trillion-node network

A trillion-node network is a near-future state wherein trillions of devices, people, organizations, places and things are connected to the Internet. The implications of the ubiquitous connectivity from these trillions of network nodes will transform how people interact with objects and information, and vice versa.

The concept of the trillion-node network rests on an understanding of the Internet of Things ( IoT) and its development. The number of IoT connections is already growing exponentially, largely due to factors such as a drop in prices of sensors and widespread Internet access. According to some estimates, the number of Internet-connected objects has grown from 2 billion in 2006 to about 7 billion, roughly the same number as the world's population. Approximately 5 billion of these connected devices are mobile phones, tablets and computers; the rest are connected objects, so-called smart objects. By 2020, the number of connected objects and devices is expected to grow to 200 billion, which translates into a ratio of about 26 connected things for each person.

The connections are growing beyond things and into what Cisco first dubbed the Internet of Everything, which extends beyond machine-to-machine communication to include machine-to-people communication. As to when a trillion-node network will exist -- or, the point where a global network of connected objects reaches 1 trillion -- forecasts range from within a decade to the less defined forecast of "within our lifetime." The significance of a trillion-node network will depend on a number of factors, but if current trends continue, it will have an effect on virtually all facets of life. This is especially true in the business realm, where connected devices that are used to provide process improvements will account for much of the connectivity growth, from significant business improvements, such as better supply chain management, to granular consumer-level details, such as drinking glasses with embedded sensors that alert waiters to the need for refills.

As connectivity expands and the technology landscape heads toward a trillion-node network, a multitude of challenges, include security, privacy and interoperability will need to be addressed.

This was last updated in May 2016

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