The Internet of Things (IoT) has truly become a worldwide phenomenon, with Gartner predicting that the enterprise and automotive IoT markets will grow to 5.8 billion endpoints in 2020 – a 21 percent increase from 2019.
IoT has paved the way for smarter technologies, and will only continue to proliferate with the drive to connect absolutely everything, and the emergence of 5G networks worldwide to support that goal.
Smart cities, connected cars and other emerging technology trends fuelled by IoT-enabled devices are likely to further gain pace from 2020 onwards – so here are some of the major IoT trends today and what to expect in the year ahead.
Emergence of smart cities
The ‘smart city’ is a broad term, but loosely can be defined as connectivity working behind the scenes in infrastructure and with urban planning for improvements of residents – for example, in sustainability, security, or optimising the flow of traffic.
“Until recently, smart cities were thought to be best underpinned by a centralised, cloud-based data processing and analytics engine that would collate data from different sources across the city,” said Tim Sherwood, vice president of business development for mobility and IoT at Tata Communications. “However, as more and more IoT-based smart city applications emerge, it’s clear now that there is huge potential in harnessing edge analytics architecture.”
Edge computing is where the compute is performed close to the device at the ‘edge’ of the network, which is particularly important for delivering applications where low latency is crucial, for example, with autonomous vehicles. Rather than pinging back and forth between data centres that may be miles away, the critical compute is performed as close to the device as possible.
“Edge analytics enables smart cities to store, process and analyse data in real-time at the device-level,” Sherwood added. “This approach offers benefits like reduced network burden and connectivity costs, reduced storage and database management costs and, most importantly, real-time data analysis at the IoT gateway with zero latency.”
The adoption of IoT continues to grow globally. Eighty-five percent of IT decision makers say they have at least one IoT project in the proof of concept, learning or purchase phase in their organisation, according to a Microsoft survey.
“We are already seeing more involvement from senior-level executives in using IoT to transform the business; clearer, business-oriented goals for projects; and a willingness to adapt organisational structures and procedures to better support IoT and other transformational technologies,” Felix Gerdes, director of digital innovation services at Insight UK said.
New 5G networks will act as a core driver in the success of IoT.
The evolution of 5G will not only provide better experiences for existing applications, but also accelerate use cases that were not possible with previous generations of mobile networks, Telit CEO Yosi Fait claims.
This will provide huge benefit for IoT devices as an integral part of industries such as healthcare and logistics. Cisco estimates that connected applications like tracking applications and video surveillance will represent 48 percent of total M2M connections by 2022.
Mikaël Schachne notes that industrial IoT (IIoT) will give operators a new way to prioritise monetising 5G roaming.
According to figures, the rate of adoption shows no sign of slowing down and is expected to increase all the more in 2020. Microsoft predicts that 94 percent of businesses will be using IoT by the end of 2021.
“We’ll see the IIoT benefit from remote tracking, robotics, efficiencies in productivity and project management, and automation, while operators can unlock a major revenue opportunity and continue to monetise a core part of their service offering,” Schachne added.
One sticking point for IoT is in concerns around security. The first major IoT-enabled attack was the emergence of the Mirai botnet in 2016, which combed open networks for insecure IoT devices. This has led to improvements and better awareness around the dangers of IoT devices shipping with default settings, but according to Karl Sigler, threat intelligence manager at Trustwave SpiderLabs, IoT devices are “not getting any safer”.
“With the huge influx of IoT devices in homes and organisations, the attack surface targeted by criminals is just getting larger and more diverse,” Sigler said. “Manufacturers and developers need to take the security reins. But today’s IoT solutions are often missing security quality assurance during their product development lifecycle.”
According to security vendor Trend Micro, AI and machine learning will be leveraged as ways to access connected devices in consumer and enterprise environments, predicting that malicious actors will make efforts to monetise IoT attacks, with digital extortion being the most likely outcome.
“IoT devices like routers will be monetised through botnets, which can be used subsequently as a distributed network for services offered to cybercriminals,” Trend Micro said in a report. “It is not far-fetched to conjecture that router hacking will also come in the form of botnets used for Domain Name Server (DNS) hijacking, peddled as either crimeware or a service, primarily for phishing.”
Automation and RPA
The rate of adoption for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) using bots to automate laborious tasks has spiked in recent years. Analyst firm Forrester estimates that the market will reach $2.9 billion (£2.20 billion) by 2021.
However, some experts are doubtful that RPA will truly be as transformative to the future of the workplace as the vendors have positioned it.
“While robotic process automation (RPA) has been the hyped technology of 2019, its potential is ultimately limited and will never drive genuine business transformation,” Steve Haighway, COO Europe at IPsoft said.
“With enterprises increasingly recognising its finite opportunity, next year we are likely to see a large uptake in hyper automation: a powerful blend of robotic process automation (RPA), intelligent business management software and artificial intelligence (AI) used to automate processes in a way that is significantly more impactful than standalone automation technologies.”
But others are more optimistic.
“Most companies will be able to automate at least 20 percent of their workload within the space of five years. As some of the largest organisations in the financial and insurance sectors are moving to industrialise their automation efforts, smaller and niche players need to start their automation journey right away,” James Ewing, regional director UK and Ireland at Digital Workforce told Computerworld.
“Without RPA, businesses will not only struggle to close the gap between them and their competitors but could even die out or be consumed by larger more efficient players.”
What to expect
According to Microsoft’s study, the future of IoT is dependent on other technology such as 5G and AI, which will be critical for success in the next two years.
“With innovation labs that were previously acting independently now more closely integrated with broader IT teams, and other stakeholders across the business engaged with the process, IoT projects will deliver concrete results for the enterprise,” Felix Gerdes, director of digital innovation services at Insight UK said.
GSMA Intelligence estimates that IoT adoption will add up to US$370 billion per annum to the global economy by 2025.
“Adoption will keep growing over the next three years as more organisations make use of scalable, easy-to-deploy, cloud-based IoT solutions such as Microsoft and BMW’s Open Manufacturing Platform,” added Gerdes.
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