2019 will see the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming more deeply embedded in our day-to-day lives at home and at work. We may begin to hear the term itself used less frequently – but that’s because it’s moving out of the hype phase and quickly becoming a part of everyday life.
Soon, it will be taken for granted that pretty much any device we own – cars, TVs, watches, kitchen appliances can go online and communicate with each other. In industry too, tools and machinery are increasingly intelligent and connected, generating data that drives efficiency and enables new paradigms such as predictive maintenance to become a reality, rather than a pipe-dream. In fact, it is predicted that by the end of 2019 there will be 26 billion connected devices around the world.
Here are five predictions about how this is likely to play out over the next 12 months as we become increasingly used to the fact that the internet isn’t just something we connect to using computers and smartphones, but virtually anything we can think of:
Businesses will get serious about IoT
According to research by Forrester, businesses will lead the surge in IoT adoption in 2019, with 85% of companies implementing or planning IoT deployments this year.
IoT clearly offers huge benefits to businesses. Some examples we have seen in recent years include mannequins that can communicate with customers’ smartphones in retail environments, beaming information about products on display. Manufacturing, however, is the clear leader when it comes to IoT deployment. Here, throughout 2019, businesses will increasingly see the value in connected machinery that is capable of reporting every detail of its operating parameters and efficiency to other smart, connected devices. Predictive maintenance is something that has been promised for a while by tech evangelists but is currently only achieved by the biggest players who have invested heavily in IoT for several years now. With a growing understanding of when these solutions are (or aren't) useful, these solutions will start to trickle down to smaller organisations, that can be confident that their investments will pay off.
Devices will become more vocal
Just as the standard internet gave all of us a voice – the IoT will give everything we own a voice, too. We’re getting used to using our voices to control smart home devices such as Amazon’s Alexa hub, or Apple’s Siri. But 2019 will be the year that the rest of our possessions find their own voice. Virtually every car manufacturer is working on virtual assistants to help drivers more safely and conveniently operate vehicles while behind the wheel. And voice control (with natural-language driven feedback) will increasingly become an option for industrial and enterprise technology.
Voice control makes sense in many ways as it keeps our hands free to operate controls that still need manual input, and our eyes free to watch for hazards. It also represents a further removal of the barriers of communication between humans and machines. To start with we were entirely reliant on programming them with computer code, before user interfaces and graphical environments and dashboards began to be used, lowering the barriers to entry. Voice recognition and generation (known as natural language processing) is the logical next step towards making technology that anyone can use to work more effectively or improve their lives.
More computing moving to the edge
Edge computing refers to algorithms that are run at the "edges" of a network – usually at the point where the network touches the real world, such as within sensors and cameras themselves.
The fact is that a huge amount of data collected by these devices will be useless. A good example is a security camera – it may have to pass terabytes of video data to a central server, or cloud, but the only data of any importance will be the few megabytes showing suspicious or illegal activity.
When these devices are capable of carrying out their own computation, rather than dumbly passing information on to be processed in the cloud, networks become less clogged with traffic and more computing power is available for the important tasks. In the above example, image recognition algorithms running on hardware and software installed in the camera itself would analyse the footage for suspicious activity, and only useful video data would be passed on to the cloud for further processing and storage.
Artificial Intelligence will increasingly drive IoT development and deployment
Artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT are closely related areas of technology. The IoT is useful and powerful because of the enormous amount of data that it generates. When you have hundreds or thousands of machines all talking to each other in an industrial network, analysing the mountains of data that are created is beyond the ability of humans. Training machine learning algorithms to spot outliers in the data that could indicate opportunities for efficiency, or provide early warning of an upcoming problem, is the primary task of AI within an IoT environment.
As IoT networks increase in size and complexity, they will become increasingly reliant on new developments in AI and machine learning. AI also has a huge part to play in keeping IoT systems secure, through automated threat detection systems.
5G networks will broaden the scope and availability of IoT
This year should see the switching-on of the first consumer-ready 5G networks, that could operate up to 20 times faster than existing mobile data networks. IoT is reliant on speed and availability of data services, and today there are still many locations that are effectively “dark” when it comes to smart, connected tech, due to a lack of availability of these services.
With mobile networks that are even faster and more stable than the cable networks we’re used to connecting to in our homes and offices today, the scope of IoT projects can broaden dramatically. Ideas such as the “smart city” – where civic amenities are networked and the data analysed to create cleaner, more efficient urban living environments – become more viable. The technology used by self-driving, autonomous cars, and public transport vehicles will also greatly benefit from the increased bandwidth available.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.