20 Billion and Growing (Fast): The Internet of Things is Just Getting Started
Put simply, the Internet of Things is a network of connected smart devices providing rich data.
It’s been exciting news for some time now. Most of us have at least one and likely several smart devices in our lives, from thermostats to speakers to smartphones.
In fact, estimates put the number of connected devices at a solid 20 billion. That’s about ten times the number of current smartphone users on the planet, and projections have the number growing to 64 billion by 2025.
That’s also just the beginning.
The Industrial Internet of Things
Along with the rise of connected consumer devices, there has been an even more momentous if less visible shift in how businesses are using—and adapting to—the Internet of Things, a shift that is only going to continue to grow.
- By 2020, there will be a quarter billion connected vehicles on the road, enabling new in-vehicle services and automated driving capabilities.
- By 2020, less than 5% of IoT connections will go through SIM-based, M2M cellular services.
- By 2020, security solutions made from IoT architecture will unleash an era of inexpensive surveillance and spying, and a $50 billion global market.
- By 2020, the connected kitchen will contribute at least 15% savings in the food and beverage industry, while leveraging big data analytics.
Welcome to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), where corporations are building entire connected systems to improve efficiency, quality, transparency, and adaptability through data.
Key Areas for IIoT
It’s no question that IIoT will continue to grow, but where? Experts point to healthcare, retail and, maybe most impactfully, industrial/supply chain industries, where automation linked to big data opens a host of opportunities like improvements in predictive quality, scalability, and interoperability.
Interoperability is a key battleground for major platforms like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Apple, Cisco and more, dominant players who are trying to create IIoT ecosystems that attract and keep enterprise customers in a winner-takes-most fight similar to social networking brands.
IIoT In The Field
Another key field for IIoT is, not surprisingly, the field. Agriculture thrives on data, and with such sprawling territory and so many variables to juggle it’s no wonder IoT is making great strides.
One such company is Teralytic, which markets its IoT functionality to agricultural clients, promising “No wires. Nothing to break. Just 26 sensors beaming microclimate and soil data right back to you.”
Legacy agricultural companies are also evolving to incorporate new IoT technologies into existing platforms. John Deere is linking data gathering to device and equipment evolution with the goal of boosting crop efficiency through every stage of production, from planting to harvest. Tractors now talk to the cloud and even steer themselves while sensors dig in the dirt and report back soil health across acres of land.
What’s the Downside?
With all this excitement what’s not to love, right? One word—security.
With increased connectivity and at the same time fragmentation (as custom systems are built and built quickly), it becomes harder to develop blanket security protocols that protect our ever-more-connected systems.
On an individual level, hackers can use lax security measures around your smart fridge to gain wider access to your data and your life. On an Industrial/Enterprise level, hackers can do a lot more damage. Even beyond company interests, consider the fact that in 2018 Russian hackers penetrated the security of US nuclear power plant systems, and could have shut them down or worse.
Other difficulties include:
- Technology integration—connecting IT with OT (Operations Technology) means integrating two systems with fundamentally different approaches, top-down versus bottom-up
- Workforce education—new skill set needs combined with an aging workforce presents challenges to ramp up technology expertise without losing crucial legacy experience
- Data flood—rich data is wonderful but can quickly overwhelm if systems and teams aren’t set up to organize it in an effective and manageable way
Change is Happening Today. And Tomorrow.
The main thing to take away today? The Internet of Things isn’t just impacting consumers’ lives. It’s changing the way businesses operate, even deciding a business’s viability in a world where services are increasingly smarter, faster, and not entirely in human hands.
There’s a lot more to discuss concerning the IoT and the IIoT, and we’ll write more as we get closer to World IoT Day on April 9, 2019.
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Devetry is at the forefront of development and delivery for cutting-edge IoT companies.