The Internet of things, in which anything from refrigerators to cars are connected online, is such an important development that companies failing to recognize it risk becoming irrelevant.
That was the consensus during a panel about connected devices during Fortune’s Global Forum on Monday.
Cisco CSCO -0.28% Executive Chairman and former CEO John Chambers said he believes there will be around 500 billion devices hooked to the Internet by 2025. This number greatly dwarfs the 25 billion connected devices that some technology analysts have projected by that time.
Chambers sounded nearly apocalyptic in tone as he said that 40% of the companies attending the conference—including possibly Cisco—would not be here “in a meaningful way” in the next ten years because the pace of technology is changing so quickly.
Gavin Patterson, the CEO of telecom giant BT Group, agreed with Chambers, saying his own company has been busy “reinventing” itself numerous times to keep up with the changing nature of technology. BT Group is in the middle of a multi-billion dollar acquisition of mobile operator EE that will make it easier for the company to accommodate billions of mobile devices that are connected to the web.
For Lenovo Chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing, no company can be successful if it is only invested in protecting its legacy business. Yuanqing explained how Lenovo used to be thought of as just a Chinese company, but by buying IBM’s personal computer business, Lenovo was able to branch out of its homeland and become a global player.
And as for China itself and its slowing economy, Chambers seemed confident that the country would soon rebound, saying that “the people who were too pessimistic about China will be proven wrong.” Yuanqing, however, was more measured about when China would recover.
“We cannot be too optimistic, but we shouldn’t be too pessimistic as well,” Yuanqing said.