The Internet Of Things: A Novell Idea?

In the last year there has been a lot of hype about the Internet of Things (IoT) and the interconnected world of devices and appliances that appears to be our future. Businesses such as Intel and Cisco are in the vanguard of the IoT, and in fact Cisco were at BrainShare 2014 talking about this and recognising the importance of IDM in the mix.

In reading about the IoT there was a nagging thought that this idea is not new.  Where have I heard of it before?  Then I remembered a Novell presentation (at an early UK User Group meeting no less) about a Netware enabled vending machine.  Google came to my rescue and turned up a Network World article from 1995 and other references.

At that time the new Novell CEO, Bob Frankenburg, formulated the concept of Pervasive Computing, and set a goal for connecting 1 billion devices by the year 2000, comprising conventional PCs, phones and smart appliances - including your local vending machine, fridge and central heating system.

Of course the secret to achieving this was for appliance manufacturers to licence NEST – Novell Embedded Systems Technology.  In fact a large number of organisations did licence NEST development kits.

Here the story appears to go cold as NEST didn‘t really take-off, even given the dominance of Netware and the ipx protocol at that time.

Was the 1 billion connected devices by the start of the new millennium realistic.? Back in 2000, PC sales were 131.7 million (IDC figures) and mobile phones sold numbered 412.7 million (Gartner), though the majority of the latter wouldn‘t have been “smart”.  So it‘s unclear whether a billion devices existed to be connected at that time, without taking into account any smart appliances.

Fast forward another 15 years.  This year Gartner forecast that there will be almost 2.5 billion smartphones, tablets and PCs sold world-wide.  So even before the IoT becomes established and sales of intelligent fridges, heating systems and even vending machines take off, the original Novell target has been well and truly superceded;   but it‘s good to know that Novell were thinking big and wanted to take on the world.

(This article was published in Open Horizons Magazine, Issue 28, 1-2015, p31)

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