It’s clear by now that the Internet of Things (IoT) will be a trend that will shape the future of business. In 2017, we will continue to see IoT merge the physical and online worlds to open new opportunities and solve challenges in a way that was never possible before. In this article, we’ll examine some of the trends that we expect to influence IoT in its mission to make things work more efficiently.
1. Unprecedented growth will continue: Today’s industries are feeling the pressure to be productive, but have fewer resources than ever before due to competition from nimble and forward-thinking startups. Every industry from healthcare to solar to agriculture is realizing that adopting IoT can give them the boost in productivity and efficiency they are looking for. Not counting phones, tablets and computers as IoT devices, Gartner estimates about 6.4 billion devices in the world today, and that number will grow to between 9-15 billion in 2017 alone. The total global impact of IoT technologies is extraordinary too. It could generate as much as $14.4 trillion in value by 2025 according to Cisco. While its massive growth potential does provide substantial benefits like cost savings, value creation, productivity improvements and more, the complexity and cost to address and resolve security issues is one major hurdle that industries must tackle sooner rather than later in order to move forward.
2. Security will continue to be a top concern: Although security experts have warned of the risk of having large numbers of unsecured devices connected to the Internet since IoT became a concept, IoT security must be one of the most widely discussed topics this past year. And there’s no sign it will get a break from the spotlight anytime soon. Given the recent DDoS attacks, governments, manufacturers, developers and consumers around the world will need to step up efforts to improve security rather than just debate a solution. Federal agencies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have issued IoT security guidelines, but it seems that lawmakers are still reluctant to regulate the market as it should. We will see more best practices from industry groups emerge, such as requiring security rating labeling to hold manufacturers and developers responsible for their products’ impacts on the Internet. Despite progress in this area, there’s still too much vulnerability out there, and we should all expect a few more complex high profile attacks in 2017.
3. Data processing will be all about location, location, location to open new opportunities: Edge devices and processing power will continue to become much more power efficient and cost effective as hardware and software work together to open up more IoT applications for more industries. In 2017, better edge devices will enable a hybrid cloud/local infrastructure, which makes more sense for remote applications like agriculture and energy. As IoT solutions continue to evolve, industries with expensive data transmission costs in remote areas will move to a mostly edge-based operation.
4. Open and interoperable solutions will solve IoT’s greatest hurdle: Enterprises are beginning to understand that as more devices are connected, more powerful data and insights can be extracted. The true value of solutions developed today is largely based on how well it can work with old and new things in the future. Locking someone into one ecosystem creates fragmentation, limits flexibility to select any device and often drives up prices because users must buy from within that ecosystem. Rather than developing closed ecosystems or one killer app or platform, we’re seeing a trend toward more openness. IoT value will be delivered by many systems interoperating to meet the needs of diverse stakeholders.
5. Industry verticals will develop their own standards: As more industry verticals look to IoT-based solutions, there is an increasing demand for standards adapted to industry-specific problems. Each industry has specific needs related to connectivity, security, hardware and more and will benefit from a different architecture based on what they’re looking to do with IoT. The agriculture industry, for example, values long-distance connectivity and more edge operation, while a smart home user works with shorter distances and can rely more on the cloud. Each industry will start to settle on protocols, hardware and more to define their specific standard.
6. Provisioning will become easier: A lesser discussed, but equally important, part of implementing an IoT solution is the process of getting devices connected. In some enterprise systems, there are hundreds, thousands or even millions of devices that need to be connected to get the system up and running. Batch and mass provisioning that is secure and can be done at scale is a requirement for realistically deploying these systems. Rather than plugging each sensor into a computer to authenticate and provision it, new processes that allow specific devices to be ready straight from the factory will become more common this year.
7. Manufacturers will use IoT certifications to differentiate themselves: Industry organizations and large vendors will offer certifications to exert more influence on how they believe the market should evolve and focus. Some will become industry standards and serve as a requirement or, at very least, a differentiator for device manufacturers. An IoT-specific certification will be comparable to and maybe include UL and CE stamps, which are common on many devices and electronics now.
These trends emphasize how IoT is moving out of its infancy and is in a maturing phase. As we see these trends take shape over the next year, we’ll continue to understand the need for IoT technology and see the acceleration of the implementation process, which is critical for industry success on a larger scale. We’re looking forward to seeing how else the IoT evolves this year.
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