When Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates famously said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10”, he must have been referring to the Internet of Things (IoT). Even though consumers and big businesses alike have been quick to embrace the world-changing impact of IoT in the past few years, experts say we are yet to realise its true potential. IoT is moving ever faster, developing at an astonishing rate and continuously reinventing itself. As per BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, there will be over 24 billion IoT devices on earth by 2020. That’s around four devices for every human being on the planet. And as we approach that point, $6 billion will flow into IoT solutions, including application development, device hardware, system integration, data storage, security, and connectivity. But that will be money well spent, as those investments will generate $13 trillion by 2025. Today, Internet of Things is connecting cars, kitchen appliances and even heart monitors. Fitness trackers, smartwatches and other wearables are linking more mainstream users to IoT. The smart wearable market is growing at a mammoth pace, from $15 billion in 2015 to $25 billion in 2019. Total shipments could jump from 84 million to 245 million during that period, as per research and advisory firm CSS Insight. Similarly, the smart home market—which includes smart speakers, appliances, lights and locks, among other automation devices—could grow from being a $24-billion market to a $53-billion one by 2022, as per market research company Zion Research. As more consumers around the globe purchase smartphones, tablets and other gadgets that connect them to the Web, the scope of Internet of Things will only grow. We’ve already seen some breakout successes this year, like Tagg—the device that remotely tracks the locations and vitals of your dog or cat; or the line of branded buttons announced by Amazon that you can stick around your house to enable you to order staples like laundry detergent and toilet paper with one push.
In fact, consumers won’t be the only ones using IoT devices. Cities and companies, in a bid to become more efficient, will also start adopting smart technologies. In simple terms, cities will be able to automate, remotely manage, and collect data through visitor kiosks, video camera surveillance systems, bike rental stations, and even taxis. Changes are coming to the office space as well. Cisco, for instance, controls the core functions of its 300 buildings worldwide, including climate, electricity use and security, from just four locations. Then there’s Manitoba Hydro’s new skyscraper in Winnipeg, Canada, which features a massive natural humidifier connected to pipes that pump moist air throughout the building. The system knows when to open and close the blinds, either to let the sunshine in or to keep it out. Businesses, too, will be hooked to IoT. In 2015, American multinational conglomerate General Electric claimed that investments in the industrial IoT market, which includes all IoT devices used for industrial purposes, would hit $60 trillion over the next 15 years. As per market intelligence firm IDC, 60% of global manufacturers are already using data accumulated from connected products and production chains to optimise their product portfolios. By next year, the proliferation of these analytics-driven solutions could improve manufacturers’ innovation delivery and supply chain performance by as much as 15%, predicts IDC. The future of a smart, connected world is already here.
What to expect in 2018
One of the biggest impacts that IoT will have in 2018 is on the retail sector. Retailers will be seen automating merchandising and operations, optimising supply chains, boosting personalised marketing, delivering delightful customer experiences, and exploring newer revenue streams. As the retail industry IoT revenue is set to touch $326 billion in 2018 (as per a report published by IDC), with the overall IoT revenue expected to reach $2.6 trillion alone in the APAC region, the new year will see a lot of IoT action in the sector. As more and more healthcare professionals turn to big data-driven solutions, IoT also stands to reshape how people access and pay for their services. We all know how wearable technology has been fuelled largely by its applications to people’s healthcare, such as gadgets’ ability to monitor heart rate or stress levels, remind patients when to take medication, etc. IoT will also lead to instant healthcare and digital therapies; devices that can treat insomnia, depression, fertility and back pain. Just to give you an idea, there will be an incremental sale of more than 12 million smartwatches in the US alone by the end of 2018, predicts American market research company Forrester. Among the new trends that we will see, insurance companies will get real-time data with IoT. This will help them analyse risks, perform product segmentation, improve loss control and get more premium growth. Consumers will also get to see new products in the new year. With IoT in place, consumers will no longer have standalone devices, but appliances with voice services like Siri and Cortana. Analyst Gartner predicts that 30% of our interactions with technology will be through ‘conversations’ with smart machines in 2018.
But new network security challenges will push IT experts to their limits, as hackers and fraudsters will seek to harness IoT for their own designs. As industrial IoT continues to grow, vulnerabilities in global Internet infrastructure systems will worsen. As more devices become connected to one another, security experts and major businesses will have to move quickly to block loopholes in their defence mechanisms.