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ITU Internet Reports 2005: The Internet of Things

Download Executive Summary

Coming December 2006, the next in the series: ITU Internet Reports 2006:

Official Launch and Press Conference (
webcast) held at WSIS
in Tunis, Tunisia on 17 November 2005

The Internet of Things report in the press (see below for more):
BBC News Online:  UN Predicts 'internet of things'
International Herald Tribune (IHT): Wireless: Creating Internet of 'Things'
AFP - Yahoo News: Machines and objects to overtake humans on the Internet: ITU

Réalités Online - L’Internet des choses : une révolution sans limites
Domotique - Les objets parlents aux objects


ITU Internet Reports 2005: The Internet of Things is the seventh in the series of "ITU Internet Reports" originally launched in 1997 by the International Telecommunication Union. For previous titles in the series see ITU Internet Reports 2004: The Portable Internet , ITU Internet Reports 2003: Birth of Broadband, and ITU Internet Reports 2002: Internet for a Mobile Generation.

Written by a team of analysts from the Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU) of the ITU, the report takes a look at the next step in "always on" communications, in which new technologies like RFID and smart computing promise a world of networked and interconnected devices that provide relevant content and information whatever the location of the user. Everything from tires to toothbrushes will be in communications range, heralding the dawn of a new era, one in which today’s Internet (of data and people) gives way to tomorrow’s Internet of Things.

We are heading towards what can be termed a “ubiquitous network society”, one in which networks and networked devices are omnipresent. Early forms of ubiquitous information and communication networks are already visible in the widespread use of mobile phones today: there were over 1.8 billion mobile phones in circulation by the end of 2004, and the number is set to surpass 2 billion by the end of 2005. Mobile data applications such as SMS, i-mode and Vodafone Live! have brought Internet-like services to the pockets of many mobile phone users. But what if much more was connected to a network: a fridge, a car, a cup of tea?

At the dawn of the internet revolution, users were amazed at the possibility of contacting people and information across oceans and time zones, through a few clicks of their mouse. In order to do so, however, they typically had to sit in front of a computer device (PC) connected to a global network. Today, they can also use mobile phones and portable laptops. The next logical step in this technological revolution (connecting people anytime, anywhere) is to connect inanimate objects a communication network. This is the vision underlying the Internet of things. The use of electronic tags (e.g. RFID) and sensors will serve to extend the communication and monitoring potential of the network of networks, as will the introduction of computing power in everyday items such as razors, shoes and packaging. Advances in nanotechnology (i.e. manipulation of matter at the molecular level) will serve to further accelerate these developments.

The late Mark Weiser (at the time chief scientist at the XEROX Palo Alto Research Center) is quoted to have said: “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” This well-known citation refers to the increasing “availability” and decreasing “visibility” of processing power. In other words, computing through dedicated devices will slowly disappear, while information processing capabilities will emerge throughout our surrounding environment. With the benefit of integrated information processing capacity, industrial products will take on smart capabilities. They may also take on electronic identities that can be queried remotely, or be equipped with sensors for detecting physical changes around them. Such developments will make the merely static objects of today dynamic ones - embedding intelligence in our environment and stimulating the creation of innovative products and new business opportunities. The Internet of Things will enable forms of collaboration and communication between people and things, and between things themselves, hitherto unknown and unimagined.

It seems that we are standing on the brink of a new computing and communication era, one that will radically transform our corporate, community, and personal spheres. With continuing developments in miniaturization and declining costs, it is becoming not only technologically possible but also economically feasible to make everyday objects smarter, and to connect the world of people with the world of things. Building this new environment however, will pose a number of challenges. Technological standardization in most areas is still in its infancy, or remains fragmented. Not surprisingly, managing and fostering rapid technological innovation will be a challenge for governments and industry alike. But perhaps one of the most important challenges is convincing users to adopt emerging technologies like RFID. Concerns over privacy and data protection are widespread, particularly as sensors and smart tags can track a user’s movements, habits and preferences on a perpetual basis. Fears related to nanotechnology range from bio-medical hazards to robotic control. But whatever the concern, one thing remains clear: scientific and technological advances in these fields continue to move ahead at breakneck speed. It is only through awareness of such advances, and the challenges they present, that we can reap the future benefits of a fair, user-centric and global Internet of Things.

ITU Internet Reports 2005: The Internet of Things was in November 2005. The report includes chapters on enabling technologies, the shaping of the market, emerging challenges and implications for the developing world, as well as comprehensive statistical tables covering over 200 economies. Download the executive summary.

Click here to buy the publication.


Selected Coverage of the Report:

BBC News Online:  UN Predicts 'internet of things', 17 November 2005
AFP - Yahoo News: Machines and objects to overtake humans on the Internet: ITU, 17 November 2005
InfoWorld, Net will enable interactivity with common objects, 17 November 2005
Trade Arabia, Machine, objects to overtake humans on net, 17 November 2005
CIO Magazine: Next Big Things: Internet of Things, 18 November 2005
IDG Now, Estudo: prepare-se para a internet das coisas, 18 November 2005
International Herald Tribune (IHT): Wireless: Creating Internet of 'Things', 20 November 2005
News Factor Magazine Online, Internet controlled by "things" - a Scary but Exciting Idea, 21 November 2005
Réalités Online, L’Internet des choses : une révolution sans limites
Intelligence online, Standards for the Internet of Things, Issue 512, 25 November 2005 (subscription only)


Report: Table of Contents

1. Introducing the Internet of Things
2. Enabling technologies
3. Shaping the market
4. Emerging challenges
5. Opportunities for the developing world
6. The big picture
7. Statistical Annex*

*The statistical annex contains the following: basic indicators, mobile subscribers, mobile prices, Internet subscribers,
3G subscribers, information technology, broadband subscribers, broadband prices; network penetration;
international IP bandwidth and main telephone lines.

For more information contact Ms. Lara Srivastava at lara.srivastava(a)

Go back to SPU Publications


  Coming soon!
ITU Internet Reports 2006:

This eight edition of the ITU Internet Reports, entitled "", delves into how individual lives are changing in the digital age. Prepared especially for ITU TELECOM World (December 4-8 2006 in Hong Kong), the report begins by examining the underlying technological enablers of new digital lifestyles, from upgrading network infrastructure to value creation at its edges. In studying how businesses are adapting to fast-paced digital innovation, the report looks at how they can derive value in an environment driven by convergence at multiple levels. The question of extending access to underserved areas of the world is considered as an important priority. In light of media convergence, a fresh approach to policy-making may be required, notably in areas such as content, competition policy, and spectrum management. Moreover, as our lives become increasingly mediated by digital technologies, the role of digital identities (both abstract and practical) presents a new challenge. Concerns over privacy and data protection are not being sufficiently addressed by current methods for managing identities online. As such, the report examines the changing digital individual, and outlines the need for improving the design of identity management mechanisms for a healthy and secure digital world.

Report to be released in December 2006 at
ITU Telecom World (Hong Kong, China)


Go back to SPU Publications



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