Trends 2019: The Internet of Things

Stephen DeAngelis

January 21, 2019

The Internet of Things (IoT), sometimes referred to as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), continues to garner attention. Although the term implies a single network of things, the IoT is better described as networks of ecosystems — with each ecosystem consisting of sensors generating data, a network transmitting the data, and cognitive technologies making sense of the data. Shannon Lee, IoT For All‘s Community Director, notes, “The importance of IoT for our future is finally being realized by the general public.”[1] Most analysts predict enormous growth in IoT activities over the coming years. Since the IoT is likely to impact almost every economic sector, prudent executives will become familiar with where the IoT is headed. Interestingly, Forrester Research analysts, Michele Pelino, Frank E. Gillett, Julie A. Ask, Nigel Fenwick, Paul Miller, Dan Bieler, Bill Martorelli and Merritt Maxim, predict, “In 2019, the term ‘IoT’ will take a back seat in the marketing lexicon, with vendors of these solutions reverting to language that describes business solutions and outcomes, such as ‘real-time asset performance monitoring’ — a combination of IoT, data, analytics, workflow, business process, and insight with recognizable and quantifiable value.”[2]

Internet of Things trends

Connectivity. Nothing is more important to the Information Age than connectivity. With billions of devices predicted to be connected via the Internet of Things, fast and secure connectivity is essential. To that end, most analysts are discussing the importance of fifth generation (5G) telecommunications for IoT enhancement. Ericsson’s Warren Chaisatien, Jeff Travers, and Bodil Josefsson write, “One of the big anticipations for us is how the Internet of Things will be enhanced by wider deployments of 5G networks around the globe. We’re excited to see how it will enable new and innovative use cases in areas like autonomous vehicles and Industrial IoT.”[3] Lee suggests enthusiasm for 5G implementation needs to be tempered. She explains, “With all of the hype around the release of 5G, it’s easy to forget that the real benefits from full-scale deployment and adoption won’t be seen for another few years. Although consumers won’t be able to see the benefits of 5G from the beginning, the eventual higher speeds and lower latency 5G provides will create unheard of experiences in AR, VR, the connected home and any other areas where machine learning is taking effect. 5G connectivity will be great in the communities equipped to handle technology, but these devices will still need to be compatible with LTE networks.”

Standardization. Although some efforts are being made to standardize IoT protocols, devices will continue to experience interoperability challenges. Andrea Grassi explains, “Although natural selection — perhaps facilitated by the future evolution of 5G networks — is likely to reduce the number, too many standards and communication protocols for the Internet of Things will continue for a long time.”[4] Consumers buying smart home devices have already experienced the frustration of installing devices that don’t work in harmony. In an industrial setting, lack of standards can be costly, not just frustrating.

Cognitive technology. Gartner lists artificial intelligence (AI) as the most impactful IoT-associated technology.[5] This should come as no surprise since the ultimate objective of IoT operations is to leverage the mountains of data being created by connected devices. The more devices (i.e., sensors) that are connected via the IoT the more important cognitive technologies become for making sense of data being generated by those devices and providing actionable insights to decision-makers. Grassi notes, “Artificial intelligence is the fundamental ingredient needed to make sense of the vast amount of data collected these days, and increase its value for business.”

Industry 4.0. IoT and AI lie at the very heart of the emerging smart industrial revolution (aka Industry 4.0). Daniel Newman, CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, explains, “Market analysts predict the number of connected devices in the manufacturing industry will double between 2017 and 2020. These devices are a total game changer for the industry disrupting every part of the production process from development to supply chain management. Manufacturers will be able to prevent delays, improve production performance, reduce equipment downtime and manage inventory.”[6]

Cybersecurity. The single greatest concern associated with the IoT is security. Newman explains, “IoT devices leave you vulnerable to hacks and security issues. Think about it, how many IoT devices do you have? Do you know how they’re all secured?” Obviously, manufacturers of smart devices understand vulnerability concerns and they are working to address them. Newman predicts, “By 2019, I think we will [see] increased security at all endpoints.” No system is foolproof, however, and users must be vigilant. The older your smart device the more vulnerable it is likely to be. Lee adds, “It’s no surprise that over half of the predictions we received addressed cybersecurity issues within the growing IoT industry. As IIoT use cases begin to evolve and be implemented, temporary fixes to networks will no longer hold and security breaches will continue to abound rapidly. 2019 will place focus on IT/OT and because of this, an increase in attacks will emerge.”

Edge computing. With the enormous amounts of data being generated by IoT connected devices, many organizations now believe that data is best handled at the edge rather than in the cloud. Grassi explains, “The cloud is showing its limits: Fast and constant connectivity is not always possible, especially in the case of connected vehicles or installations in remote areas; latency between sending data, processing and response is not always compatible with certain applications; and storage costs are high even for data that is not necessarily indispensable. There is therefore a growing tendency to relocate part of the storage and processing of data to the periphery of the network, close to sensors and connected objects. This so-called ‘edge computing’ will be increasingly important and increasingly intelligent.” Lee adds, “More companies will adopt the power of a mixed cloud computing and edge environment in 2019. Edge computing itself is gaining a lot of traffic in the IoT space, but to successfully deploy IoT solutions, businesses will have to implement multi-level solutions. These solutions will see implementation and practice first in the industrial space. Transferring large quantities of data to the cloud limits the capabilities of real-time data collection and analysis. Combining cloud and edge storage will ultimately allow for digital transformation to occur on a more consistent and regular basis.”

Concluding thoughts

A lot more could be said about the future of the IoT; but, the above observations provide a good overview of where the technology is headed. Despite the significant challenges associated with IoT implementation, the potential benefits guarantee continued IoT growth. Newman concludes, “There will likely be more advancements that we have only dreamt about until now. I personally can’t wait to see how the IoT continues to shake things up in industries everywhere.”

Footnotes
[1] Shannon Lee, “Where Is IoT Headed in 2019?IoT for All, 1 January 2019.
[2] David Weldon, “Five top trends for the IoT in 2019,” Information Management, 27 November 2018.
[3] Warren Chaisatien, Jeff Travers, and Bodil Josefsson, “Five key IoT trends to watch in 2019,” Ericsson Blog, 19 December 2018.
[4] Andrea Grassi, “What’s new in IoT: Trends for 2019,” IT World, 28 October 2018.
[5] Fredric Paul, “Gartner’s top 10 IoT trends for 2019 and beyond,” Network World, 26 November 2018.
[6] Daniel Newman, “Five IoT Predictions For 2019,” Forbes, 31 July 2018.