Microsoft Embedded argues that all the connected devices today are providing unprecedented opportunities for fine-grain realtime business analytics.
Smart systems are proliferating in nearly all fields. And their use covers quite a broad range, including smart household appliances, smartphone navigation apps, smart security apps that identify suspicious activity, and supercomputers that use artificial intelligence to give expert medical or legal advice.
Already there are 1.8 billion smart systems in service worldwide, cutting across every application area under the sun—from personal hygiene to public transportation—but that number will more than double to over 4 billion over the next five years.
"IDC believes this new generation of intelligent systems and its ecosystem will have broad reach and establish the next wave in computing over the next five years," said Mario Morales, vice president of IDC's Semiconductor research program. "Cloud-based applications and analytic workloads will extract significant business value from all of the end-user data."
The idea is that all the electronic devices in the world are streaming information from which business intelligence can be derived—all the devices that users are carrying today, plus all the environmental sensors being deployed worldwide, plus all the surveillance video cameras, plus all Internet-connected computers and wireless devices such as remotely monitored medical implants. All these sources serve as the data streams from which the businesses of the future will derive their business intelligence.
A recent forecast by IDC ("Intelligent Systems: The Next Big Opportunity") claimed that over $1 trillion is already expended for smart systems of all types today, and by 2015 the market could top $2 trillion. IDC claims that today market penetration is about 20 percent, but in five years over one-third of all electronics systems will be smart devices. And that's just the start.
Embedded processors—the electronic brains that instill the intelligence into most smart systems—already outnumber the processor cores used in PCs, servers and mobile phones combined, according to IDC, which predicts that more than 14.5 billion cores will be embedded into smart systems by 2015.
Beyond 2015, IDC predicts accelerated growth sparked by the availability of an ecosystem of hardware, software and services. The smart-systems development tools that will be used to quickly prototype and manufacture new smart systems include programming templates for supercomputer-caliber microprocessors, vast arrays of nanoscale sensors and a wide array of cloud-based apps that extract analytics from the big-data streams in order to provide business intelligence.
"The cloud is the essential link," said Morales, principal author of IDC's report. "Cloud-based applications and analytic workloads will extract business value from all of this end-user data."