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IoT in 2020 – A year to overcome major barriers

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

2020 is a year of immense possibility with an expected 20.4 billion IoT devices to be in existence this year. It is likely that we’ll continue to see a proliferation of consumer-focused devices being brought to market with new uses for tracking data and to improve day-to-day life.

However, if we look to the enterprise, it is potentially a different story. Costs, current political climates and security risks are a key concern for many businesses implementing 5G and IoT solutions. To be able to get the most out of the opportunity at hand, businesses need to understand what stands in their way and then work to develop strategies for getting around them.

Brexit will be one of the biggest drivers in IoT and 5G adoption in the UK

One of the key things for businesses to tackle is the looming – and now confirmed – deadline for the UK to leave the EU. Brexit brings a lot of uncertainty for British businesses, with new trading laws and even the potential for new cybersecurity regulations, as well as the new challenge of moving goods across newly erected borders. Because of this, businesses do have a huge opportunity to find new and innovative ways to make the movement of goods as fluid as possible.

It is within this, that I anticipate that we’ll see large amounts of investment that will drive the adoption of IoT and 5G. It is using these technologies that companies moving goods across borders can track and trace in real-time and with the highest levels of accuracy we’ve ever seen.  

Healthcare will be biggest IoT adopters but security will be a challenge

Security – as it has been in 2019 – will remain a huge challenge for both users and manufacturers of IoT devices. We’re still not at a point where we can confidently say that devices are secure by design so it’s crucial that we change this in 2020 if adoption is going to be a success.

Nowhere is this truer than in the healthcare sector. The cost of healthcare is rising globally and to tackle this, hospitals, GP surgeries and private clinics are looking to IoT to streamline processes to keep costs at a minimum. In 2019, it was reported that there were 2.79 million active connections in the European healthcare market, showcasing just how important IoT is to the industry already. However, by 2022, this number is predicted to grow to 6.05 million, meaning the global market share will be more than both the automotive and smart home markets. With this many devices live within one sector, a lot of ‘back doors’ are left potentially open to attack. With IoT used to manage everything from diseases to medication dosages to medical insurance, security flaws in devices could be potentially life threatening.

While IoT will boom in the healthcare sector over the next 12 months, it is crucial that the industry sits up and takes note of the looming threat that comes with more data on more devices. To mitigate the threat, the entire information supply chain in the sector should look to implement devices that have security within their foundations – while much investment will go into ensuring devices inside hospitals are secure, it is 3rd party flaws that will cause the biggest damage.

Cost will remain key barrier to 5G adoption but preparation will be important for reducing future costs

2019 saw the official launch of 5G across the UK but will we see a proliferation of the network in 2020? Perhaps in consumer channels, we’ll see far more use of 5G but in enterprise, it is still not commercially viable to implement 5G strategies. While there is sufficient drive for IoT service providers to invest in 5G, it is an expensive venture for businesses to introduce. This is because many businesses have IoT devices in place that still run on 2G and 3G networks because they do not require the super-low latency of 5G to operate effectively. If businesses still using these networks were to completely overhaul their IT to run on a 5G network, it would cost them millions in both upfront costs for this kind of connection as well as to replace devices that are too outdated to run on this network. Therefore, it’s unlikely we’ll see high levels of 5G adoption from traditional businesses over the next 12 months.

However, organisations do need to be aware of the emergence of these technologies and how they will impact business moving forward. For example, with more reliance on faster speed connections, it is likely that 2G and 3G will eventually be faded out of existence. Therefore, businesses need to look further into the future than just 2020, thinking about the sunset of devices they already have in existence and strategise with this in mind. If devices will last another 10 years, 5G should play a less important role until closer to the time, however, if these devices are set to need updating in 2 years, then the role of 5G becomes more important over the next year or so. This will be dependent on each business and each device but it’s vital that all organisations strategise to ensure when the time comes to moving away from 2G and 3G, they can do so cost-effectively.

2020 and beyond

While 2020 is likely to see more of what’s already come, it will also be a year to overcome some of our biggest barriers. Everything from security to high costs are affecting the impact IoT can have on industries but if we look to get these right over the next 12 months, we’ll see IoT use flourish further and more use cases making a real difference both across sectors and with consumers.

Mohsen Mohseninia, VP Market Development, Aeris