In the IoT world, 2018 was a year dominated by mergers, acquisitions, major vendor commitments and ever-increasing consumer adoption. In the business sphere, manufacturers showed signs of embracing IoT (i.e. Industrial IoT, or “IIoT”) as an enabling technology for everything from supply chain logistics to the creation of digital twins.
As 2019 has now begun, we can see more emerging drivers of the Internet of Things. The big story for the next couple of years will be the rollout of 5G wireless networks, allowing end users to deploy significantly more IoT devices in more locations. As connectivity becomes faster and more reliable—at the same time requiring less energy—we can anticipate new ideas developed into viable solutions for every major business sphere.
The variety of these ideas is impressive as well. From IoT-connected windows that control light and glare to smart healthcare and beacon-based solutions, they are getting funding from many investors from the US and China. This growth is further validation of the notion that the IoT breakout is upon us.
Many exciting use cases and promising products were presented at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This inspired me to make a list of IoT trends that may encourage tech product companies and heads of innovation departments on ideas of their own. After all, business-driven tech innovation is a powerful ally for modern companies.
#1—Smart Home Market Driven by Voice Assistants and Edge Computing
Edge computing has been a major driver within the industry for the last few years. Players like Google, Microsoft and Amazon have come into the market, as have plenty of small companies and venture capital-backed firms. The demand for smart IoT technology has made advancements in edge computing programs essential to the success of these enterprises, especially in terms of delivering secure transactions, cloud access and raw computational power.
IoT Greengrass by Amazon is a worthwhile case—and it can be used to give effect to Lambda functionality on edge devices. Voice-enabled products, such as Amazon’s Alexa offerings, are also expected to drive smart home adoption. 275 million systems of this type are expected to be in the homes of consumers by 2023.
An interesting use case was available at this year’s CES from First Alert. They offered a smoke and carbon monoxide detector that provides mesh network and smart speaker capabilities.
It’s worth noting that the US Internet of Things market is currently dominated by Amazon. Overseas, however, is a different situation, with Google Home in the lead.
#2—IoT Solutions Involving Artificial Intelligence, Data Science & Blockchain
Business applications of technology remain serious drivers of innovation and advancements. Seamlessly bringing ideas together with viable solutions remains an important job of the tech sector, as it relates to business activities. In the IoT sphere, solutions need to be able to play nicely with other technologies, including AI-, Data Science- and Blockchain-enabled systems.
Data collection is a use case where AI and IoT integration efforts have to be seamless. Device security is imperative, too. As AI and IoT grow together, we can expect Big Data acquisition and machine learning to also thrive.
Folks in the data science field will also benefit. IoT has the capacity to make many technologies accessible, including face and voice recognition, biometrics and authentication. Innovation and improvement in these DS-adjacent fields will lean heavily on data acquired through IoT devices.
Companies like Honda and John Deere are rapidly moving into the computer vision and machine learning segments of the market. As seen at CES this year, real-world solutions employing self-driving technologies are available for everything from agriculture to emergency services.
Incorporation of blockchain technologies into IoT systems is essential to handling security and transactionality, especially in logistics and transportation. It’s estimated that 20 percent of devices will employ some kind of blockchain-based solution in 2019. Spending in the industrial and IoT blockchain sector is anticipated to grow from $174 million today to $573 million in 2023.
#3—Advent of 5G and Ubiquitous LPWAN Slowly Approaching
Some of the biggest headwinds that tech has faced in the last decade come from speed and latency issues. 5G wireless networks, however, appear poised to arrive and solve this situation. This will make embedding of functionality in mobile devices even more appealing than it already is today. With better send and receive times and improved reliability, data systems running on 5G networks will be more manageable than they are on current 4G setups.
Logistics, transportations and infrastructure applications are already planned to make use of the speed and dependability of 5G networks. Adoption remains sparse, but the attraction will definitely be there. Business plans should consider 5G to be an emerging reality rather than a source of speculation.
At the end of 2018, IoT Analytics estimated that approximately 7 billion IoT devices were operating worldwide. The majority lean on short-distance technologies, such as WLAN and WPAN. By 2025, there are expected to be 22 billion IoT deployed. Plenty of them will be running on the newly introduced low-power wide-area (LPWAN) protocol and 5G. LPWAN promises improvements in product lifetimes, and sensors should also get significantly smaller, too. Compound annual growth forecasts for 2017 to 2023 indicate that 109 percent growth will occur. Annual spending on connectivity will exceed $4.7 billion.
#4—Digital Twin Technology for Industrial IoT (IIoT)
Utilizing digital twins, or replicas, of real-world equipment and operations allows companies in the manufacturing, drilling, mining and exploration sectors to all get out in front of problems. Using IoT, AI and data science, these companies can anticipate failures before they occur. Using digital twins, they also can troubleshoot problems that may be occurring in impossible environments. A report from Gartner indicates that 48 percent of smart manufacturing operations either have deployed or intend to utilize digital twins or similar concepts.
#5—Legal Issues Growing in Importance
The era of IoT devices being unregulated is rapidly coming to an end. As society and legal world come to grips with the implications of so many devices in operation, 2019 is likely to be the year that compliance becomes a watchword in the industry.
The GDPR in the EU is but a preview of what’s coming. IoT product companies already have to take customer privacy and data retention issues into account if they have any exposure in European markets. For buyers to be confident, they need to know that the IoT devices they’re purchasing will be fully compliant. Investors will bring similar concerns when looking at opportunities in the IoT sector.
The state of California has also become a leader in IoT cybersecurity. In 2018, it became the first jurisdiction in the US to implement standards. These regulations require that all manufacturers of devices that directly or indirectly connect to the Internet take “reasonable” steps to ensure that security features will be in place. This includes ensuring that information cannot be accessed, modified or disclosed without proper authorization and consent.
There’s plenty of space in the IoT sphere at this point in time. Applications and use cases remain limited, but many enabling technologies for IoT are just now coming into full maturity. In the coming years, improved connectivity and user adoption will drive innovation in both the consumer and business worlds. Tech product companies open up the possibilities together with development companies, and it means that more IoT-enabled solutions will come to be expected.