaboration in the connected device space to drive these "...enormous opportunities." These include health services offering up to US$ 660 billion in cost savings by the end of the decade through deployment of mHealth solutions. Another example is pay-as-you-go insurance, monitoring actual drive-time in peak and non-peak risk hours, via car telematics.   

Mobile Connected Devices to Double

Machina said mobile connected devices stand at 6.5 billion today, and reckon a 100% increase by the end of the decade and will top 12 billion, with cars -- not hand-held devices -- as the top connected application.  Driving the connectivity (no pun intended) is demand for enhanced services such as stolen vehicle recovery, insurance telematics and, of course, entertainment. "Machina Research anticipates that 90% of new cars in 2020 will have some form of in-vehicle connectivity, adding US$ 600 billion to value of the Connected Life," GSMA said in its report. 

Some car makers are already using connectivity to differentiate new models and product offerings. Case in point, the GM OnStar Service announced an open API for apps at CES in January 2012, with not just GM, but Ford, Mercedes, Subaru and RIM's QNX already on board.