Internet of Everything vs Internet of Things: what is the difference?

6 min.

Is there a real difference between the internet of things (IoT) and the internet of everything (IoE)? Some believe it’s the same technology and use both terms interchangeably, but they’re wrong. These two concepts are very much alike, but they are not the same. This article will shed light on some common and distinct features of IoE and IoT to help you understand how they are interrelated.

The origins and meanings

The IoT

Let’s start with the more widely used term “the internet of things” and its origin. The IoT history is marked with the name of a visionary technologist Kevin Ashton, who coined the term in 1999. He worked at Procter & Gamble that time and was giving a presentation where he used the term when referring to RFID-enabled device connectivity allowing for the supply chain management. As Kevin Ashton admits in one of the interviews, he wanted to get the word “internet” into the title of his presentation to grab the audience’s attention and the term creation was a very accidental thing.

IoT later came into wide use to refer to a myriad of internet-connected devices that sense and share data with one another without people being involved. This is also known as machine-to-machine or M2M communication technology. Internet of things solutions have become commonplace in the middle of the 2010s.

The IoE

As for the term “the internet of everything,” it was introduced several years later to offer a broader view on internet connectivity. Numerous sources state that the term was coined by Cisco, but the company itself denies that information and claims that several technology companies, including Gartner and Qualcomm, started to use that word combination at approximately the same time independently.

Under Cisco’s perspective, IoE is “the intelligent connection of people, process, data, and things,” i.e. the entire ecosystem where everything is interconnected. Thus, IoE is a wider concept that includes not only machine-to-machine communication (M2M) but also people‑to‑machine (P2M) and people‑to‑people (P2P) communication through technology.

People-to-machine and the backward machine-to-people communication occurs between a human and a device. Turning on a light, typing on a keyboard, and other daily interactions with technology that we do not even realize are some common examples of P2M.

People-to-people communication through technology is a type of connection when a human uses connected devices to interact with another human more efficiently. The basic example is a phone call.

While the M2M connection is always important, IoE places emphasis on the other two types of communication and estimates that they will bring the greatest value: 55% of connections will be either P2M/M2P or P2P by 2022.

The term “the internet of everything” is relatively new, that’s why its application may cause confusion. Technology analysts and research firms often view IoE as the next stage of IoT.

To get a better idea of how IoT relates to IoE, let’s illustrate it with an analogy from life. Imagine that “the internet of things” is a road with cars, buses and other vehicles driving on it. Then “the internet of everything” is the entire road system comprising vehicles, drivers, pedestrians, traffic signals, crossroads, weather conditions, etc. To put it short, IoT is a part of IoE, but a crucial one. Without IoT the whole idea of IoE is meaningless.

The four pillars of the internet of everything

To clear up the IoE concept, we are going to take a detailed look at four essential components that constitute the internet of everything:

1. Things

Things are the building blocks of both IoT and IoE. By “things” we mean connected objects that gather the information about their status through sensors and share this info with one another over the internet. The number of internet-connected things is boosting year by year to reach 50 billion by 2020.

In IoT, connected things are various devices—from consumer gadgets to water pipes. In IoE, almost every physical object can be a connected thing: from cows to monitor their health and track movements to milk cartons to manage their supply chain. Anything that is equipped with sensors and linked over public or private networks becomes part of IoE.

2. People

People are integral to IoE since no intelligent connection is possible without them. All in all, IoE is made by people and for people: humans use connected devices every day, analyze data, and harness the potential of data insights.

People not only play an essential role in P2M and P2P communication, they may also become connected themselves. In healthcare, specialists can place sensors under human skin or on the body to get information on a person’s vital signs for a better quality of patient care and treatment service. This way, people act as nodes in the M2M communication process.

3. Data

Data is yet another core component of IoE. Connected devices will produce 500 ZB of data in 2019 and the number will continue to increase exponentially every year. By 2020, every person will generate 1.7 MB of data every second. For most of us, it’s hard to imagine how much information it is. As the number of data sources and volumes grows, data management and analysis become more vital than ever before. Data alone is useless, but when it’s combined with thorough analysis, it helps businesses make faster and smarter decisions.

4. Process

Last but not least, the process is a major IoE component. It determines how each of the elements above works with the rest to provide greater value in the digital world. When a connected thing gathers the right data and transfers it to the right person at the right time, the process is successful. The process is a linchpin of the IoE connectivity that allows creating new opportunities across industries.

It is also worth mentioning one more important element—a network. Wired (the internet) or wireless (LoRaWAN), networks make it possible for billions of devices to communicate over distances.

This way, the equations below will sum up the foregoing and help you differentiate between IoT and IoE:

Iot vs ioe

The internet of everything at work

Cisco claims that IoE is “to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before, turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.” They estimate that the IoE value at stake will reach $14.4 trillion from 2013 through 2022 for the private sector worldwide.

But how realistic are such statements and what are some feasible IoE opportunities? Consider several examples of how IoE will work in action.

Connecting roads with hospitals to save more lives

There is a tragic statistic showing that 840 bicyclists died in traffic crashes in the United States in 2016. Many cyclists’ lives can be saved using technology opportunities of the internet of everything. By connecting a cyclist’s helmet, an ambulance car, traffic light signals, and a hospital with sensors, it becomes possible to get the victims in a bike accident immediately and provide life-saving medical treatment. If a bike crash happens, the helmet will grab the patient’s records before the ambulance will pick them up, find out the nearest hospital, and report to the doctor on the health status right away. The doctors gain time to prepare everything needed for treatment. Furthermore, the ambulance car will communicate with the stoplights on the road to hit all the green lights and take the victim to the hospital as soon as possible. By interconnecting everything, IoE promises to save precious time and even people’s lives.

Connecting food and people in the supply chain

Supply chain management is yet another example of how IoE may help to bring value and improve processes. The supply of fruit heavily depends on the harvest season. If the early harvest is anticipated, trucks will receive an alert and arrange the new delivery time with the supermarkets. Being aware of the early shipment, supermarkets will put the available stock of fruit on sale to avoid overstock. This way, supermarkets will not suffer financially, and shoppers will have fresh market products at the right time. Going further, customers with the shopping cart will obtain a discount notification and a suggested recipe of a fruitcake as a bonus. This will increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Connecting homes for comfort living

IoE offers plenty of opportunities for smart homes. By connecting everything from a thermostat to a coffee maker, it is possible to fully automate daily life. Just imagine that the house greets you in the morning, makes your coffee, and feeds your pets as scheduled. It knows your mood, tastes, and even health status, so it may call in a specialist if you start getting sick, adjust radiators to get hotter if you’re shivering, and do many more—like the best of science fiction come true.

Is IoE the next big thing?

IoE apparently extends the IoT concept beyond the pure device connectivity to binding everything on the earth—people, process, data, and things. Altogether, they build numerous interrelated networks and enlarge the space for digital transformation in healthcare, telecom, retail, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and other spheres.

It is not yet possible to say exactly if IoE will become the next big thing, but projections for the future are promising. Apart from the benefits listed in the use cases above, IoE can be used by businesses for asset and employee productivity, factory automation, faster time to market, and many more.