The Top Five Reasons IoT Devices Will Malfunction in 2020

As consumers acquire and implement more interconnected IoT devices, the number of malfunctions is growing, and AI will be at the center of resolving this problem in the coming year.

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Illustration: © IoT For All

According to Juniper Research, the number of IoT (Internet of Things) connected devices will number 38.5 billion in 2020, up from 13.4 billion in 2015: a rise of over 285 percent. Consumer IoT, especially as it relates to the smart home, has received significant attention, especially because of the prevalence of online gaming, video streaming, home audio and home video security systems. With the new year on the horizon and smart home devices set to remain among the top purchases in 2020, this article focuses on the top reasons that devices are expected to malfunction over the next 12 months.

IoT is rapidly becoming a transformative force, delivering the digital lifestyle to billions of people. Integrating an amazing array of smart devices with internet connectivity, the IoT market already includes more than 25 billion devices in use. Smart home devices include products, including smart speakers, smart displays, smart plugs, smart light bulbs, smart thermostats, web-connected home security systems and literally thousands of other products.

As consumers acquire and implement interconnected IoT devices, the number of malfunctions is growing, which has been an unresolved problem. If only 1 percent of devices suffered a malfunction annually, that would be 250 million failures this year alone. But, 1 percent is far below the actual failure rate; almost two-thirds of IoT-technology consumers already report having experienced device failures. On average, consumers experience 1.5 digital-performance problems on a daily basis. That’s an overpowering message to tech support organizations as customer experience will be negatively impacted unless this issue is addressed.

The Top Five Reasons for Device Failures

After intensive corroboration with top research firms, five distinct factors are projected to increasingly contribute to the malfunctioning of smart devices in 2020, all of which can be considered detrimental by both manufacturers and users. Until the recent availability of technologies to diagnose the causes of IoT/smart device failures, these problems have required manual diagnosis and repair:

  1. Operating environment: The wide range of operating environments will be a key factor in smart device functionality. This includes issues with IoT uptime caused by environmental conditions, including extreme temperatures, rough device handling, WIFI availability/signal blockage, etc.
  2. Integration problems: Many new smart home devices require their own app that may or may not integrate with various routers, smart hubs and other systems in the home. Popular apps and services may only be available on specific devices. As the number and variety of devices proliferate, consumers in 2020 can expect to see higher malfunction rates.
  3. Device configuration: Smart device configuration should be very user-friendly. However, many devices still require manual intervention. The requirement for AI-based configuration is obvious in this situation in order to ensure a fast and effective setup for devices. The ability to auto-configure such devices will be critical for smart device/home enablement as consumers bring a broader range of more complex smart devices into their homes.
  4. Connectivity: Smart device connectivity (or lack thereof) will be a significant contributor to device malfunctioning in 2020. The problems include a lack of signaling or bidirectional communication between devices for collection and routing purposes. There’s also the issue of presence detection, where the smart hub/router must be able to detect when a smart device drops offline and when it rejoins the network. This gives the ability to monitor the device and fix any problems that may arise.
  5. Device load: Device load and bandwidth limitations are other challenges expected to increase in 2020. As the device load increases and the volume of devices rise and project activity volumes to the service provider, this requires a large-scale server farm to handle the large amount of data. Instead, enhanced management and processing will allow for the seamless transfer of data between devices and servers.

Malfunctions Wear Many Disguises

When devices were simple, it was easy to address malfunctions. If a music speaker failed to deliver sound, the problem was usually with the speaker wire or speaker. The problem was either fixed or a new item was purchased. However, in the era of integrated smart-device systems, the actual cause of a malfunction can be difficult to identify. Just like in many human medical cases, the symptom might disguise the underlying cause and lead to a misdiagnosis.

For example, if a smart garage door opener isn’t responding to a remote “close” command from your mobile phone while you’re at work, the fault could be a mechanical problem with the door mechanism. Or perhaps there’s an electrical problem in the motor. Or even a general electrical issue like a blown circuit breaker in the fuse box. Maybe the mobile phone app has a bug or has been infiltrated by a cyber virus. Maybe the signal to the opener is blocked because of radio frequency bandwidth overload or a transient environment condition. The cause could be in the garage door itself—maybe last night’s ice storm is preventing the door from freeing itself from the ground. What if the user looked at all of those conditions and none of them seem to fix the problem? How about the internet router or in-house hub? The situation can become quite complicated. Multiply this simple garage-door opener example by the tens of other connected devices in the home, and it’s easy to understand how confusing it can be to properly diagnose, let alone fix, a malfunction.

Service and Support Are the New Success Factors

In the face of so many inevitable malfunctions, the ability to quickly detect, analyze and repair problems will determine success for device manufacturers, integrators and service teams. Device manufacturers will need to provide warranties and software updates along with a helpful support center. ISPs and integrators will have to take on responsibility for the performance of a very wide and growing variety of complex devices. Company IT departments will be inundated with hundreds of new devices to support. Most of all, billions of individual consumers will turn to efficient service desks when the inevitable problems occur.