The Internet of Things (IoT) has started to move to the mainstream in enterprises across all industries. With IoT spending set to increase by 15 percent to reach $772.5 billion by the end of 2018, the coming year will undoubtedly bring further growth in the number of connected devices and enterprise IoT projects. More importantly, I believe that in 2018 enterprise IoT projects will finally move beyond merely automating existing business processes, to truly transforming industries by creating entirely new revenue streams and business models. This will be due in part to the concurrent rise of synergistic technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and fog computing, as well as an industry-wide move toward greater interoperability, standards and collaboration.
Here are my top five predictions for enterprise IoT in 2018, which will drive these transformational changes:
IoT will converge with AI, fog computing and blockchain.
IoT by itself is not truly transformational. It needs to be combined with key technologies such as AI, fog computing and blockchain to make the business impacts it has long-promised. In 2018 we will see such convergence begin to take place. Using these technologies together, companies will obtain greater value from their IoT investments and overcome the barriers that previously hindered adoption, including security, bandwidth and data analytics challenges.
For example, AI and machine learning (ML), will enable deeper analysis of real-time IoT data streams to drive more powerful decision making. Fog computing will make such systems scalable by extending cloud capabilities to the edge of the network. By processing and analyzing data flows close to the data sources, fog computing will help address latency, bandwidth and reliability, and cost issues. And blockchain will provide secure, audit-level tracking of IoT data transactions, eliminating the need for a central, trusted intermediary between communicating devices.
IoT security will become the No. 1 priority in the enterprise.
IoT is not only connecting many previously unconnected “things” in enterprises, it is also causing IT and operational technology (OT) systems to merge. As a result, cybercriminals are increasingly focusing their efforts on sabotaging or commandeering devices and OT systems that control critical equipment and infrastructure. Cyberattacks on industrial control systems increased 110 percent in 2016 and are sure to further increase as more systems become connected to the IoT.
Fortunately, 2018 will be the year when businesses and technology providers intensify their focus on IoT security. Organizations will also invest more in their workforces (in the form of education, training, certifications, etc.) to make them more capable of addressing IoT security concerns. Additionally, businesses will increasingly take a unified, policy-based architectural approach to IoT security by involving security and cyber teams from the start of an IoT deployment to implement a comprehensive strategy across the enterprise.
More organizations will take a co-everything approach to solution development
Throughout the coming year, IoT will continue to drive the “co-economy,” or what I like to call the “co-everything” model, with companies large and small co-innovating and co-developing IoT solutions. A new ecosystem of partners is emerging with a combination of horizontal, vertical and regional specialists combining their expertise and resources for large-scale IoT projects. The resulting solutions built on best-in-class technologies and based on open architectures and standards, will be repeatable, future-proofed and cost effective. As more organizations realize the importance of forming these types of partner ecosystems, we will see a shift away from single vendor solutions, which will accelerate IoT innovations.
In addition, the new co-everything model also means that the customer becomes a co-innovator. Across industries, customers no longer want to be passive recipients of products, occasionally consulted by a product manager. Rather, they want to be actively involved in the creation process, contributing their own expertise and requirements. In 2018, the customer will move to the very center of the IoT development efforts, delivering solutions that are better aligned with business and technology needs.
There will be an industry-wide, accelerated move to open standards, open architectures and interoperability and regulation
Across markets, technology and solution providers will increasingly reach across the traditional market structures and collaborate on open standards and interoperability. We will see further convergence and consolidation of consortia and standard bodies fueling the co-everything ecosystem mentioned previously. Additionally, we’ll see more aggressive government guidelines and regulations around not only IoT security, privacy, and interoperability, but also autonomous vehicles, drones and even AI-based systems, all related to IoT. Governments as regulators, agenda setters and customers have already played a pivotal role in driving IoT adoption from smart grids to food safety tracking. In 2018, as in the past, governments and their agencies will need to work closely with the industry for the new laws and actions to be effective.
IoT will drive new value propositions and new business models
Until now, enterprise IoT projects have primarily focused on automating existing business processes and achieving incremental improvements to efficiency. However, in 2018, as the IoT converges with other synergistic technologies, we will witness its ability to transform industries by driving new value propositions and enabling new business models.
For example, by combining the IoT with AI and real-time data analytics, manufacturers can predict equipment problems before they occur and conduct preventative maintenance, eliminating costly down-time on the production line. These IoT-powered capabilities can even be turned into profitable new revenue streams, with businesses able to provide their customers new service-oriented offerings such as equipment health monitoring. In another example, the combination of IoT data with 3D printing is enabling mass customization, with manufacturers able to profitably run “batches of one” and personalize products to their customers’ specific needs and desires.
The IoT is reaching a tipping point where businesses will begin to experience its full potential, moving from incremental to monumental improvements. From the convergence of IoT with AI, fog computing and other new technologies, to stronger IoT security and improved interoperability, the future of IoT and its ability to drive business transformation looks brighter than ever in 2018 and beyond.
This original article first appeared in Network World.