SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Forecasts predict 4.9 billion global mobile users by 2015, a number equivalent to nearly every person on earth. In that same time frame, two-thirds of all mobile traffic will come from mobile video. At Cisco’s 25th annual event held this week at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, customers, partners and insiders are gathering to get a sense of how predictions like those will impact the trajectory of the networking giant.

Looking back to the year the event got its start, Dan Kent, senior director of systems engineering and CTO for Cisco U.S. Public Sector, offered a brief history of IT:

  • The year 1989 was characterized by the operating system wars. IT at the time was about paper and people.
  • In 1996, IT was entrenched in the transmission wars, as Kent described it. This was the year Mosaic/Netscape went public and when e-commerce was born.
  • The terrorist attacks of 9/11 made 2001 all about resiliency in the face of man-made and natural disasters.
  • The financial crisis of 2008 underscored the need for IT to be relevant to the bottom line. Austerity measures proved to be a significant driver of innovation, primarily around virtualization and the cloud.
  • Today’s IT environment is characterized by hyperconnectivity and the consumerization of IT, in which we are putting technology in the hands of nontechnical people.

“We are clearly at the pinnacle of the rise of IT,” Kent said, facilitating some brief demonstrations of Cisco’s network technology in action in the public sector.

Internet of Things Vice President Tony Shakib joined Kent onstage, in part to speak to confusion around the terms the company helped create: Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything.

The Internet of Things, Shakib explained, is simply the connectivity – the infrastructure that is established in order for Internet-connected devices to interoperate.

The Internet of Everything, in contrast, involves three additional components. The second component is the data that is generated by connecting such a vast web of things. “Connecting them is going to give us a lot of data. How [do you] convert the sheer volume of data you’re going to get into useful data?” Shakib asked. The third piece is the smart applications used to solve public-sector problems, or the management layer. The final piece is application enablement. The company aims to simplify network complexity as much as possible using simple, useful APIs. “All four layers together are the Internet of Everything,” Shakib said.

Kent also plugged the company’s Internet of Things Innovation Grand Challenge, a contest with $250,000 in prize money at stake, in which Cisco is looking for ideas on how its customers could potentially use the Internet of Things. “The Grand Challenge is a global, open competition aimed at recognizing, promoting and accelerating the adoption of breakthrough technologies and products,” the website reads. Entries are due July 1.

Noelle Knell, Assistant Web Editor Noelle Knell  |  Managing Editor

Government Technology managing editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of marketing and communications experience, writing about public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she graduated from the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.