Trends and Predictions 2020: Internet of Things

Stephen DeAngelis

January 24, 2020

Most people are familiar with predictions about the billions of “things” that will eventually be connected via the so-called Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is poised to become a defining trait of the Digital Age. The IoT recently made headlines at the world’s largest electronics showcase. Jared Council (@JaredCouncil) and John McCormick report, “The now familiar phrase ‘Internet of Things’ is taking on a new meaning, according to Steve Koenig, vice president of research at the Consumer Technology Association trade group, which organizes CES — formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show — in Las Vegas. ‘We’re increasingly confronted with an entirely new IoT — and that is the intelligence of things,’ said Mr. Koenig. … ‘This new IoT bears testimony that artificial intelligence is permeating every facet of our commerce and our culture,’ he added.”[1] Professor Ahmed Banafa (@BanafaAhmed) writes, “The Internet of Things is actively shaping both the industrial and consumer worlds. Smart tech finds its way to every business and consumer domain there is — from retail to healthcare, from finances to logistics — and a missed opportunity strategically employed by a competitor can easily qualify as a long-term failure for companies who don’t innovate.”[2] Given the importance the IoT is expected to play in the coming years, business leaders need a clear understanding of the trends driving IoT development and where those trends may lead.

IoT trends

Trend 1. Big data and artificial intelligence. The primary reason companies are connecting devices is to generate data for further analysis. Naiya Sharma, a Content Strategist with Apptunix, writes, “We are well aware of the fact that IoT promotes connecting an array of devices which in turn share huge amounts of data. … Combining the IoT based system with AI gives them the ability to train the model, in a way that they turn smarter and make better decisions.”[3] Michael Kanellos, an IoT Analyst at OSIsoft, believes the marriage of IoT and AI will be characterized by augmented decision-making. He explains, “The decision support role fits better with the state of the technology — AI is promising but it’s still not as just as human judgment on many key problems. A supporting role also makes people more comfortable with AI.”[4] Scarlett Rose adds, “Among all the emerging IoT trends in 2020, both AI and Big Data clearly run the show.”[5]

Trend 2. Standardization challenges. Consumers who have purchased smart home devices have discovered not all devices are interoperable. Banafa explains, “Standardization is one of the biggest challenges facing the growth of IoT — it’s a battle among industry leaders who would like to dominate the market of IoT at an early stage. But what we have now is a case of fragmentation.”

Trend 3. IoT devices must deal with privacy regulations. According to Banafa, “IoT devices represent a largely unregulated new technology.” As a result, he writes, “IoT will inevitably find itself facing social and legal questions in the near future. … Security issues are essential when it comes to the legal regulation of personal data.”

IoT predictions

Prediction 1. More human/machine interaction. Although the IoT was conceived as a machine-to-machine network, Banafa predicts the growth in data and devices will encourage more human-device interaction. This may be the result of more wearable and augmented reality devices entering the workplace.

Prediction 2. Data load moves computing to the edge. Kanellos writes, “Edge computing has gone from being an obscure way station for cloud data to the next great computing platform. Why? It’s too costly and time consuming to send everything to the cloud.” Banafa agrees. He writes, “The increase adoption of edge computing will make it easier for business to process data faster and close to the points of action.”

Prediction 3. Security will remain a top priority. With data breaches making daily headlines and stories of creepy hackers using security systems to spy on homeowners flooding the internet, security is a major IoT concern. The staff at Analytics Insight notes, “The coming year is going to see an improved IoT security system. And this need arises from the complexities of the diverse nature of IoT technology. The number of IoT devices has crossed 26 billion and is expected to increase. Hacking of IoT networks and devices is going to become common in the future, so we are going to see measures implemented for its control.”[6] Blockchain technology is predicted to play a significant role in enhancing IoT security. Banafa explains, “Blockchain offers new hope for IoT security for several reasons. First, blockchain is public, everyone participating in the network of nodes of the blockchain network can see the blocks and the transactions stored and approves them, although users can still have private keys to control transactions. Second, blockchain is decentralized, so there is no single authority that can approve the transactions eliminating Single Point of Failure (SPOF) weakness. Third and most importantly, it’s secure — the database can only be extended and previous records cannot be changed. In the coming years, manufacturers will recognize the benefits of having blockchain technology embedded in all devices and compete for labels like ‘Blockchain Certified’.”

Prediction 4. Smart home devices will become mainstream — or not. Since their introduction, smart home devices have been a small, but growing, market. Rose predicts, “These devices will soon become very popular in 2020 and will dominate the other upcoming IoT trends in 2020.” On the other hand, the Analytics Insight staff writes, “Experts predict that in the coming few years, consumer-targeted IoT is going to suffer a blow and lead to a decrease in funding growth.”

Prediction 5. IoT will be the nervous system of smart cities. The Analytics Insight staff predicts, “The year 2020 is going to see the emergence of smart cities. Smart city projects are already underway, and many U.S cities are using IoT devices to connect traffic lights, parking meters, and utilities. The concept of smart cities is going to spread all over the world. Smart cities are going to focus on comfortable living while improving the financial, environmental, and social aspects of urban living.” Rose adds, “Smart cities with a planned vision will invest in pioneering exchanges of data between public & private organizations together with citizens. The integration of IoT with receptive cities will bring alluring benefits for all. It will pave a path by rendering ways for sustainable development. It will also ensure decreased traffic congestion and improved security within the city.”

Prediction 5. Use of IoT technology will increase across economic sectors. Industrial uses of IoT are fairly well known. The Analytics Insight staff notes, “IoT has found its way in smart factories.” They also see the use of IoT technologies increasing in the healthcare sector. Sharma agrees. She writes, “From wearables to sensor-based health monitors, medical devices and portable pieces of equipment, IoT has transformed the healthcare sector.” Many analysts believe IoT applications are only limited by the imagination. Banafa envisions “smart mirrors that will analyze your face and call your doctor if you look sick.” Other pundits talk about smart cars, smart shoes, smart glasses, smart clothes, smart electrical grids, and so on. The list is endless.

Concluding thoughts

Sharma concludes, “No wonder, IoT is designated as [a] groundbreaking technology. It is evidently reshaping the future, opening up newer avenues for entrepreneurs and business professionals to take advantage of. However, this is just the start and the technology has a lot more to offer than you expect.” The Analytics Insight staff adds, “The maturity phase of IoT has just begun, and it is soon to become a full-blown business in the coming years. … IoT is developing at a fast pace, and we cannot underestimate the developments underway for next year. No matter if you are running a small business or a 700 employee company, IoT is going to find its way into your business. So, be prepared!”

Footnotes
[1] Jared Council and John McCormick, “Reporter’s Notebook: Emerging ‘Intelligence of Things’ on Display at CES,” The Wall Street Journal, 6 January 2020.
[2] Ahmed Banafa, “Ten Trends of IoT in 2020,” Datafloq, 4 December 2019.
[3] Naiya Sharma, “10 Internet of Things trends that will rule in 2020,” TechiExpert, November 2019.
[4] Michael Kanellos, “6 trends that will impact IoT strategies in 2020,” Information Management, 13 December 2019.
[5] Scarlett Rose, “Top 14 IoT Trends to Expect in 2020!Towards Data Science, 13 December 2019.
[6] Staff, “Top 10 Latest Predictions for IoT in 2020,” Analytics Insight, 1 November 2019.