The Internet of Things (IoT) is an ecosystem of physical devices that are all connected to the internet which collect and share data. With the proliferation of wireless networks and incredibly cheap computer chips, pretty much anything and anyone can join the IoT hive and become an active, intelligent, digital participant.
A World of Things.
In terms of proliferation, the number of IoT devices is growing at an exponential rate, and the range of IoT applications is staggering. From the humble simplicity of a smartphone switching on a light to automating insulin deliveries for people with diabetes, IoT tech is everywhere, or at least soon to be.
By 2025, it is anticipated by numerous sources that the number of IoT devices could reach a number anywhere between 40 and 75 billion, which could see IoT penetrating almost every sector and industry on the planet if it hasn’t already. However, that’s not to say that this widespread marvel doesn’t have its fair share of problems, with privacy and security concerns topping the list.
Seemingly, humanity is on looking to digitize the physical world and harvest data from any spectrum it can, IoT makes this exceedingly possible. With respect to retail/mainstream adoption, wearable devices and household “things” are certainly on the rise, especially with the introduction of 5G networks. The International Data Corporation (IDC) noted that they anticipate such adoption to increase in the near future, though they note that automotive and industrial equipment is the “largest opportunity” for IoT.
Tesla had one particularly fascinating instance of IoT being a highly valuable tool for its autonomous vehicles, which are able to report malfunctions to their manufacturers. In this case, Tesla vehicles were experiencing an overheating issue, and thanks to IoT being integrated into their vehicles, Tesla was able to prevent recalling an entire line of vehicles as they were able to refine their manufacturing process and manage recalls in real-time. This could have cost Tesla millions and set them back months, but with the prudence of having an extensive cellular IoT network, they avoided catastrophe.
Though the true value proposition for IoT in the automotive is reportedly IoT payments. Also referred to as ‘in-vehicle’ payments, this is when a road vehicle is able to automatically pay for things like fuel and toll booths. According to Juniper Research, the IoT payment market will grow 75% per annum, potentially reaching a market value of $410 billion by 2023, with in-vehicle payments spurring this growth.
The Market of Things.
Last year the IDC had estimated that global spending on IoT would reach $745 billion in 2019, with manufacturing, consumer, transportation and utility sectors leading investment into the space. Other major areas leading investment in the space include remote health monitoring, smart homes, smart grids, digital signage and IoT retail.
As mentioned earlier, security is a troubled area of IoT, and so spending on security is fairly large, with spending on endpoint security expected to reach over 600 million U.S. dollars by 2021.
Overall, IDC research has forecasted businesses to spend at least $1.1 trillion on IoT projects in 2023, though problematically, companies will be relying heavily on external vendors to handle hardware, security, maintenance etc., meaning there’s plenty of space for competition to enter the market.
Pam Miller, director of infrastructure channels research for the IDC noted in an interview that complex IoT solutions may require up to 15 external entities to manage it. The most successful solutions and platforms that emerge out of the heavy investment into IoT will likely be those that manage to offer as broad a package as they can.
In most cases, purchasing multiple components, finding the specialist staff required and handling an IoT expansion in-house is undesirable, so IoT/cloud services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are great foundations to build upon.
Outside of enterprise and capitalistic applications, IoT technologies are also having widespread positive impacts on environmental challenges. In Indonesia, artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT are being tapped to clean up the Citarum River, which will also be leveraging Microsoft Azure in its efforts.
Reportedly, the river has suffered greatly as a result of urbanization, as well as the numerous industrial sites that have also deforested the surrounding areas, leading to a heavily polluted river. So much so, that it is estimated that 60% of the rivers fish species have died off, with lead levels reported to be 1,000 times higher than U.S. safety standards.
To tackle the deforestation and restore balance to the river’s ecosystem, one startup is using IoT and AI to create a tree management system. It has a robust set of features and functions: QR codes, IoT sensors, a mobile application and drones will all be providing vital data sets such as soil health, tree height and width as well as overall data on the progress of the project.
Seemingly, IoT technologies either on their own or in tandem with other fourth industrial revolution (4IR) disruptors are a force to be reckoned with. Thanks to its extremely versatile nature, IoT has the capacity to participate in every industry/sector/market in the world.
Whilst it is clear that larger industries and enterprises are to benefit highly from IoT, there is plenty to suggest that humanitarian/environmental projects will be receiving a healthy boost too. IoT has a lot of promise, especially considering that it quite brilliantly evolves and expands in-line with other technologies and enterprises.