Until now, the Internet-of-Things revolution has been, with notable outlier examples, largely theoretical and experimental. In 2018, we expect that many existing projects will show measurable returns, and more projects get launched to capitalize on data produced by billions of new connected things.

With increased adoption there will be challenges: Our networks were not built to support the volumes and types of traffic that IoT generates. Security systems were not originally designed to protect connected infrastructure against IoT attacks. And managing industrial equipment that is connected to traditional IT requires new partnerships.

It’s going to be a dynamic year as the communities that have been experimenting with IoT shift into high gear, and more new businesses and government organizations, more sensors and mobile devices, and more data streams come online. A lot of value will be created, opportunities surfaced, and fortunes made and lost across industries.

I asked the leaders of some of the IoT-focused teams at Cisco to describe their predictions for the coming year, to showcase some of these changes. Here they are.


IoT Data Becomes a Bankable Asset

In 2018, winning with IoT will mean taking control of the overwhelming flood of new data coming from the millions of things already connected, and the billions more to come. Simply consolidating that data isn’t the solution, neither is giving data away with the vague hope of achieving business benefits down the line. Data owners need to take control of their IoT data to drive towards business growth. The Economist this year said, “Data is the new oil,” and we agree.

Historically, there have been multiple challenges preventing companies from maximizing the value of their IoT data, including issues of directing data from different types of devices through different kinds and levels of networks, and into a growing variety of apps. In 2018, IoT data platforms will let businesses take control of the distribution, use and monetization of their data. Businesses will be able to:

•  Decide where data needs to go and coordinate its movement
•  Define and enforce policies determining who has access to data
•  Implement new business models that deliver value for companies, partners and customers
•  Guarantee that these processes are easily automated, reliable and secure

This level of data control will help businesses deliver new services that drive top-line results.

– Jahangir Mohammed, VP & GM of IoT, Cisco


AI Revolutionizes Data Analytics

In 2018, we will see a growing convergence between the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. AI+IoT will lead to a shift away from batch analytics based on static datasets, to dynamic analytics that leverages streaming data.

Typically, AI learns from patterns. It can predict future trends and recommend business-critical actions. AI plus IoT can recommend, say, when to service a part before it fails or how to route transit vehicles based on constantly-changing data.

Live analytics is of course only as good as the data it has access to, and for AI systems, quantity of data has a quality of its own: The more information AI has, the more impactful its results can be. With AI as the brains of the operation and IoT as the body, these two technologies will create a powerful new force for business transformation in 2018 and beyond.

– Maciej Kranz, VP, Strategic Innovation at Cisco, and author of New York Times bestseller, Building the Internet of Things


Interoperable IoT Becomes the Norm

The growth of devices and the business need for links between them has made for a wild west of communications in IoT. In 2018, a semblance of order will come to the space.

With the release of the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) 1.3 specification, consumer goods manufacturers can now choose a secure, standards-based approach to device-to-device interactions and device-to-cloud services in a common format, without having to rely on, or settle for, a proprietary device-to-cloud ecosystem.

Enterprise IoT providers will also begin to leverage OCF for device-to-device communications in workplace and warehouse applications, and Open Mobile Alliance’s Lightweight Machine-to-Machine (LwM2M) standard will take hold as the clear choice for remote management of IoT devices.

In Industrial IoT, Open Process Communication’s Unified Architecture (OPC-UA) has emerged as the clear standard for interoperability, seeing record growth in adoption with over 120 million installs expected as 2017 draws to an end. It will continue to grow into new industrial areas in 2018 driven by support for Time Sensitive Networking.

Standards organizations will continue to consolidate and cooperate to clear barriers to enterprise and industrial IoT. Instead of standards groups trying to be all things to all industries and use cases, a realization that there is no single IoT – and hence no one-size-fits-all IoT standard – is leading to cooperation and a reduction in duplicated efforts as different groups tackle more focused challenges. For example, the Open Connectivity Foundation has focused on solving one problem: device-to-device communications and management and wisely merged with the AllSeen Alliance and UniversalPlug and Play (UPnP) who were solving similar problems, and continues on a mission to defragment IoT standards in the smart home and enterprise arenas.

– Chris Steck, Head of Standardization, IoT & Industries, Cisco


IoT Enables Next-Gen Manufacturing

Manufacturing is buzzing about Industrie 4.0, the term for a collection of new capabilities for smart factories, that is driving what is literally the next industrial revolution. IoT technologies are connecting new devices, sensors, machines, and other assets together, while Lean Six Sigma and continuous improvement methodologies are harvesting value from new IoT data. Early adopters are already seeing big reductions in equipment downtime (from 15 to 95%), process waste and energy consumption in factories.

The interconnectedness of systems has forced attention on security. Last year brought significant security threats to the manufacturing space. Escalating risks mean that manufacturing – an industry generally slow to implement security measures – has to be more expeditious about taking action. Today, manufacturers working to launch Industrial IoT (IIoT) projects are collaborating with IT groups and are exploring security assessments that evaluate risk and ultimately provide comprehensive protection.

The security market in manufacturing will grow aggressively in 2018, in spite of an escalating shortage of security experts in the manufacturing space.

– Bryan Tantzen, Senior Director, Industry Products, Cisco


Connected Roadways Lay the Groundwork for Connected Cars

Intelligent roadways that sense conditions and traffic will adjust speed limits, synchronize street lights, and issue driver warnings, leading to faster and safer trips for drivers and pedestrians sharing the roadways. As these technologies are deployed, they become a bridge to the connected vehicles of tomorrow. The roadside data infrastructure gives connected cars a head start.

Connected cities will begin using machine learning (ML) to strategically deploy emergency response and proactive maintenance vehicles like tow trucks, snow plows, and more.

Instrumenting and connecting the roadways to get the data out is the first step in delivering value today. This is critical as the transportation value equation changes: Services become more efficient and automobiles become autonomous. People are beginning to envision and even embrace mobility as a service, diminishing the historical importance of owning a personal vehicle. This trend, coupled with the rise in the use of electric vehicles, is already resulting in a reduction in state and local revenue from gas taxes, tolls and other forms of vehicle-related recurring revenue that would normally help maintain infrastructure. In 2018, local governments and their transportation agencies will look to recoup these losses in innovative ways and find new revenue streams. This will include monetizing the data collected, while improving citizen roadway safety.

– Bryan Tantzen, Senior Director, Industry Products, Cisco


Botnets Make More Trouble

Millions of new connected consumer devices make a nice attack surface for hackers, who will continue to probe the connections between low-power, somewhat dumb devices and critical infrastructure.

The biggest security challenge I see is the creation of Distributed Destruction of Service (DDeOS) attacks that employ swarms of poorly-protected consumer devices to attack public infrastructure through massively coordinated misuse of communication channels.

IoT botnets can direct enormous swarms of connected sensors like thermostats or sprinkler controllers to cause damaging and unpredictable spikes in infrastructure use, leading to things like power surges, destructive water hammer attacks, or reduced availability of critical infrastructure on a city or state-wide level.

Solutions for these attacks do exist, from smarter control software that can tell the difference between emergency and erroneous sensor data, and standards that put bounds on what data devices are allowed to send, or how often they’re allowed to send it. But the challenge of securing consumer-grade sensors and devices remains, especially as they connect, in droves, to our shared infrastructure.

– Shaun Cooley, VP and CTO, Cisco


Blockchain Adds Trust

Cities are uniquely complex connected systems that don’t work without one key shared resource: trust.

From governmental infrastructure to private resources, to financial networks, to residents and visitors, all of a city’s constituents have to trust, for example, that the roads are sound and that power systems and communication networks are reliable. Those working on city infrastructure itself can’t live up to this trust without knowing that they are getting accurate data. With the growth of IoT, the data from sensors, devices, people, and processes is getting increasingly decentralized—yet systems are more interdependent than ever.

As more cities adopt IoT technologies to become smart—thus relying more heavily on digital transactions to operate—we see blockchain technology being used more broadly to put trust into data exchanges of all kinds. A decentralized data structure that monitors and verifies digital transactions, blockchain technology can ensure that each transaction—whether a bit of data streaming from distributed air quality sensors, a transaction passing between customs agencies at an international port, or a connection to remote digital voting equipment—be intact and verifiable. Having IoT data on a blockchain means we have new ways to audit the sources of data, identify the data’s value as it is monetized, and add trust to information carried between devices.

In 2018, we expect that more cities will look to blockchain as a way to secure operations and improve citizen services. Governments around the globe are already adopting blockchain to safeguard the integrity of all types of transactions. The technology could also allow private citizens to participate directly in the delivery of urban services (perhaps renting out private parking spaces or making package deliveries), with blockchain verifying and protecting transactions at the edge of the network, instead of centrally.

For all connected organizations, the possibilities are legion for blockchain to improve security, data transparency, and recordkeeping for myriad transactions, and to lend trust to any digital connection.

– Anil Menon, SVP & Global President, Smart+Connected Communities, Cisco



Rowan Trollope

Senior Vice President and General Manager

IoT and Collaboration Technology Group