The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said recently that three billion people would be connected to the Internet by the end of this year.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said recently that three billion people would be connected to the Internet by the end of this year. In fact, the number of devices plugged into the Internet first outnumbered the human population in 2008 and they have been growing far faster than us ever since. There were 13 billion Internet-connected devices in 2013, according to one estimate, and there will be 50 billion in 2020, including phones, chips, sensors, implants, among others.
As much as the Internet has irrevocably changed our world, it is the next phase of the World Wide Web, the Internet of Things (IOT) —riding on underlying cloud-based applications and other mobile technologies—which I believe will really transform our lives in more real-life ways than meets the eye at the moment.
Among its many definitions, IOT also refers to the increasing connectivity to the Internet of objects or devices people use in their personal and professional lives, but previously had no relationship to computers and data centres. This, in turn, has the potential to create unbelievable amounts of data and significant occurrences of governments, corporations and even individuals providing and gaining remote
access to data.
The cloud—with its ability to store gigantic volumes of data, offering affordable and flexible access remotely—is an important underlying technology for the success of the IOT’s natural expansion. A crucial subset of the cloud is the personal cloud, a relatively new phenomenon, that offers people like you and me a powerful solution to address the challenges of managing or accessing personal data on a host of devices, at home, in office, on the move, or elsewhere.
An advanced personal data delivery platform has begun to find acceptance, driven by the growing use of IT in our lives and the resultant growing number of user end-points or devices; here the personal cloud has already started to make its presence felt.
This is no doubt aided by the rapid growth of the mobile Internet in India. Indian mobile Internet users—particularly the over 40 million 3G users among them— are increasingly demanding greater portability of their data and applications on mobile. This demand is likely to be a key influence in the growth of personal cloud. Also aiding this growth are consumer technology companies, who continue to focus on innovations that can help make the consumption of personal content free of challenges related to hardware, operating system, and location for instance.
Although the cloud almost began as a business technology, it is today increasingly becoming accessible to consumers. Not a new phenomenon by any means, but this consumerisation of technology is today becoming far more pervasive than it was ever before. Among other reasons, this has been spurred by growing number of users in non-metros as well and by the stunning growth in digital content that people create, download, share and consume.
Personal cloud technologies lean towards the needs of an individual user or a relatively small setup with easy and secure accessibility of all types of content— from personal content such as music, movies and pictures to content that focuses on productivity, such as documents and emails.
Can you imagine the ability to access your photos or important documents stored at home or a remote location while you’re trotting or the ability to quickly upload new personal content from your mobile phone to your home-device directly and on-the-go? The personal cloud may also be one of the hottest trends in technology today. As early as in 2012, industry analyst firm Gartner projected that the personal cloud will replace the personal computer at the centre of users’ digital lives by 2014. We may not have reached there yet, but we are on our way.
One reason is that the storage requirements of consumers are also fast increasing with greater mobility, expansion of social media and a deluge of data is driving a focus toward external drives and personal cloud solutions. In fact, Gartner in 2012 also said that the average household will own approximately 3.3 TB of content by 2016, and about one-third of this consumer content will be stored in the cloud. A greater adoption of personal cloud has the potential to significantly drive consumer’s cloud adoption.
A personal cloud drive, for example, such as My Cloud from WD, allows consumers to back-up their digital content from their PC, tablet or mobile devices and access content from anywhere. An accompanying mobile app allows people to view photos, stream videos or access their files from anywhere on their iOS or Android-based smartphones or tablets. This app integrates major public cloud services to transfer files between their Dropbox, SkyDrive and Google Drive accounts.
In the Indian context, in addition to the country’s rapidly expanding 3G user base, over 68-million broadband users will present a huge market to tap. As adoption of the personal cloud demonstrates its advantages for users, there will be a somewhat gradual but steady switch to the personal cloud in the years ahead.
One possible challenge to this growth is the lack of public awareness about how personal cloud solutions offer private access to our critical content and offer storage in terabyte/s without asking for a subscription fee. However, the sheer ease-of-use and capabilities that personal cloud brings to a user act as a powerful counterforce.
In 2015, and over the next few years, the importance of service delivery for the end user across platforms and touch points will gain greater momentum. As more Indian consumers adopt home or mobile broadband and more computing devices join their families, the promise of greater flexibility, efficiency and, unfailing security will make the personal cloud increasingly ubiquitous.
All of this, of course, aligns with the acceptance of broadband in India, and this is a priority that is very central to the government’s Digital India programme as part of its National Broadband Plan.
The writer is director—South Asia, Middle East and Africa for WD (a Western Digital company)