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Observations

Observations

Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

The Future of the Internet: Video Via Lots of Mobile Gadgets

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Internet,mobile,video,YouTube,GoogleInternet video will comprise more than half of all Internet traffic, wireless devices will become the predominant way to surf the Web, and there will be more networked devices than people on this planet within the next few years. So says a Cisco Systems annual Visual Networking Index (VNI) report issued Wednesday to highlight the presence and consumption of digital video and social networking services on the Internet.


The VNI, which Cisco has issued for the past four years, indicates that by the end of next year Internet video—currently found primarily on YouTube, Hulu and Netflix—will be more than 50 percent of consumer (as opposed to business) Internet traffic. This is up from 40 percent of consumer Internet traffic in 2010 and is expected to rise to 62 percent by the end of 2015. The figure excludes video shared via peer-to-peer (P2P) networks—such as BitTorrent and eDonkey—which used to be the predominant way of sharing video online (global Internet video traffic surpassed global P2P traffic in 2010). The report indicates there will be so much video online in 2015 that it would take more than five years just to watch the amount of video that will cross global Internet-Protocol (IP) networks every second in 2015.


Whereas 3 percent of Internet traffic originated with non-PC devices last year, this will grow to 15 percent by 2015. In fact, traffic from wireless devices will for the first time exceed traffic from wired devices by 2015, when wired devices will account for 46 percent of IP traffic, while WiFi and mobile devices—including smart phones, laptops, tablets and other portable gadgets—will account for 54 percent of IP traffic. To provide some perspective, wired devices accounted for 63 percent of IP traffic last year.


Cisco also reports that there will the equivalent of two networked devices per person in 2015, up from a single networked device per capita in 2010. This doesn't mean that everyone is going to be carrying both a smart phone and a tablet with them—the report factors in Web-enabled consumer electronics such as digital picture frames and set-top boxes. Not surprisingly, the amount of data generated per person will increase at a faster rate however, from 3 gigabytes last year to 11 gigabytes in 2015.


Much of this has to do with the way new devices make Internet access, particularly data-heavy video files, more useful and convenient. Tablets, for example, are used not only as computers and communication devices but also as personal televisions and movie screens. And smart phone makers, led by Apple and Google, are promoting video chat as a means of communication. Microsoft's recent $8.5 billion purchase of voice and video communications provider Skype Global is meant to keep them in the video chat game as well.


Image courtesy of Christian Rummel, via iStockPhoto.com

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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