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IoT: What to expect in 2020

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

It has traditionally been an incompatibility challenge, but these new integration services will be the missing glue that is required to help move businesses forward. The creation of relationships and communication across different solution providers represents maturation in the IoT market. New solutions will be coming to market, with each offering services from a number of best-in-class vendors, not just one and with defined integration point for data access and control.  New kids on the IoT block will take on this open and modular approach, and the larger and more established players will be further extending relationships with others, even rivals, to offer the best integrated ecosystem possible.

The term ecosystem has been a buzzword for a while when it comes to the IoT, but 2020 will see a surge of management platforms extending their capabilities to include integration services. The buyer is no longer the end user, but rather the systems integrator who has specific industry domain knowledge. We have all this hardware, all these operating systems and development frameworks; the challenge for the coming year is bringing all of this together to create new and useful vertical solutions, and taking these solutions to market quickly and risk-free.


Change from within

The more forward-thinking businesses have persons who are IoT champions within them; the problem is, they don’t tend to be always visible to executive management. They may be lower down in the organisation - they’re coming in and building and implementing early ground-breaking strategies, but taking it to the C-Suite is where it can unfortunately fall down. Senior management who are aligning success criteria solely based entirely on ROI, which may not come for several years, are creating challenges for these IoT champions to succeed.  New technologies take time to be accepted, and we’ll start to see the growth of more IoT roles in senior management roles in 2020. These roles will help bring the expertise and awareness to the executive level, helping remove the friction of understanding and managing this often misunderstood ROI expectation and constant roadblocker to funding new IoT innovator projects.


There are now more than three IoT devices for every person on earth, yet 785 million still do not have access to clean water. It’s an extraordinary state of affairs, and one that shows the disparity within emerging technologies in general, as well as the influence of vested interest. The desire for profit has driven IoT production and adoption, but it is the concentration of innovation and ownership in the hands of a select few that means connected solutions still fail industries outside of the traditional IT bubble.

As we move into 2020, and with humanitarian and environmental concerns taking centre stage across both the enterprise and society, IoT will begin to capture more diverse leaders, which in turn will help drive more universal applications of the technology. Take the example of Zipline, the company behind medicine delivery drones. Its ownership has a history of life outside of IT, whether that be in education or adventure sports, which has led to a world view not constrained by classic definitions of business success. It is the diversification of those that own innovation that will see IoT begin to branch out into the unexpected, and truly start to impact all industries in 2020.

IoT overlap

Data is not the issue; it hasn’t been for a while in fact. If anything, there is now a surplus of data out in the world, in a whole host of different environments. What we will see as we move into 2020 is the optimisation of this data, led predominantly by the convergence of multiple technologies under one harmonious solution. A new age of IoT productivity will arrive when device sensors, artificial intelligence and 5G come together, building on the specific expertise of each. Big chip manufacturers are all looking into developing smaller form factors, which can fit into any device anywhere, while networking - so often the bottleneck of IoT innovation - will be liberated with next-gen 5G wireless.

Edge intelligence, whereby inference and training models sit directly on top of devices, will mature in line with a growing number of IoT devices in the field, especially as organisations realise the wealth of data available to them. Until now, it has largely been transactional data that has powered the IoT. In 2020, however, it will be the turn of streaming and audio data to provide the bedrock for smarter devices, leading to more diverse connected applications.

Demystifying blockchain

Blockchain is still yet to be defined in true layman's terms: we’re still not seeing it impact people’s daily lives, in or out of the workplace. In 2020, it’s likely that the IoT will demystify some of the value associated with blockchain, although we shouldn’t expect it to result in wholesale changes to the enterprise, such is the priority for decision makers in justifying ROI.

A number of specialist businesses have indeed made headway with blockchain, but these tend to be within specific industries, such as finance, insurance or law. When it comes to the IoT, there are still major barriers to adoption because it incorporates such diverse use cases. It is believed that blockchain can tackle some of the ongoing challenges around IoT security, with an abundance of distributed devices mirroring the decentralised nature of blockchain. And yet, hype cycles are often inversely proportional to people’s understanding of technology. Rather than a silver bullet for IoT security, 2020 will see blockchain assist in the data integrity of connected devices. The purely digital nature of the ledger means it will likely fall short in future proofing physical devices wholeheartedly, although understanding of the technology will continue to mature further and impact IoT.

Tom Canning, Global VP of IoT, Canonical
Galem Kayo, IoT Product Manager

Tom Canning, Global VP of IoT.