Cisco Explores Views of Future As Internet Video Traffic Surges

Scott Puopolo, VP, Internet Business Solutions Group, Cisco Systems

Scott Puopolo, VP, Internet Business Solutions Group, Cisco Systems

June 4, 2011 – Cisco Systems, reporting a 36 percent jump in average monthly Internet traffic globally from 2009 to 2010, has expanded on its crystal ball gazing to look beyond its usual five-year horizon into a more distant future when, it seems, we will all be immersed in a screen-enveloped world.
People in 20 years or less will be wearing tee-shirts with embedded screens conveying their styles and messages to everyone they pass. Moms will be watching how-to-cook shows on their toasters. A flick of the hand will switch a bedroom wall screen from showing a movie to a telepresence conference with the kids at the in-laws’ place.

Personal control with this type of immersion are the overarching themes gleaned from Cisco’s recent survey of 50 TV experts in business and education, says Scott Puopolo, vice president of Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group. After interviewing these folks with open-ended questions about what they see happening over a 20-year timeframe, “we took all that information and developed a set of predictions, and then we went back out and surveyed those same individuals and asked them the degree to which they agreed with the particular predictions,” Puopolo says.

The resulting report focuses on ten predictions and what the consensus was as to their likelihood and timeframes. One hundred percent of the respondents said the concept of TV channels would disappear, replaced by consumers’ use of Internet navigation systems to find whatever they want to watch whether it’s in storage or coming at them in real time. And 94 percent said the remote would go the way of channels, replaced by voice and motion recognition technologies.

And that toaster with the how-to-make-cupcakes video running on its little screen? “In the future you’re going to have the ability not only to see [the cupcakes] but to smell them,” Puopolo says.”If you’re watching a detective show scene from a beach, you’ll be able to feel the sea breeze.”Ninety percent of respondents said this sensory wraparound immersion would be part of the experience 20 years hence.

The other predicted areas of experience included socially integrated shared viewing over distance (80 percent agreed with this); complete personalization of ads with instant accessibility to more information (83 percent); immersive interaction with programming to where fans and shows are in regular communication with each other (87 percent); democratization of program origination as the line between professional and user-generated content blurs to extinction (90 percent); engagement of viewers in the creative process (73 percent). Ninety-three percent said TV will be literally everywhere, which should make people far more tolerant of standing in grocery store check-out lines.

While some of these predictions point to developments that seem a fairly long way off, most are already in the formative stages and could well come to fruition much sooner than 2030, Puopolo notes. For example, the proliferation of content is driving a big shift in business models as producers, service providers and advertisers adjust their business models to stay with the consumer.

“Intel projects there is going to be 500 billion hours of video available,” he says.”Business
models are ultimately going to have to change. It’s not that we’re starting from screen zero. Things are happening today.”

But what about the spooky world of complete wraparound virtualization where everyone gets to be a life-size avatar navigating with other avatars in a room-size three-dimensional space? “That’s where we see it heading,” Puopolo says.”That holographic surround where you’re part of the experience is something most people we spoke to felt was clearly on the horizon. “They felt that getting to that level even with all the processing capability, Moore’s Law and what have you is probably beyond the 2030 time horizon. But elements of that are going to be seen now, and we’ll see more and more of it.”

What all this means to the longer term traffic prospects Cisco doesn’t say, but judging from the firm’s latest projection calling for a four-fold jump from 242 exabytes in 2010 to 966 exabytes in 2015, the totals by 2030 could be high enough to drive us all into the routing business.

Last year’s Visual Networking Index Forecast predicted global traffic would hit 767 exabytes in 2013, which means the company expects a 26 percent year-to-year jump just to 2014. That’s an amount that’s just a little less than total global traffic in 2010. At that pace traffic in 2030 would hit 30.9 zetabytes, which is to say about 31 billion terabytes.