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10 Predictions for the Future of the Internet of Things

June 3, 2015 - 5 Comments

We are in the early days of another transformative technology revolution. Wired magazine described a new era where “the most mundane items in our lives can talk wirelessly among themselves, performing tasks on command, giving us data we’ve never had before.” The Internet of Things (IoT) is a world where up to 50 billion things (or devices) will be connected to the Internet by 2020; or, the equivalent of 6 devices for every person on the planet.

We are already starting to see the emergence of smart cities, connected utilities, connected railways, connected factories, connected cars, and even connected mines, to name but a few. The Internet of Things will fundamentally transform businesses, generate enormous economic wealth and create immeasurable social value.

What does the future have in store for IoT? The following are my ten predictions of what we have to look forward to:

  1. The platform is the key to success – The “things” will get increasingly cheaper, applications will multiply and connectivity will cost pennies. The real value will be created in the horizontal platform that ties it all together – the new OS. This platform will be composed of 3 different layers: management, infrastructure, and data analytics and insights.
  1. The industry will look completely different than it does today – Like in the early days of the Internet, IoT is a greenfield market. New players, with new business models, approaches, and solutions can appear out of nowhere and overtake incumbents.
  1. Business is the key market – While there is lots of talk about wearables and connected homes, the real value and immediate market for IoT is with businesses and enterprises. The adoption of IoT will be much more like the traditional IT diffusion model (businesses to consumers) than the Consumer-led adoption of social media and personal mobility.
  1. It will be about much more than the “things” – The currency of IoT will be “data”. But, this new currency only has value if the masses of data can be translated into insights and information which can be converted into concrete actions that will transform businesses, change people’s lives and effect social change.
  1. The “Connected Car” will be all about the car – There is currently a lot of hype about turning your car into a mobile entertainment center – music, video, social media and all of the apps that we currently enjoy on our smartphones. However, the real value and transformation is in connecting the car operations (e.g., service updates, advanced notifications of failures) and drastically improving safety (e.g., inter-car communications, semi-autonomous driving). These services will most likely be paid for by the manufacturer or through new, alternative business models, rather than directly by the driver.
  1. IoT will force business transformation – Businesses which connected to the Internet saw the real value when they re-designed their businesses models and processes for a connected world, and found new online products and services to offer. Some companies immediately embraced the Dot-Com world, many had false starts and many others took a long time to jump on, or the revolution passed them by completely. The same will be true of IoT. Businesses need to develop strategies and plans for how they can leverage IoT to transform all aspects of their businesses and capture the real value of this revolutionary technology.
  1. Trading mobile dollars for IoT pennies – It is no wonder that the mobile operators are salivating at the prospect of a windfall of new revenue to be earned from connecting the projected 50 billion devices, or things, to the Internet. However, it is not that straight forward. While some of the traffic will flow over mobile networks, the majority of the connections will be made over wireline or unlicensed wireless networks. And, many of the IOT devices require very low bandwidth – simply conveying their status on an occasional basis and then remaining dormant until this status changes. Mobile operators will need to do more than just sell mobile connectivity to inanimate objects to reap the full rewards of IoT.
  1. There will be a battle for IoT application mindshare – With billions of devices devices projected to be spewing out petabytes of data, application developers will have a field day launching thousands, or even millions, of new and cool apps. But, like the smartphone world, all of these apps will be fighting for mindshare and only a few will rise to the top to be valued by businesses and consumers.
  1. All cities will be smart – With more than one-half of the world’s population living cities innovative new IoT solutions, such as smart parking, connected waste, and traffic management, hold great promise for combatting the major challenges of rapid urbanization. We are unlikely to see many Jetson-like smart cities of the future appearing overnight. However, like in the past with the adoption of revolutionary technologies such as sewers, electricity, traffic lights, and the Internet, mayors will slowly implement IoT solutions to save money, shape the future and make their cities better places to live.
  1. IoT will cease to exist – Terms like “eCommerce”, “the Net” and “WWW” are all quaint reminders of how the Internet has ceased to be an exciting and mysterious new thing, and, like electricity, is now just part of our daily lives. The Internet of Things will go the same way. One day soon, it will be hard to imagine that all things weren’t connected and that the extraordinary benefits of IoT hadn’t always been with us.

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  1. Hi Stuart, I'm new here, but work with high tech entrepreneurs here in Europe. White Bull Summits. ... Reading with interest your predictions on "devices" and connectivity. What are your thoughts about the life span of the Portable Wifi device? Like Karma or Myfi ( Is there a long future here for the market? Many thanks! Elizabeth

    • Good question. I suspect that those will remain with us for some time. But, I think that they are and will become even more, niche products and solutions. The massive growth of Wi-Fi enabled devices and near pervasive and low cost Wi-Fi networks make these a bit redundant. Equally, faster and better LTE coverage, at lower price means that many of these devices can more efficiently connect directly to a cellular network. Of course, there will always be a role to share a mobile connection amongst the family in a car, consultants working on an engagement in a conference room, or on a building site. But, technology, economics and market forces will make these user cases fewer and fewer.

  2. Great insights on the IoT possibilities Stuart. Besides security and privacy do you feel standardization, of how 'things' (interconnected devices across players) talk to each other seamlessly, would influence the velocity of market adoption for the Smart Connected future?

    • Yes. I definitely feel that "standardization" will drive adoption as it has done with all other technology revolutions. Obviously, having everything talk IP is critical but also standardization in the way that data is collected and manipulated, interactions with sensors, etc. is critical. Between a number of industry and technical bodies and the power of the market to force a standard (think VHS, LTE, IP)I am sure that we will get there. Although, it is never as fast and as smooth as any of us would like.

  3. Very well said. In the overwhelming swirl of hype that surrounds IoT this is succinctly on point.