May 14, 2014

The Internet of Things Will Thrive by 2025

About this Canvassing of Experts

The expert predictions reported here about the impact of the Internet over the next ten years came in response to one of eight questions asked by the Pew Research Center Internet Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center in an online canvassing conducted between November 25, 2013, and January 13, 2014. This is the sixth Future of the Internet study the two organizations have conducted together. For this project, we invited more than 12,000 experts and members of the interested public to share their opinions on the likely future of the Internet and 2,551 responded to at least one of the questions we asked. Nearly 1,600 responded to this open-ended question about the Internet of Things and wearables.

The Web-based instrument was fielded to three audiences. The first was a list of targeted experts identified and accumulated by Pew Research and Elon University during the five previous rounds of this study, as well as those identified across 12 years of studying the Internet realm during its formative years. The second wave of solicitation was targeted to prominent listservs of Internet analysts, including lists titled: Association of Internet Researchers, Internet Rights and Principles, Liberation Technology, American Political Science Association, Cybertelecom, and the Communication and Information Technologies section of the American Sociological Association. The third audience was the mailing list of the Pew Research Center Internet Project, which includes those who closely follow technology trends, data, and themselves are often builders of parts of the online world. While most people who responded live in North America, people from across the world were invited to participate.

Respondents gave their answers to the following prompts:

The evolution of embedded devices and the Internet/Cloud of Things—As billions of devices, artifacts, and accessories are networked, will the Internet of Things have widespread and beneficial effects on the everyday lives of the public by 2025?

Please elaborate on your answer. Describe the evolution of the uses of embedded devices, “wearables,” and scannables by 2025—where will commercial and social applications of the Internet of Things most commonly and vividly be felt? What social and political difficulties will accompany the rise of the Internet of Things? If you answered “no” please discuss what you believe the barriers are to the spread of the Internet of Things and the benefits that are claimed for it.

Bonus question:Consider the ways in which people will most commonly interact with the Internet in 2025 and tell us what you think the fate of wearable connected devices such as Google Glass and the Samsung watch will be. What do you think of the future prospect that people will interact via their thoughts or other bodily signals such as eye movements?

Since the data are based on a non-random sample, the results are not projectable to any population other than the individuals expressing their points of view in this sample. The respondents’ remarks reflect their personal positions and are not the positions of their employers; the descriptions of their leadership roles help identify their background and the locus of their expertise. About 84% of respondents identified themselves as being based in North America; the others hail from all corners of the world. When asked about their “primary area of Internet interest,” 19% identified themselves as research scientists; 9% said they were entrepreneurs or business leaders; 10% as authors, editors or journalists; 8% as technology developers or administrators; 8% as advocates or activist users; 7% said they were futurists or consultants; 2% as legislators, politicians or lawyers; 2% as pioneers or originators; and 33% specified their primary area of interest as “other.”

About half of the expert respondents elected to remain anonymous. Because people’s level of expertise is an important element of their participation in the conversation, anonymous respondents were given the opportunity to share a description of their Internet expertise or background.

Here are some of the key respondents in this report:

Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Fred Baker, Cisco Systems Fellow; danah boyd, a social scientist for Microsoft; Stowe Boyd, lead at GigaOM Research; Bob Briscoe, chief researcher for British Telecom; Robert Cannon, Internet law and policy expert; Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google; David Clark, senior scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; David-Michel Davies, executive director, The Webby Awards; Glenn Edens, research scientist at PARC and IETF area chair; Jeremy Epstein, a senior computer scientist at SRI International; Bob Frankston, Internet pioneer and technology innovator; Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher for Microsoft; Joel Halpern a distinguished engineer at Ericsson; Jim Hendler, Semantic Web scientist and professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center at the City University of New York; Michael Kende, professional economist; Mike Liebhold, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future; Geoff Livingston, author and president of Tenacity5 Media; Isaac Mao, chief architect of Sharism Lab; John Markoff, senior writer for the Science section of the New York Times; Ian Peter, pioneer Internet activist and Internet rights advocate; Raymond Plzak, former CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, now a member of the board of ICANN; Jason Pontin, editor in chief and publisher of MIT Technology Review; JP Rangaswami, chief scientist for Salesforce.com; Howard Rheingold, pioneering Internet sociologist and self-employed writer, consultant, and educator; Mike Roberts, Internet Hall of Famer and longtime leader with ICANN; Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center; Paul Saffo, managing director of Discern Analytics and consulting associate professor at Stanford; Henning Schulzrinne, a member of the Internet Hall of Fame, IETF leader, and professor at Columbia University Doc Searls, director of ProjectVRM at Harvard’s Berkman Center; Patrick Stack, manager for digital transformation at Accenture; Hal Varian, chief economist for Google; Amy Webb, CEO of strategy firm Webbmedia Group; and David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center.

Here is a selection of other institutions at which respondents work or have affiliations:

Yahoo; Intel; IBM; Hewlett-Packard; Nokia; Amazon; Netflix; Verizon; PayPal; BBN; Comcast; US Congress; EFF; W3C; The Web Foundation; PIRG: NASA; Association of Internet Researchers; Bloomberg News; World Future Society; ACM; the Aspen Institute; Magid; GigaOm; the Markle Foundation; The Altimeter Group; FactCheck.org; key offices of US and European Union governments; the Internet Engineering Task Force; the Internet Hall of Fame; ARIN; Nominet; Oxford Internet Institute; Princeton, Yale, Brown, Georgetown, Carnegie-Mellon, Duke, Purdue, Florida State and Columbia universities; the universities of Pennsylvania, California-Berkeley, Southern California, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Kentucky, Maryland, Kansas, Texas-Austin, Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Boston College.

Complete sets of for-credit and anonymous responses to this question can be found here:

http://www.elon.edu/e-web/imagining/surveys/2014_survey/2025_Internet_of_Things.xhtml
http://www.elon.edu/e-web/imagining/surveys/2014_survey/2025_Internet_of_Things_credit.xhtml
http://www.elon.edu/e-web/imagining/surveys/2014_survey/2025_Internet_of_Things_anon.xhtml