One doesn’t need visionary powers to predict that the Internet of Things will continue to grow this year with the number of devices, gateways, sensors and connections increasing rapidly. While 2016 was a year of IoT trials, in 2017 companies will begin to monetize their IoT solutions by increasing productivity and customer satisfaction. Some developments are worth taking a second look.
New networks for the Internet of Things
Current M2M connections via Ethernet, Wi-Fi, RFID, Bluetooth and 2G, 3G, 4G are useful for many IoT scenarios. Nevertheless, the appropriate network for the future Internet of Things will be 5G – but this generation will take a few more years to come to life. Until then, industries have to use existing technologies. In 2017 we will see a race between Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M for machine-type communications. Both technologies enable high network coverage and the use of energy efficient, cost-effective devices and can be deployed in existing LTE networks with appropriate security standards and reliability. First NB-IoT end-to-end systems are already going live. It will be interesting to see where the two technologies compete and where they complement each other. For use cases in unlicensed spectrum, there will be alternative competing LPWA technologies like LoRa and SigFox.
Rise of the voice assistants
For end consumers, voice control will become the more common option to interact with their Smart Home, their Connected Car or other devices in the Internet of Things. “We expect to see a wide deployment of voice control and a progression of how it can be used in a more nuanced way”, said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), in his CES 2017 keynote. In the USA alone, the CTA expects sales of voice-controlled, stand-alone digital assistant devices with cloud-based operating systems to reach 4.5 million units this year. It will be interesting to see whose ecosystem will have the biggest market share: Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant – or Samsung, who is about to become a new player on the voice assistant market after acquiring Viv Labs. Maybe the winner will be the one whose solution understands us best.
Platforms: To sort the wheat from the chaff
Talking about market shares: 2017 might be the year application developers and device manufacturers have to decide which IoT platform, standard or ecosystem they are going to use. Which voice assistant should I offer with my Bluetooth speaker? Which protocol to connect my machinery to a cloud service? And which cloud service to analyze the sensor data? As there is no general standard for every possible IoT solution visible on the horizon, companies will choose the one which fits their needs best, simultaneously has found the largest application, and is open, scalable and sustainable. For full-service providers, this means to break the silos and to look for the best partners to build a viable end-to-end solution.
Security and privacy are essential now
After all the incidents that occurred last year you cannot expect customers to still disregard hacked video cameras and baby phones, stolen photos and bank account numbers. Devices without proper IoT security, measures and services without guaranteed privacy - won’t be accepted anymore. Manufacturers and vendors will take the customer’s concerns seriously and focus on providing secure IoT products to them.
What will still take some time
IoT and M2M will continue to spread throughout industries, enabling scenarios like Smart Cities, Smart Homes, Smart Factories, Smart Grids, and Smart Cars. Especially in the automotive industry, we will see more Connected Cars with assistance systems – but it’s unlikely that we will encounter a mass of autonomous driving vehicles on the streets this year. The same goes for Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Augmented Reality or Edge and Fog Computing: These technologies are about to come, but it will take longer for them to grow up (except maybe VR gaming). While IoT is, regarding many potential use cases, still in its infancy, 2017 should be at least the year in which M2M and the Industrial Internet of Things will start to connect machinery and factories and benefit production and manufacturing to create new business models.
Picture credits: Flickr, Internet Of Things, Tumitu Design