As 2018 begins to recede in the rearview mirror, the impulse for most of us is to wonder "What's next?" For the internet of things (IoT), that is a question loaded opportunity and a few pitfalls, as well. So, let's take a look at some of the trends that will likely continue to impact enterprise buyers and manufacturers over the coming year.
First of all, we need to do two things: provide a little context and define what an IoT device is. We can do this simultaneously. It helps a lot to understand that the IoT is not new. Not by a long shot. In its simplest form, an IoT device is a dumb sensor or actuator of some sort. These devices have been integral parts of industrial control systems for decades.
The IoT most people are familiar with, however, is new. On the consumer side, technological advances and security issues around connected cars, Fitbits, teddy bears, baby monitors, doorbells, smart TVs, etc. take up most of the headlines. For the business consumer, IoT is often represented by a pantheon of devices like CCTV cameras, monitoring and scanning devices of all kinds, smart blinds in conference rooms, connected printers, teapots, light bulbs, thermostats, etc.
"The IoT is a collection of information from a large number of devices and automated decision making based on that information impacting real-world devices," said Richard Soley, executive director or the Industrial Internet Consortium. "As such, it's not new. It's been around forever. What's new is the access to compute power has gone to infinity, and the cost of memory is near zero."
Listing all the different types of devices and their uses would be a long list and pretty dull reading. So, the definition that we'll use for this article and one that is in widespread use in the industrial IoT community according to Soley goes like this: "An IoT device is a device that either creates or consumes data in real time." Add in the internet, and you now have the "Internet of Things."
Combine enough of these devices together, add a purpose, and now you've now created a connected car or a cell phone. The car or the phone itself, in its totality is not an "IoT device," but the sensors, cameras, accelerometers, radio antennas, etc. that give the car or phone its functionality are.
Basically, anything with an IP address or is internet-accessible can be considered an IoT device. That's one of the many things that makes the IoT so fascinating, perplexing, useful, and promising, all at the same time. It also means the market for the IoT is absolutely huge.
So, with a little IoT 101 out of the way, let's look at what 2019 has in store for these ever-evolving and game-changing technologies.
Spending is going up
This is a pretty easy one to bet on. Given all of the interest in the IoT from consumers, businesses, and manufacturers in these technologies, it's not surprising they will be spending more to acquire, deploy, analyze, and benefit from the IoT.
According to research firm IDC, worldwide IoT spending on devices, applications, and platforms is expected to be $745B in 2019. This is an increase of 15 percent over the $646B spent in 2018. By 2022, IDC expects spending will surpass the $1 trillion. Of course, unforeseen events like a recession could put a big dent in these numbers. Either way, the upward spending trend is clear with few signs of it reversing any time soon.
"The combination of AI, machine learning and contextually rich, real-time data streams delivered by IoT sensors and networks is going to make IoT business cases compelling in 2019," writes Louis Columbus in Forbes. IoT is the cornerstone of many organizations’ digital transformations, enabling them to optimize existing operations and excel at creating and pursuing exciting new business models."
Manufacturers embrace IoT for digital transformation
According to IoT Analytics, a big part of the massive spending outlined by IDC and others is being driven by digital transformation in the manufacturing sector. Unlike process industries, which have relied on the IoT for years to automate their operations, manufacturers are a bit behind the times when it comes to digital technology. According to Soley, this is the year that is going to change.
"I'm finally seeing every manufacturer taking seriously what they're going to do about IoT, but they're not calling it IoT anymore they're calling it digital transformation because the core tech for doing digital transformation is IoT," he said. "I think it’s going to happen this year … there are plenty of factories that haven't done anything about digital transformation yet."
IoT security takes center stage
With all the big data breaches of the past few years – Equifax, Cambridge Analytica, Marriott, etc. – data privacy and data security are finally board room issues. These breaches and the often sloppy security practices that led to them have finally gotten the attention of the public and US lawmakers.
People are really starting to care what happens to their data. This sea-change in public opinion combined with the EU's General Data Protection Rule, which raises potential fines for the data breaches into the billions, will make securing IoT devices and networks a top priority in 2019. On the industrial side, SCADA system attacks have also raised alarms.
"This is the year that people take cybersecurity seriously," said Soley. "All of our projects are looking at cybersecurity seriously. And that's a big change for this year. GDPR Is one of the most important reasons that people are starting to take security much more seriously than they were before."
Supply chain of trust gets certified
Because of this, Soley said we would start to see organizations like the Supply Chain Council, World Customs Organization, and Container Security initiative start to offer certificates so manufacturers can trust that parts they are getting to build everything from baby monitors to connected cars are secure.
"It's a nightmare for supply chain managers," said Soley. "It's not just chips; it's software too. The DoD has been talking about this for a long time, and people have not been listening. But I think they're going to start listening now."