As an industry we started talking about the Internet of Things in around 1999/2000. Looking back, it’s amazing how limited our collective expectations were then. Most people at the time thought that the opportunity lay in computers being able to gather information about the world around them, without us having to enter the data. Only a few saw its wider potential.
Since then, as we’ve seen with the fourth industrial revolution/Industry 4.0, we’ve started to take advantage of the ability to derive data from more sources than we could previously imagine, and we are combining these data sets to deliver business insights that are revolutionizing decision-making across many sectors. But there’s still more to come – I believe that the next 12 months are going to see a further evolution in how we leverage the Internet of Things. But, for the industry to continue its advances, we’re also going to have to address some emerging challenges.
Here are some of the key trends that I expect to see this year:
1. Masses of IoT data to sift through: We are now able to extract insights by combining unrelated, diverse data sets, however many businesses are stockpiling data “just in case”, creating an absolute mountain of information that we’re not entirely prepared to deal with. This year I believe this will have to change, as substantially more IoT data will be collected than we can possibly analyze or understand, or even store, cost-effectively. We have yet to fully understand the importance of deleting transient data that may not ever have any value ever, and this is an area that’s going to get more attention in 2018.
2. Machines first: In an increasingly hyperconnected world, 2018 will be the year when IoT devices start to focus more on becoming attractive towards other smart products, rather than humans. Any IoT device that makes it hard to exchange data with another machine has a limited outlook, as it cannot be part of an automated value chain that possibly integrates (micro)payments for services rendered and automatically documents its use and the data streams it is involved in.
3. The market will consolidate rapidly: There are approximately 900 IoT platforms available today but I don’t think all of them will survive this year. Global standards are emerging (for example OPC UA in M2M communication for industrial automation) in addition to segment-specific features (such as security requirements) which will drive out proprietary and stand-alone platforms. Currently, only very few IoT platforms satisfy these emerging standards, but I expect this will change rapidly. Building an eco-system will be the key to survival for IoT platform providers.
4. This will be the year of IoT security: At the “things” level, of for example, sensor-monitored machines, security was not a serious concern until recently, as the scope of this equipment’s communication was very restricted. This has changed dramatically now and the resulting limited built-in security has become the most critical obstacle for generating business value from the IoT. Fortunately, in recent years many aspects of IoT security have matured, the global standardization process has started and qualified IoT security consulting and implementation have become booming businesses. This is why I expect 2018 to be the year of accelerated IoT adoption, based on secure identities and secure cross-company IoT communication. The next phase will see new ways of managing contracts and executing micro-payments to potentially further increase the efficiency of value networks, particularly for SMEs. Blockchain-based processes that solve issues about non-repudiation may turn out to be the enabler of secure global business transactions for companies of all sizes.
5. B2B is driving IoT, not B2C: In 2018, we will continue to see investment and progress in business-to-business IoT deployments by far outstrip business-to-consumer projects. IoT capabilities will be embedded into B2B products at a pace faster than the consumer market can keep up.