An intelligent network that could bust down "digital silos" and connect content to consumers and devices, anytime, anywhere will mark the emergence of a "human network," according to John Chambers, chairman/CEO Cisco during his International CES presentation.
"We're moving from the networked home, to the networked consumer," Chambers said.
While Internet innovation in the previous decade trickled down from enterprises to consumers, the next wave would trickle up from consumers to enterprise, he predicted. The growth of the Internet and its corresponding network traffic has been immense. In 2006, 20 networked homes produced as much network traffic as the entire Internet did in 1995, he observed.
"And this is only the beginning — network loads could grow 200, 300 percent," he said.
Chambers demonstrated a hypothetical interaction with the "human network" as an audio tune followed him from car stereo to cellphone to home theater system. Devices such as digital picture frames, network cameras and tablet PCs could be added to the network simply by plugging them in, with no configuration outside of basic parental controls.
Once connected, devices could have access not simply to a user's own self-generated content, but to prerecorded content from DVRs and subscription services and to the self-generated content of friends and family.
"People will subscribe to people," Chambers said. Video is the killer app, but once it is married to voice, data and mobility, "the way we work, live, communicate and learn will change."
Such an environment, he added, would provide new revenue streams for content owners and device manufacturers to innovate and add value on top of the network. "The simpler it is, the more device manufacturers and service providers can profit from it."
Chambers said the vision could be realized in as little as three years.
Cisco would be committed to an aggressive policy of acquisition and partnerships, but will also push a standards-based approach. "We will be Switzerland, but Switzerland with a powerful army."