There will be more internet-connected mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets than people in the world before the end of the year, according to new research.
A growing category will be internet-connected monitors for "smart metering", video surveillance, maintenance, building automation, healthcare and consumer electronics – a class of device known as "machine-to-machine" (M2M) systems that communicate directly to other computers over the internet without the mediation of humans.
"The rapid growth in connected devices will put the existing internet infrastructure under increasing strain."
The forecast by networking giant Cisco said the growth in the use of smartphones and tablets will see more than 7 billion – the world's current population – in use, with huge growth in use in Asia, the Pacific and Africa.
But the rapid growth in connected devices will put the existing internet infrastructure under increasing strain, and force internet providers to shift customers and networks over to the next-generation "IPv6" system, which expands the number of devices that can connect directly to the internet from around 4.3 billion (using the existing IPv4 system) to a gigantic figure large enough to give every single person their own private IPv4-based internet.
Despite the near-exhaustion of the IPv4 address space in February 2012, progress towards wider use of IPv6 has been slow, said Trefor Davies, a driving force behind the adoption of IPv6 in the UK. "In the US, the government has mandated it in some areas, such as the US Navy, but the UK government seems to be concerned about costs," he said. The two protocols are incompatible, and updating systems used by internet service providers to offer a fully IPv6-capable system has put many off, Davies suggested.
But the Cisco report points to dramatic change that is already happening in the field of mobile connectivity:
- Mobile video already makes up more than half of the data transmitted worldwide, the company said, and by 2017 it will make up two-thirds of it.
- The average amount of data consumed by smartphone users rose 81 per cent, from 189MB per month in 2011 to 342MB monthly in 2012.
- Smartphones consumed 92 per cent of global mobile data traffic, despite only making up 18 per cent of the handsets in use globally. The typical "featurephone" only consumed 6.8MB of data traffic per month – 2 per cent of the amount that the typical smartphone did.
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