Digital Universe 2012 – Machine Machinations

Digital Universe 2012: Machine MachinationsA machination is defined as a crafty scheme, a plot, or intrigue.

When I look at the wealth of information provided by the IDC in this year’s Digital Universe Study, I can’t help but think that machines are writing a pretty crafty plot in which we as humans are designing a fairly sophisticated communication network for them.

IDC is nearly at the midpoint of their Digital Universe Study.  They define the Digital Universe as “a measure of all the digital data created, replicated, and consumed in a
single year”. The first study was completed in 2007. This initial study predicted that the Digital Universe in 2010 would grow to 988 exabytes.

They were off by nearly thirty percent (the Digital Universe in 2010 was estimated by IDC to be 1277 exabytes).

Each year the IDC introduces more sophisticated insights, and this year is no exception. The intrigue surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine To Machine (M2M) is a major subplot in the report.

Digital machines were estimated to produce 11% of the Digital Universe in 2005. These machines represent a “fourth wave” of digital producers. These waves are typically described as follows:

  1. Computers, digital by nature, began to populate the Digital Universe.
  2. Telephones transformed from analog to digital, resulting in universal expansion.
  3. Cameras and media began contributing massive amounts of additional digital content.
  4. Embedded systems (e.g. sensors, surveillance cameras, smart meters, appliances, medical devices, toys, etc) are becoming one of “the major sources for ones and zeros”.

The IDC estimates that by 2020 machines will be generating 40% of the Digital Universe.

What technology shifts allowed machines to become protagonists in the drama of the digital universe?

I picked up additional insight on this question from a recent issue of The Economist. Three technology trends are enabling machines to become more prevalent:

  • The new version of
    the internet protocol (IPV6), with an address space of 128 bits, provides for 340
    billion, billion, billion, billion unique addresses.  The current
    protocol, 32 bits long, supported only 4.3 billion binary addresses.
  • There has never been
    enough bandwidth to support wireless M2M data streams.  Over the past
    year, new 4G networks have rolled out to accommodate smart phones and pads.
  • Cloud computing has collapsed the unit cost of storage.

While the IDC study does not specifically cover IPV6 and 4G networks, it does provide an interesting graphic on the plumetting cost of storage:


The IDC estimates that the investment (per gigabyte) in storing the bits in the digital universe will drop from $2.00 in 2012 to $0.20 in 2020.

In 2020 the IDC also estimates that 200 billion “things” will be emitting digital bits, and much of this traffic will be broadcast in the hopes that other machines will return the favor via “sub-second” response times.

If billions of machines have any hope of responding to each other that quickly, we as humans are going to have to introduce new analytics paradigms in the cloud. In my next post I will highlight several technologies that can enable this emerging requirement.

Related article, Rise of the Machine-to-Machine Opportunities, courtesy of
image credit:

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Steve ToddSteve Todd is an EMC Fellow, the Director of EMC’s Innovation Network, and a high-tech inventor and book author Innovate With Global Influence. An EMC Intrapreneur with over 200 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground. Twitter: @SteveTodd

Steve Todd




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