The Internet of Things could be worth $500 billion in Canada alone

A new Toronto research centre will find ways to improve our lives by connecting everything in them

Wednesday, Cisco Systems Inc. announced that it’s selected Toronto as the home of its Internet of Everything Innovation Centre. Along with three other international cities, Ontario’s capital will become a global hub for Cisco research and development.

“Internet of Everything” is Cisco’s marketing term for what is more commonly known as the “Internet of Things,” or IoT—the creeping phenomenon of of previously un-networked objects communicating over the Internet. The term was coined by former MIT affiliate Kevin Ashton in the late ’90s, and had a big moment at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Manufacturers are racing to network everything from cars to thermostats to lightbulbs to garbage cans.

Cisco’s new development centres are intended to advance this technology. According to Cisco, there are “more things connected to the Internet than there are people in the world” today, and by 2022 the IoT industry is estimated to be worth US$19 trillion. That means we’ll all have more objects, whether in our homes, at work, or worn on our clothing that have sensors connected to the Internet. Canada will see about $500 billion of this expanding market, the company estimates.

Some companies have already gotten in on developing the Internet of Things. Both LG and Samsung, for example, debuted “smart home” technology at CES this year. The companies have each developed appliances and other home devices that can communicate with each other or their owner through a home wireless connection, or remotely via a smartphone. The chatter between the appliances and their owner isn’t just limited to turning off and on. In a smart home, your thermostat could adjust the temperature when it knows you’re coming home by getting your location from your phone; your Roomba vacuum could be instructed to take a trip around your house at regular intervals. You could even use your phone to check on any alarm system activity when you’re away, or put your house into “vacation mode.”

The company has predicted that the public sector could be a major beneficiary of IoT technology. Cisco imagines a world where data is used to improve traffic flow using “smart road systems,” and farmers are able to better monitor their crops and livestock with exact data on the quantities and cash values of their assets. Unified healthcare databases and more sophisticated military defence systems might be other uses of IoT technology, or even more efficient waste collection systems for cities.

For businesses, IoT innovation could be used to improve network communications between remote office locations in the same company, or to better monitor stock availability and product shipments.

One of the most interesting aspects of Cisco’s innovation centre in Toronto is that it won’t be limiting its resources to large companies or the government. Startups and mid-sized companies will also have space there, and combined with other Toronto-based business and research centres like MaRS, we’ll likely see some promising IoT technology emerge from the city in the next few years.

With files from Canadian Press.