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Several Internet of Things future trends have emerged that will shape IoT in 2018. These trends are developing and taking hold quickly, so businesses cannot afford the “wait and see” approach. IoT thought leaders suggest you get started now with pilot projects. You need to be aware of these top Internet of Things future trends and how they can impact your business.

The IoT landscape is seeing an explosion of connected devices. Information Handling Services (IHS) predicts the number of connected IoT devices will grow 12% each year, increasing to 125 billion devices by 2030. IDC estimates that IoT spending will reach $772 billion in 2018, representing an increase of more than 14% from 2017. Embracing the right IoT trends is important for your business.

Six Internet of Things future trends for 2018

As we look to 2018, there are six major IoT trends businesses should be aware of:

1.  Mainstreaming of IoT

The big names in IoT (such as Dell and IBM) are pushing knowledge and awareness of IoT into the consumer marketplace. Advertising for IoT technologies is spreading across major networks, educating the general public about IoT technologies. Dell’s commercial about its partnership with VMWare is a great example of this primetime advertising.

Small and medium-sized businesses will quickly find their customers asking them what they are doing on the IoT front. These customers are going to expect that your business has plans for incorporating IoT technologies into your products and services if you’re not doing so already. Those who fail to do so risk losing customers, as well as customer interest.  

2.  Affordability of IoT

The hardware and devices used for IoT are getting cheaper, making IoT more affordable. There have been proven use cases in various industries where IoT investment has paid off.

Retail is one such industry. The proliferation of embedded sensors and the big data gathered by IoT devices has enabled retailers to gather detailed information on customers.

Retailers can leverage IoT to target marketing campaigns, reach out to customers proactively before they run out of a product, manage inventory through the use of RFID, and even track foot traffic in retail stores.

The introduction of IBM Watson has given new life to brick and mortar retail stores, supplying real-time data from IoT devices. Retailers are leveraging this data to optimize the supply chain and the customer experience.

3.  IoT and blockchain

Blockchain – the distributed, secure, electronic ledger technology that enables Bitcoin – will support IoT advancements in 2018. To learn more about the blockchain technology, click here.

There are three ways blockchain technology will come into play:

  • Scalability– Efficient IoT blockchains will support data from the smallest of sensors to analytic results from machine learning, as well as human analysts, who can act on data and add their analysis directly to blockchain for use by further upstream processes.
  • Visibility – Data representing simple objects, such as the RFID tag on a crate of oranges, can be efficiently tracked, along with many other datum. The ID of the person who packed the crate, the truck that drove the crate to the warehouse, the refrigerator that held the produce, and finally the consumer that purchased the product can all be tracked. In a product recall situation, compare this level of data to what we have now. Rather than saying “All oranges from Florida in July may have been transported in a truck that was not properly cleaned,” the specific crates that traveled in said truck can be unquestionably identified.
  • Increased security– Data stored in a blockchain is secure and cannot be changed, making it a trustworthy source. This will drive an increase in trust and security among transactions on IoT devices. Overall, blockchain technology will help drive an increase in IoT transactions globally in the coming year.

4.  Access to lower cost data connectivity through the cellular network

Mobile carriers such as Verizon have loosened up data requirements, enabling customers to pay for data per gigabyte used rather than demanding a flat monthly fee. Other low power wireless vendors outside of wireless carriers have entered the market as well.

LoRa is one example. It is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) used for wireless battery-operated devices within a network. These low-cost options are making IoT projects more viable for businesses – particularly smaller and mid-sized ones.

5.  Home automation and IoT

IoT technology will continue to drive a spike in home automation devices. A main area that will emerge here in 2018 and beyond is voice activation.

There are several players in the voice activation space, including Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomePod. Consumers are now accustomed to using these voice assistants for many tasks around the home, and there will be an expectation that IoT devices will pair and work with voice assistants.

This will create a challenge for businesses, as there is no standard voice assistant – and no sign yet that one leader will emerge.

6.  Increased efficiencies in industrial systems

IoT delivers automation to many processes for industrial systems, creating new efficiencies. Examples include:

  • Machines being able to identify exactly what part needs to be repaired so service technicians are always prepared and can complete calls in one visit

These efficiencies translate to savings in time, manpower, and even human resources required in some cases.

A few cautionary words

There are two areas in IoT that require increased attention and awareness – security and data privacy.

Security

Security has always been a concern for businesses, but it takes on increased importance now that so many devices are connected to one another. Different risks arise with IoT sensors, such as the exfiltration of data for spying or other purposes or the injection of bad data to sabotage or alter a system operation.

The connectivity of IoT opens additional doors for malicious activity which can spread at an alarming rate. Malware can quickly spread across connected devices, as we saw with the example of the Mirai cyberattack in the fall of 2016. Malware named Mirai leveraged smart technology to launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, taking sites offline and slowing down internet traffic. Mirai created a botnet which then scanned the internet for vulnerable IoT devices – those with weak credentials and security – and affected popular sites such as Twitter.

To stay more secure:

  • Businesses must be prepared to quickly patch vulnerabilities when they arise.
  • Application security testing becomes even more important to ensure applications are as secure as possible prior to deployment on IoT devices.
  • Users must be educated to update usernames and passwords to make devices more secure.
  • Security patches should be downloaded on IoT devices as soon as they are released.

For an overview of the top 2017 application security threats and what to look out for in 2018, check out this recent post from AVI.

Data privacy

A large amount of personal data is captured by IoT devices. Information such as where people are located, when they tend to be out of the house, and even personal health information can be stolen or compromised by hackers. Weak security on IoT devices makes this information more susceptible.

This means consumers will demand better security and privacy protections. Developers need to spend more time building security into applications and devices.

How businesses can begin to capitalize on 2018 IoT trends

Here is some high-level guidance to get you started with the top IoT trends.

1.   Mainstreaming of IoT

You must have an answer ready when your customers ask what IoT options you provide or plan to provide in the near future. Be sure to listen to what they are asking for as they may not use IoT terminology, but it may be the answer to their problem or request.

You risk losing customers if you are not prepared to move into this space. You can attempt to reach out to the big players in IoT for guidance, but it is unlikely you will get a response. These big names do not have the need to deal with smaller organizations.

This leaves two options:

  • Develop IoT technologies in-house
  • Work with an IoT consulting company to better determine how your business can benefit from the technology

2.  Affordability of IoT

As the hardware and devices become cheaper, you need to be ready to move from a proof of concept (POC) to large-scale deployment quickly. ROI analysis and cost justification are required to get this approval from upper management.

You must be able to scale out POCs that are quantifiable and measurable in terms of cost-savings. IoT consulting companies are a good resource for developing such quantifiable POCs that produce hard data around large-scale deployments.

3. IoT and blockchain

First, you must have a basic understanding of the blockchain technology and how it relates to your business. The main question to consider is, “Can my business or IoT system be supported by a ledger?”

The definition of what can be stored in a ledger needs to be expanded beyond the traditional, as blockchain can be used for so much more. Financial transactions and real estate contracts, for example, both require steps that can be linked and built upon one another in a chain of events within a blockchain.

Is your business ready to take advantage of the security enhancements blockchain brings to IoT devices? Are you ready to store and track data from IoT devices using blockchain technology so it can be leveraged to streamline business processes? If the answer to either of these is “no,” you risk losing out on new revenue opportunities and new customers.

You need to examine your business from a new angle to determine how you may be able to leverage blockchain transactions so will be able to securely expand across more IoT devices. Since blockchain is still a relatively new technology, working with a trusted consulting team with a solid reputation is recommended.

4.  Access to lower cost data connectivity through the cellular networks

You must still be conscious about power consumption in embedded applications if they are battery powered. Creating a low power device will become increasingly important. IoT consultants can assist with both a hardware and software design that is focused on reduced power usage.

5.  Home automation and IoT

Since there is no standard in the voice assistant market, you need to think about how your IoT devices will interact with any and all of the assistants on the market. Some factors to bear in mind are:

  • The greetings used for each voice assistant
  • The method of call-out
  • How your particular IoT device or application would best interact with voice assistants, which requires developing use case scenarios and testing with multiple voice assistants

6.  Increased efficiencies in industrial systems

To yield time and manpower savings, you must invest in the required embedded sensors and data collection devices. So you need to  understand how much data you want (and really need) to collect. You also need a strategy around how you will collect the data, and what you will do with it.

More data is not always the answer. You need to define a purpose for the data collection. Then you can properly determine the kind and volume of data required. Does a simple analysis provide the answers you need or is a more complex approach necessary? If you do not have in-house expertise on embedded sensors and IoT data analysis, this is the right time to work with an external team that can help you craft the right path so you don’t spend money in the wrong places.

As 2018 unfolds, IoT will increase its dominance in both the personal and business landscapes. The expectations of what you can and should deliver to your customers will continue to grow, making it essential that you stay educated on the top IoT trends. Investing in IoT is not going to be an option. Focus on deciding where you should devote the most resources to get the biggest ROI on IoT technology for your business.

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