Internet of Things vs. Internet of Everything

Internet of Things vs. Internet of Everything

By Dorothy Shamonsky, Ph.D.

Does the Distinction Matter to User Experience Designers?

Qualcomm and Cisco have been pushing the term, Internet of Everything (IoE) while most others are using the term Internet of Things (IoT). As could be expected, confusion about the difference between the two has ensued. Is there a difference or is it just rhetoric? Some people use them interchangeably but there is a clear conceptual difference. IoE encompasses a wider scope and takes into consideration the infrastructure needed and the potential impacts that will occur on data, privacy, security and usability as a result of connecting billions of devices to the Internet.

Does the distinction matter to User Experience (UX) designers? Since the IoE is really a wider view of the IoT, do the additional components, issues or aspects of the “everything” view actually add more complexity to the UX design of connected devices?  My answer to these questions is a resounding Yes! The IoE does imply that there is a lot more complexity to ubiquitous connectivity than there are with Internet-enabled devices, and you can bet that usability will be hugely affected.

On a simple level, it’s a bit like this. Your child asks, “Can I get a pony? I saw one for sale and it was only $100.” You as the parent understand the larger implications that there needs to be a barn, a fence, regular feed and that there will be vet bills. In addition, you wonder who will take care of it when you go on vacation and who will feed it and clean the barn when your child fails to do so, which they inevitably will sometimes. Your answer to your child: “There is a lot more impact to getting a pony then the cost of purchasing it and bringing it home.”

The IoT is a sweet concept, but how does the care and feeding of ubiquitous connectivity occur? Even more important, and unlike the simple pet metaphor, the IoT will enable new possibilities because there will be more shared data, more connections between people and businesses and more ways to make those connections than ever before in the history of civilization. The way we use technology continues to evolve.

Image Courtesy of Cisco 

“Cisco defines IoE as bringing together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before—turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.” ₁

The term, IoE adds people, processes and data to things (or the IoT), thus implying a shift in technology that is greater than first expected from connecting everyday devices to the internet. In terms of UX design, much of the impact of greater connectivity and smarter data falls into the realm of invisible, non-tangible interactions. This falls squarely into the realm of services and how services are represented (or how UX information is structured) will become more and more important. After all, form implies meaning and UX designers will need to become even better at conveying meaning with sparse visual and aural representations.

Although the UX design profession has developed significant conceptual tools for solving the complex usability challenges of emerging technologies, such as use contexts and experience ecologies, the IoE presents many new challenges for UX design.


  1.  Thanks to IoE the Next Decade Looks Positively Nutty Whole Shebang, Cisco blog post, last accessed July 13, 2015
  2. Image courtesy of Cisco: