How the Internet of things connects everything and everyone

In just seven years, there will be anywhere from 24 to 50 billion Internet-connected devices. That's three to 6.5 devices for every man, woman, and child on the planet. Those devices aren't just PCs, smartphones, and tablets, but also smart watches and eyewear, along with a lot of “things” we don’t usually think of as connected to the Internet: TVs, cars, appliances, shipping containers, and jet engines, to name a few.

We're starting to live more connected lives through these “things.” Consider this example: A woman jogging through a park gets thirsty. She does a voice search on her smartphone for bottled water and is directed to a nearby vending machine, where she buys water using a mobile payment account on her phone.

Sensing its supply is low, the machine alerts the distributor, whose automated supply chain management system adds that machine to the route of a passing delivery truck. Meanwhile, the jogger stops at a grocery store. Based on her recent activity, the beverage company sends a promotion to the jogger’s smartphone. She gets it just as she is deciding what drink to buy.