To say that the Internet of Things (IoT) will be a big deal in 2018 is like saying the sun will come up tomorrow. But it remains to be seen whether the universe of connected devices will reach the point where it is considered mainstream, or whether the enterprise is still looking at another year, or two, of building and experimentation.
IDC says that worldwide spending on the IoT is expected to climb 15 percent in 2018 to top $772.5 billion, with a further jump to $1.1 trillion by 2021. Although it’s hard to see how a trillion in sales cannot be considered a mainstream market, the fact remains that the universe of connected devices is still rather small and, unless a truly killer app emerges soon, most consumers are likely to view the IoT as an interesting, although not entirely relevant, addition to modern life. Nevertheless, we can expect the enterprise to be the primary driver of IoT spending, both in terms of infrastructure and software, with the latter making up the bulk of economic activity once the basic hardware elements have been deployed.
Perhaps more important than the mere technology aspects of the IoT are the ways in which it is expected to change business activity and how we humans interact with the digital universe in general. Among Vodafone’s IoT predictions for the coming year are the expectation that it will drive the transformation toward business models based on services rather than products. In a recent survey, nearly three quarters of IT executives say this change will be impossible without the IoT, given its ability to reduce risk, cut costs, and open up new revenue streams.
On the downside, however, expect the IoT to introduce new security challenges. According to IBM, ransomware attacks and other threats are already starting to focus on the growing legion of connected devices, where a larger installed base makes it possible to extort less money from more victims to increase overall profitability. (Yes, even criminal activity is subject to economies of scale.) At the same time, targeted attacks against large companies or even vertical industries like health care could take on an added dimension if crooks are able to take over critical devices like health monitors and life-support systems. (Disclosure: I provide content services to IBM.)
To counter this, and to improve efficiency and operations in general, expect the IoT to incorporate increasing levels of artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics, says eWeek’s Eileen Feretic. Among the initial capabilities due to rise next year are data science and machine learning, as IoT infrastructure becomes more adept at analyzing data and implementing its own solutions based on the results of those analyses. We should see growth in metadata management and global fabric networking in order to increase the speed and accuracy of IoT applications and foster a greater degree of direct connectivity between endpoints.
Perhaps the only thing we can definitively conclude about the IoT in 2018 is that the momentum will continue. Infrastructure will expand, applications will be developed and deployed, and data will be created, analyzed and converted into still more data. We will probably not find ourselves steeped in an IoT universe by this time next year, but more than likely we will see the continued encroachment of connectivity and data services into our daily lives.
In this light, talk of an IoT revolution is probably overblown, since revolutions usually produce sudden, obvious change. It’s more of an evolution – somewhat slow and tedious but capable of altering the human experience in subtle yet immensely profound ways.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.