Connected devices.

Read through the deluge of CES coverage this week, and those two words keep appearing. From silverware that paces how you eat, to an iPad friendly potty trainer for tech-centric (and no doubt frustrated) parents, it’s not just computers and smartphones that rely on a connection to the Internet.

Even car makers are increasingly getting in on the act by reaching out to app developers, as Ryan Nakashima of the AP points out:

At the International CES show, General Motors and Ford launched programs that will open their designs to developers, inviting them to create software applications for future car models. It’s a relatively new strategy for car makers, but one that many gadget manufacturers employ, including Apple, which did it for the original iPhone in 2007.

The programs free the automakers from having to keep pace with new technologies by tying the functionality of their cars’ internal systems to advances in smartphones.

While connected devices certainly aren’t new, the emphasis on mobility is a fairly recent development. Increasingly robust wireless networks — from 3G to 4G and now LTE — are driving unprecedented innovation in the mobile space, which makes the other buzzwords from this year’s CES, IP-based networks, all the more important. The U.S. already has more connected devices than people, and as innovation continues to flourish, we’re going to need networks that can keep up with the ever-present flood of data.

Getting to those networks will take investment. The transition from the networks of old to the next generation and beyond is not going to be cheap, and in order for network providers to make the transition as quickly as consumers will demand, the government will need to work with the industry — not just to keep regulatory roadblocks at a minimum, but to ensure everyone is able to participate in our always-connected future.

The days when nearly everything around us is online are coming. Now is the time to get ready.