Given the Internet of Things’ perch atop the hype cycle, IoT trend-spotting has become a full-time business, not just an end-of-the-year pastime. It seems every major – and minor – IoT player is busy laying out its vision of where the technology is going. Most of them harp on the same themes, of course, from massive growth to security vulnerabilities to skills shortages. In addition to the IoT blurring the lines between IT, which runs the customers’ systems and email, and OT, which runs the technology behind the production systems, here is what will drive the IoT in the next year.
1) Industrial and commercial applications will drive the industry, not consumers
That’s because businesses can monetize IoT’s benefits better – energy consumption being a key example. Industry consumes 54% of delivered energy worldwide, according to the Energy Information Agency, or more than consumers or transportation combined. Therefore, reducing energy at an aluminum or paper plant by 1-2% can mean millions of dollars in savings. A consumer cutting power consumption by 1% would save only a few dollars a month.
While that may be a good point, there are still a lot more consumers than there are businesses, and overall consumer spending drives the U.S. economy. Still, relatively few big enterprise implementations could help jumpstart IoT usage, while energizing the mass consumer market can take years of expensive marketing to clarify sometimes complex and esoteric benefits. In addition, we can hope that industrial and enterprise IoT will be better equipped to deal with security concerns.
2) Synthetic data will become a more urgent concern
Synthetic data is defined as “misleading information that makes good people do bad things”, meaning things like hackers sending “synthetic” notifications to a control room to get operators to open gates on a reservoir, flooding a neighborhood.
While it may not be a definition everyone in the business would agree with, it is true that hacked or spoofed IoT data is a currently under-appreciated risk.
3) Real-time data will grow in importance
IDC data says real-time data will grow from 15% of digital data in 2017 to 30% in 2030, with a jump of 7x to 10 in total data volume. Also, more innovation and investment can be expected in this area, particularly in software that will let people understand what machines are saying.
There’s no question that using real-time data to drive real-time decisions will become increasingly important. Given the huge amounts of data involved, though, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning solutions are more likely to take the forefront in turning this data into action.
4) Smart equipment will begin to get momentum
Manufacturers are expected to increasingly integrate real-time monitoring and diagnostics into equipment using Caterpillar’s CAT Connect engine-monitoring services and Flowserve’s building intelligence services into industrial pumps.
“Over the past 5 years we’ve seen the technology stack come together and several end-users conduct trials. Over the next 5, we will see commercial adoption”, states Chris Nelson, vice president of engineering at operational intelligence (OT) vendor OSIsoft.
Building smarts into expensive, long-lasting industrial equipment carries its own risks in the fast-evolving world of IoT. However, since IoT changes much faster than the useful life of the equipment, there’s a real risk of obsolescence unless vendors can create modular, upgradable, solutions.
5) Traditional businesses will develop new business models out of IoT
Small, rural utilities that have begun to sell broadband services by leveraging their investments for smart meters in a new way, as well as large utilities and manufacturers’ study plans to commercialize their in-house IoT applications for predictive maintenance.
However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg for what many see as the holy grail of IoT. Sure, saving money is great, but the real opportunity is using IoT to create wholly new businesses. Ii might still be too early to know what those new ideas will be and which ones will take off.