All those devices will transmit their data wirelessly to an onboard computer, which uses satellite positioning and air pressure measurement to track every kilometer ridden and every meter climbed. Back home after the ride, all that data can be uploaded automatically to an array of cloud-based services, allowing the cyclist to review their performance, monitor the progress of their training and boast about their achievements to friends on social media networks.
Smarter bicycles are just a tiny sliver of the exploding new world of connected devices. The internet of things (IoT) now encompasses thousands of products and services, from smart tags on parcels to smart speakers in homes, medical devices, manufacturing machines and, soon, fully autonomous vehicles. For the technology industry, these applications create a virtuous circle: a fast-growing market for the sensors, processors and communication hardware used in millions of devices drives a second market for the infrastructure needed to collect, manage and analyze the data they generate. The cleverest new services increasingly rely on sophisticated artificial intelligence technologies, which further increase the appetite for computational horsepower.
Much of the technology that has revolutionized cycle sport, social interaction and so many other aspects of our lives is concentrated in huge data centers dotted around the world. And as our appetite for cloud services grows, so do those facilities. According to Synergy Research Group, there were almost 400 "hyperscale" data centers in operation worldwide at the end of 2017. These facilities, most of them owned by IT giants such as Google, Amazon, Oracle and Microsoft, each contain tens of thousands of servers. The industry is rushing to build more of them. Synergy says that at least 69 new hyperscale data centers were being planned or under construction at the end of 2017. And property consultancy JLL, which monitors the global data center market, says some major cloud providers are planning to triple the size of their infrastructure by 2020.