Cutting through the IoT hype in 2017

Businesses that can find real uses for IoT stand to gain a great deal this year.

Working at the heart of the IoT industry, you quickly get used to a lot of hyperbole about the future of technology for all kinds of uses. We know technologies like IoT have already, and will continue to, change society in dramatic ways – affecting every aspect of how we live and work.

However it is important to stay grounded when it comes to new technological trends, and Cisco Jasper wants to cut through the hype to talk about what we can actually expect from IoT in 2017. 

5G will need to get real about what it can and cannot do

5G is a technology that has well and truly been riding a wave of hype for a few years now. The proposition of increased bandwidth and flexibility, as well as lower power requirements, makes it easy to speculate on the range of IoT solutions 5G might be able to serve. 

But in 2017 the industry’s going to have to get real about what 5G can and cannot do. Of course 5G will be a distinct improvement on 4G, but it is simply not realistic for it to live up to all of the expectations being foisted upon it. 5G will indeed be perfect for some IoT applications, but equally some may actually be better served by other RAN technologies.   

We’ve been here before with 3G and LTE, where expectations were set so high only to lead to underwhelming experiences. To avoid this being repeated with 5G we need to focus on the practical realities and determine which wireless technologies, whether that be cellular or LPWAN or otherwise, will be best for different deployment scenarios.   

Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) will gain mainstream adoption in 2017

Like 5G, the future of LPWAN has been speculated on for a number of years, but in 2017 it is finally going to make its potential a reality and gain mainstream adoption across many industries. 

For years, cellular connectivity has been the primary transport for IoT due to its ubiquity, scalability and security. But as the number of services enabled by IoT devices continues to grow exponentially, many IoT applications have arisen that require long range and low-power capabilities. For example, a sensor that is deployed far out in rural areas to check oil tank levels needs to be able to operate on a tiny battery for years without replacement.    

This is where LPWAN comes in. For the past few years, a number of different standards have emerged to compete for LPWAN dominance. 3GPP has specified three LPWA technologies: EC-GSM-IoT, LTE MTC Cat M1 and NB-IoT. A large group of operators and infrastructure vendors have come together as the LoRa Alliance to promote the benefits of LoRaWAN. Additionally other mobile operators, along with companies like Salesforce and Intel Capital, have invested in SigFox.    

2017 will be the year where these LPWAN technologies start to gain traction, and which flavour of LPWAN technology gains the most ground will provide an indicator of where the winners and losers in LPWAN will fall. 

IoT will make AR/VR useful, not just a game 

A less obvious technology which will be deployed for IoT uses in 2017 is AR and VR. Currently, when most people think of AR and VR the uses that come to mind revolve around entertainment, and gaming in particular. VR devices such as Playstation VR and the Oculus Rift, as well as AR apps like Pokemon Go have captured many imaginations and headlines. But as we’ve already begun to see with some of these examples, AR and VR for entertainment can have a short lifespan, as the novelty offered by these technologies can quickly wear off.   

Thanks to IoT, one of the really useful applications for AR and VR technologies will actually be for industrial purposes, and one of the key use cases in 2017 will be in connected manufacturing and factory settings. For instance, when combined with IoT, AR and VR goggles will enable factory workers to view the health and operational efficiency of all connected robots and equipment. By looking at a robot, workers will be able to see if that machine is functioning properly, or whether it needs maintenance. Beyond manufacturing, we could also soon be seeing combined IoT and AR/VR solutions offering uses in a range of industries, from travel to healthcare and defence. 

Governments will step in to mandate higher IoT security

Unsurprisingly, cyberattacks have taken up plenty of headlines in 2016. But in recent months attacks involving IoT connected devices have also received a lot of attention. 

It would be misguided to say that these attacks mean that the IoT bubble is bursting. The IoT ecosystem has proved that it has the ability to adapt and overcome any number of challenges. However, what it does mean is that IoT will come under scrutiny from policymakers. The US Department of Homeland Security has already issued its 'Strategic Principles for Securing the Internet of Things (IoT)’ document in November, and we can expect governments in other countries to follow suit and mandate IoT security guidelines across industries in 2017.   

Governments are right to be concerned about security with IoT. As the number of connected devices continues to grow exponentially, we will see cyber criminals increasingly interested in exploiting these devices, with increasingly sophisticated and inventive types of attacks. Factoring in the expansion of IoT beyond business and into the realm of smart cities and connected government programs, it is obvious that governments will have an even bigger stake in making sure IoT security is watertight.   

Big IoT ata analytics will generate big revenue

These recent cyberattacks by no means threaten the massive potential IoT offers for revenue generation. IoT will continue to offer fresh opportunities for businesses in 2017, and the convergence with Big Data might just be the year’s biggest. 

As Big Data analytics evolves into a distributed analytics model, IoT data will become increasingly ripe for monetisation. Innovative businesses will take advantage of this by using devices capable of analysing data locally, before processing and capturing the most important data to provide new real-time IoT services. 

So, like 2016, 2017 will be a year of some challenges, but many more opportunities for IoT. Though with so much speculation across the industry and the wider media on IoT’s bright future, it will be those who can cut through the hype and find the real opportunities that will be able to really profit over the next year.   

Image Credit: Chesky / Shutterstock

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sanjay Khatri is Head of Platform Product Marketing at Cisco Jasper, the world’s largest IoT platform provider.