In a mere couple of years, the Internet of Things has evolved from outlying tech curiosity to a full-fledged industry promising to become the next major tech boom. With the number of connected devices expected to reach more than 38 billion by 2020, the potential for an IoT-based tech revolution is practically unlimited.
Fueling this potential is the explosion of new, IoT-related technologies, such as AI, 5G, and edge computing. It seems the Internet of Things can benefit from just about anything that allows data to be handled faster, better, cleaner, or safer, and also anything that allows for better human-to-device interaction.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top five IoT trends to look out for in 2020. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it highlights the main drivers of the IoT market and the things that will be making the biggest difference in IoT next year and probably in the years to come as well.
There’s a lot of talk about 5G these days, and rightfully so: the fifth-generation cellular network technology promises to unleash a whole new level of data availability and connectivity, which of course translates into significantly enhanced IoT power.
The better devices communicate, the better they can serve the average customer hoping to tap into the convenience and efficiency of the Internet of Things. This is especially true for power efficiency, as 5G is much better equipped than 4G to send small packets of data, which reduces the overhead for managing any particular piece of data.
Apple plans to release its first 5G phones in 2020, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg for what’s going to be happening with 5G this year, especially if you include IoT. According to Gartner, 5G IoT endpoint-installed bases will more than triple between 2020 and 2021, from 3.5 million units to 11.3 million units. In 2023, Gartner reported, the automotive industry will become the largest market opportunity for 5G IoT solutions, but until then security cameras will be the primary beneficiary of 5G technology since their outdoor locations require strong cellular connectivity.
2. Edge Computing
Enabled by new technologies such as 5G, edge computing, or the practice of processing data closest to where it’s being generated—i.e., at a network’s edges—instead of in a centralized, data-processing warehouse, will take center stage among 2020’s most digitally transformative technologies and will have a huge impact on IoT networks. Already we hear the concept of edge morphing as it gives way to more detailed concepts like fog computing and mist computing.
By reducing latency for critical applications and significantly easing network loads, edge computing (in all its forms) allows for rapid data analysis, which of course significantly enhances the ability for IoT devices to act quickly and smoothly.
Edge computing is already being used in farming to significantly improve operations around contamination detection and indoor crop growing. It’s also being used for online gaming to improve the overall gaming experience via reduced latency, and in manufacturing to improve safety, monitoring, and logging.
A recent survey of global business leaders found that the single most significant predictor of realizing value from IoT initiatives across an organization was the incorporation of AI. The same survey also revealed that organizations using AI with IoT were more competitive than IoT-only enterprises by a double-digit margin in areas like productivity, innovation, and operating costs.
That said, artificial intelligence has now become potentially the most overused – and misused – term in tech. Many companies claim to have “AI capabilities” when what they are really talking about are just more advanced computer programs.
Where does programming end and artificial intelligence begin? It’s a valid question, and most software engineers would argue that AI starts when our programs become self-aware and build on their own learning to create something or perform a task that a human didn’t ask them to perform.
In the world of smart homes and IoT, AI is the method by which smart devices start to use the vast amounts of data fed to them daily to act on their own volition. These actions can, for example, take the form of learning people’s behaviors and self-programming to automatically perform a certain act —such as turning on the light or a coffee maker—in conjunction with another act, such as waking up or walking into a room.
Look for 2020 to be the year AI truly takes a firm hold of the IoT market.
According to IDC, 20% of all IoT deployments now incorporate some form of blockchain technology. A potential drawback of the Internet of Things is that is that IoT-connected devices have to operate through centralized cloud servers, which tend to have high maintenance costs, which can affect scalability. Cloud servers are also vulnerable to a single point of failure, which means if one part goes down, so does the rest.
By integrating blockchain technology, IoT ecosystems will be able to operate via a decentralized network, reducing operational costs while increasing scalability, transparency, and device tracking capabilities.
Blockchain is also very useful for generating smart contracts and triggering automatic payments based on ledger records, and it can greatly help with IoT security by locking access to devices and allowing compromised devices in an IoT network to be shut down.
Unquestionably, blockchain is a rapidly evolving IoT resource we should all be on the watch for in 2020.
Security will be perhaps the biggest IoT trend, or rather, issue, to follow not only in 2020 but in many years to come. IoT security has become a top concern not just of the people who use smart home devices but governments and also any company selling, building, and/or deploying smart home products.
Having various devices communicating with each other via cloud networks of course presents vulnerabilities and myriad opportunities for hackers, and with a projected 41.6 billion IoT devices by 2025, these opportunities will only increase.
This means IoT security needs to be built into your IoT ecosystem. That means incorporating, as a rule, things like validity checks, authentication, data verification, and various methods of encryption. There also should be rigorous standards around compliance, and any IoT platform should have all the tools necessary to allow its users to comply with the major data privacy regulations.
Above all, IoT platform security should be thought of as a given and not a nice to have. If your customers can’t feel secure, they won’t want to use your products.
Between security, 5G, edge computing, AI, and blockchain, the Internet of Things will have a lot going on in 2020 and will undoubtedly be a year of IoT advancement. The key will be keeping devices and systems secure so that taking advantage of all this new tech doesn’t lead to headaches or breakdowns.