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Data set to grow 10-fold by 2020 as internet of things takes off

Antony Adshead

The amount of data on the planet is set to grow 10-fold in the next six years to 2020 from around 4.4 zettabytes to 44ZB. That’s according to IDC’s annual Digital Universe study, which also predicted that, by 2020, the amount of information produced by machines, the so-called internet of things, will account for about 10% of data on earth.

Key predictions included: that by 2020, one tenth of the world’s data will be produced by machines; that the amount of useful data produced will increase from 22% in 2013 to more than 35% in 2020; most of the world’s data will be produced in emerging markets; the amount of data that spends some of its lifetime in the cloud will double; and the amount of data will increasingly outpace available storage.  

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IDC’s study, sponsored by EMC, found the number of everyday objects connected to the internet and able to automatically record, report and receive data – the so-called internet of things – is approaching 200 billion today, with 7% (or 14 billion) already connected to and communicating over the internet. That figure currently represents 2% of the world's data. IDC forecasts that, by 2020, the number of connected devices will grow to 32 billion and comprise 10% of the world's data.

The study also predicts the internet of things will influence the amount of "useful data" in existence – that is, data that can be analysed. In 2013, only 22% of data was considered useful, even though less than 5% of that was actually analysed. By 2020, more than 35% of all data could be considered useful data, owing to the growth of data from the internet of things.

Vernon Turner, senior vice-president at IDC, stressed the increasing importance of data from the internet of things to business.

He said: “As sensors become connected to the internet, the data they generate becomes increasingly important to every aspect of business, transforming old industries into new, relevant entities."

The study found that currently 60% of data in the digital universe is produced in mature markets such as Germany, Japan and the US. But, by 2020, that situation will reverse and emerging markets such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Russia will account for most of the world’s data. 

IDC predicted that the amount of data “touched” by the cloud will double by 2020. In 2013, less than 20% of data in the digital universe spent any time in the cloud. By 2020, that percentage will double to 40%.

Finally, the amount of data in existence is outpacing storage as the amount of available storage capacity (unused bytes) across all media types grows more slowly than the amount of data in the digital universe. In 2013, the available storage capacity could hold 33% of all data. By 2020, it will be able to store less than 15%. Luckily, most data is transient, comprising streaming and media data, and requires no persistent storage. 

 


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