This will be the year the IoT becomes a mature, practical, technology. Here are a few thoughts on what we can expect in the next 12 months.
The IoT will see wider adoption and faster development
The IoT has grown a lot in the past few years both in terms of adoption and investment and this will not stop in 2021. The Covid-19 pandemic has boosted the adoption of the IoT in 2020 as organizations have begun to see it as a way to increase efficiency and face up to the challenges of the pandemic.
With increased connectivity thanks to 5G and faster Wi-Fi, and improvements in AI and machine learning, we can expect the IoT to make the jump from exploratory and proof-of-concept investments to effective business implementations in 2021. The pandemic will continue to make remote work and data access necessary throughout 2021.
It will also drive an increase in the use of healthcare apps. We will see a similar drive in many other areas such as retail, logistics, and workforce management. Businesses have also realized that the Internet of Things can monitor where someone is, what they like to buy, and what they are most likely to buy, if prompted the right way. By implementing the IoT in this way, businesses in any industry could see massive profits.
Security and privacy
Security and privacy are always a concern in a maturing industry such as the IoT. Emerging technologies tend to have a period where the excitement about its potential overshadows any concern. But as the IoT becomes more mainstream, the public will demand to know where the IoT is used, how it is used, and who has access to the data.
On the enterprise side 2020 saw increases in remote work and highlighted the importance of enterprise IT security. 2020 was a huge wake up call for businesses faced with providing 24/7 central server access to employees’ working from home. Security should have been incorporated as soon as they rolled out their IoT service or allowed employees to share files remotely, but in practice this wasn’t always achieved. This will be the year enterprises try to catch up and fix any ongoing security issues.
The concern for better security and privacy is also higher than ever on the consumer side, with wider consumer adoption of IoT solutions like smart home devices, in some cases, still far from private or secure. As a result, we will see an increase in the security surrounding smart devices. Leaders in the space will have their heads down in the coming year seeking to make their technology more private and secure as they try to build consumer confidence.
Data collection, processing, and analytics
The IoT is no longer just about sensors and data collection, it is about processing data and acting quickly based on the results. This is in large part thanks to the implementation of AI and ML technologies to speed up data processing.
The IoT and AI combine well because the IoT generates a tremendous volume of data, which makes AI more useful. We are likely to see more and more applications of AI by enterprises in 2021, maybe even by SMEs. Companies need to make decisions based on IoT data faster than ever before to realize the full value of the devices on the network.
With the increase in the number of IoT and IIoT devices, and in the amount of data we are collecting, it is impossible to understate the importance of 5G. 5G is not just another generation of telecommunications. The extremely high speed, the bandwidth allowances, and the low latency make it a real gamechanger.
The IoT will be more and more present in your workplace
Even when things return to normal, fewer people will go back to physical workplaces. Digital twins will continue to be an important field of development and implementation for many enterprises. And given its ability to collect information throughout a product lifecycle, to process it in real-time, and optimize it just as quickly, the IoT may be the perfect partner for the development of digital twins, for almost any application. We can also expect some employers to consolidate their real estate holdings and find ways to save money on space and energy since these will be used much less until we fully go back to normal.
One way they will do this is through IoT applications for smart lighting, energy and environmental monitoring, and sensor-enabled space utilization and activity monitoring. Finally, we can expect to see more IoT technologies in the field of behavior monitoring to enforce health and safety guidelines, like has already been seen in some places. But this concept will probably expand beyond public health concerns to other areas, for example: organizations are already starting to monitor commercial vehicles using a variety of sensors.
Privacy laws will no doubt impact the extent to which these new ways of tracking and influencing behavior will be adopted, but we can still expect significant growth.
Sources: IoT Now, IoT Agenda, CRN, Forbes