Sure the development of the Internet of Things has a way to go before it becomes a  reality. But IT research firm Gartner already estimates it will be worth $1.9 trillion by 2020. Gartner also predicts the Internet of Things will create an entire new economy based on interconnectivity of devices.

Searching for a Definition

The predictions were made yesterday by Gartner's Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president and global head of research, at the Gartner Symposium ITXPO 2013. The event kicked off on Sunday in Barcelona, Spain but only really got down to business yesterday.

The problem with Sondergaard’s prediction is that the world has yet to define the Internet of Things. In a recent paper from Forrester, Sarah Epps described it as an Internet that promises to connect all ordinary objects to Internet services using sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects — from roadways to pacemakers.

Earlier in the year, Sanjay Poonen, head of the mobile division at SAP, — which, along with IBM, is championing the concept — summarized it as follows:

The Internet of Things concept goes one step further by not only integrating machines, people, ERP and CRM systems and other information sources like social media, but also analyzing and making use of all the data. Soon, people will interact with devices that in turn interact with data to deliver personalized products and services directly to the consumer in real time…”

For the sake of this Symposium, Gartner noted that the Internet of Things encompasses:

  • Hardware (the ‘things’ themselves)
  • Embedded software (software running on, and enabling the connected capabilities of the things), connectivity/communications services
  • Information services associated with the things (including services based on analysis of usage patterns and sensor data).

Whatever way you look at it, then, there does appear to be an emerging consensus that the Internet of Things will take the shape of an Internet that will connect all devices and products using sensors from which vast amounts of information will be taken to provide personalized services and products.

Assessing its Potential Value

Even if this definition still needs some clarification, which will undoubtedly come once it gets closer to becoming a reality, the concept is developed enough to enable Gartner make predictions about its future value.

In 2009, there were 2.5 billion connected devices. By 2020, there will be more than 30 billion in a variety of shapes and forms — many of which don't even exist today, Gartner predicts. Growth around the Internet of Things will start outstripping growth in traditional IT sectors by 2017. Sondergaard said: