By 2020, the world’s population is expected to reach 7.6 billion, while the number of internet-connected devices is expected to reach 50 billion. The internet of things (IoT) is a concept first coined by Kevin Ashton, co-founder and executive director of the Auto-ID Centre at MIT, in 1999.

As advanced technology can be packed into smaller and smaller spaces, chips and sensors can be added to all sorts of devices to track and measure data. This data can either be simply relayed back to users or can even trigger a device to take action.

From smart home appliances to citywide infrastructure, the application of the internet of things knows no bounds – much like its forecasted growth. The size of the ‘digital universe’ – all the data that makes up the internet – will increase by a multiple of 10 by 2020, what with the growth of the internet of things, new research from EMC and International Data Corporation (IDC) suggests.

The term ‘internet of things’ has entered common lexicon as more and more household items and the objects we interact with on a daily basis will all be interconnected and this growth will lead to never-before seen data usage. From the EMC and IDC findings, the internet’s current data capacity stands at about 4.4trn gigabytes but by 2020 will rise to 44trn gigabytes as more devices become interconnected.

As it stands, there are reportedly 200 billion devices on the planet connected to the internet, with 7 percent (or 14 billion) already connected to and communicating over the internet.

The data from these connected devices represents 2pc of the world’s data today and now, the IDC forecasts that by 2020, the number of connected devices will grow to 32 billion – representing 10 percent of the world’s data. Other estimates take the number of devices up to 50 billion.

The question of whether the usefulness of most of these trillions of gigabytes of data will grow in the coming years has also been investigated and the findings reveal that while in 2013 only 22 percent of the information in the digital universe was considered useful data, by 2020 this will have risen to 35 percent.

Creating data faster than storage

Perhaps one of the biggest worries to come from the report entitled The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things, is that we are creating data at such a rate that available storage is shrinking.

In 2013, the available storage capacity could hold just 33pc of the digital universe but by 2020, it will be able to store less than 15pc. However, the move towards content streaming, as opposed to downloading, could offset any future storage worries.

Speaking about the findings, Jeremy Burton, president of products and marketing of EMC information infrastructure, said, “As more and more businesses capitalise on the social and mobile phenomenon, the enormity and potential of the digital universe grows, and businesses are presented with greater opportunities to analyse new streams of data and gain more value from the data they already have.”