How many devices do you own that are connected to the internet?
Vint Cerf, dubbed the “father of the internet” because he was one of its original architects in the 1960s and 70s, predicts that by 2036, the average number of devices people own with an internet connection will be 100.
By then, he said at Smithsonian’s Future Is Here Festival on April 23, he thinks there will be 1 trillion devices with as many as 10 billion users.
This was part of Cerf’s vision of the future of the internet, which he said would soon reach billions more people, be as ever-present as electricity, and connect to everything we use — including many things we don’t currently consider “gadgets.”
Today, there are as many as 15 billion internet-connected devices, which works out to three to five devices per person. (There are about 3 billion users.)
“I want you to keep this in mind: Big, expensive things eventually get cheaper and smaller until they are personal things, not institutional things,” he said at the festival. “And that story gets repeated over and over and over again.”
As one of the earliest adopters of the internet, Cerf of course has more devices connected than average. He has already moved on to the “internet of things” phase — think: internet-connected refrigerators — which is what he predicts everyone will adopt next.
Cerf said he even has temperature, humidity, and light sensors in his wine cellar to make sure every bottle is safe and sound. That type of application seems far off for non-computer programmers, but it could soon be our plugged-in reality.
“Eventually, all buildings, all offices, all cars will be festooned with these kinds of sensors — partly because the feedback that we get can help us be more smart about the way that we use our resources,” he said at the conference. “This is a way of gathering data that can truly make a difference.”
Besides the massive connection of devices to the internet, Cerf also predicts that everyone will be online in the next 20 years.
“It will just be ubiquitous, everywhere,” he said at the festival. “Communications will not be something that you have to set up; it will just be there, just like electricity in the wall.”
And after that? Cerf expects we’ll install interplanetary internet once we set up civilizations across the solar system.
It seems the father of the internet isn’t done designing yet.