The Internet of Things is full of trends in use cases, technologies, issues, and opportunities. As the IoT grows, so do the trends, both in importance and number. To start with, CIOs and IT managers keeping their eyes on business needs as well as technology will see the following major IoT uses carrying through into 2018:
- Industrial control of machines and devices in factories, power and other utility networks, field installations like oil field pumps, and smart agriculture, among others.
- Building automation, including security, video surveillance, HVAC, fire detection, and energy saving systems, for businesses and (in more modest proportions) home users.
- Smart cities using the Internet of Things for smart lighting, traffic control and parking, water and waste water management, and other urban automation.
- E-health with the connection of medical equipment in hospitals, medical devices for in- and outpatients, personal health safety monitoring, and warning systems.
- Logistics using IoT connections to manage fleets (with driverless vehicles now on the horizon) and the quality and timeliness of shipments.
Among these trends, those for building automation and logistics may affect all organizations, while industrial control, smart cities, and e-health are more directly applicable to the industrial, municipal, and healthcare sectors. New trends may become visible too, as retail and hospitality organizations begin to incorporate connected objects into their customer-facing activities.
Continuing IoT Undercurrents
IT departments would be well advised to stay in touch with IoT news across industry domains. IoT technologies often straddle sectors, with IoT improvements or storm warnings in one area being applicable to others. Major IoT product and technology trends include:
- Growth in the number of devices. Not only are vendors creatively expanding the market for new connected objects, but they are also developing new opportunities for embedding IoT capability into currently non-connected objects. With forecasts of up to 50 billion connected devices by 2020, this also brings challenges in management and scalability.
- Divergence in operating systems from conventional and mobile IT. Whereas servers, PCs, and smartphones have relatively large processing and storage resources, microcontroller units connecting devices to the IoT often have very limited resources. Some makers of operating systems have adapted their offerings (from full-blown Linux to more compact Linux “Core” versions, for example), but many “things” are incapable of running Android, iOS, or Windows.
- Divergence in data collection and analytics from business IT. Understanding customer behavior through massive amounts of audio, video, and motion data input will require new analytics tools and algorithms that conventional data center IT does not have.
- Disposable IoT devices. Nobody would throw a properly working PC, tablet or smartphone away. For IoT devices, things may be different. Very small IoT systems embedded in packaging, medical products or other items with short lifetimes can be produced at low costs and thrown away together with their hosts.
A Major IoT Trend We Could Do Without
There is a continuing trend towards massively producing IoT devices with gaping security holes. Whether for industrial or consumer devices, vendors are still struggling to get to grips with even basic security requirements. Consequently, data security and privacy concerns will carry through, as will the unauthorized control and hijacking of IoT devices for attacks on other systems. New IoT standards may help to stop or transform this trend in the longer term, but for 2018, end-users and enterprises will continue to need to manage these risks.