In 2017, we saw forward-thinking enterprises and organizations, including manufacturers, retailers, cities, farms and utility companies, finding new ways to incorporate the IoT into their digital transformation strategies. Yet, as organizations work to scale these initiatives, many are facing challenges that are either slowing the implementation and expansion of their IoT applications or are preventing them from maximizing their value.
For example, many IoT applications, such as smart meters, e-health devices, vehicle telematics and consumer wearables, require constant, reliable connectivity in remote or challenging environments. This means improving network coverage for these devices without sacrificing battery power. In addition, the massive amount of data collected by these devices presents a challenge. How can enterprises protect data from cyberattacks and quickly analyze it to uncover valuable insights?
As we have seen before with the IoT, new challenges yield new solutions. In 2018, we expect that the following three developments (plus a fourth to keep your eye on) will help address these challenges and further accelerate adoption of the IoT by enterprises around the world.
Broad Adoption of LPWA Will Enable Cost-Effective Scaling of IoT Applications
Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) mobile IoT technologies (LTE-M and NB-IoT) make it possible to deploy smaller, lower-power and more cost-effective devices.
LPWA reduces overall cost by more than 50 percent and power consumption by more than 75X. As a result, it provides a global networking solution for a host of previously cost-prohibitive or technically unfeasible smart city, smart grid, agricultural and other IoT applications, while still being compatible with the future rollout of 5G and other new technologies. Plus, enterprises that choose standards-based LPWA technology based on the 3GPP governing body for cellular will benefit from faster IoT application development, testing and deployment.
LPWA also delivers a five to 10X improvement in coverage and will support up to a million users per square kilometer – making it possible for enterprises to deploy IoT applications in areas where cellular coverage was previously unreliable or unavailable. Some modules even offer 2G fallback to ensure connectivity in locations where LPWA networks are not yet fully deployed.
Enterprises are rapidly adopting LPWA, and we expect to see a variety of new, large-scale applications introduced in 2018 that use LPWA, whether on the shop floor, in fuel pipelines, farm fields, city streets or the electric grid.
Greater Adoption of IoT Security Best Practices
Headline-screaming cyberattacks are increasing enterprise and consumer concerns regarding the security of IoT devices. A compromised IoT device can allow an attacker to not only disrupt or disable the device itself, but also attack networks and systems connected to the device and potentially gain access to sensitive, proprietary data.
The IoT industry is responding. In 2018, we expect security to become a primary IoT project design factor, with enterprises making it a priority to deploy the latest security technologies and adopt security best practices. We are already seeing the entire industry collaborate more with key government cybersecurity agencies and industry organizations, such as the United States Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) and the Industry Consortium for the Advancement of Safety on the Internet (ICASI).
Though increased use of IoT security technologies and closer collaboration with government agencies and industry organizations is critical, greater awareness of the best practices for increasing IoT endpoint security is among the most important – and effective – security developments. The technology to ensure IoT applications are well secured only works if all members of the IoT ecosystem – from vendors and service providers to end users – adopt best practices. For example, companies should immediately deploy firmware updates from authorized sources, ensure that their devices run only authentic code, reduce attack surfaces by removing unnecessary code and turning off unnecessary services, and implement layered, end-to-end, in-depth defense strategies.
AI Gets Cozy with IoT
For many applications, especially as they scale, an increasingly urgent consideration is how to analyze all the data being collected. For example, in a medical treatment environment, the data collected about a patient is important not only for the patient’s treatment, but also in detecting health trends related to, for example, treatment effectiveness and epidemics. In the trucking industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently recommended that fleets employ telematics systems to report information on driver behavior, including speed and safety. These systems, such as the one employed by NetraDyne, must record numerous driver interactions, analyze issues in real time and instantly report back to fleet managers.
AI and machine learning are the technologies driving this capability. As organizations use LPWA technology to cost-effectively scale IoT data collection, they will also increase deployment of AI technologies that can analyze all that data. While these technologies require tremendous computing resources, the adoption of cost-effective in-memory computing platforms is enabling businesses of all sizes to rapidly scale AI applications that require real-time and near real-time processing.
Looking Ahead To 5G
While these developments will have the greatest immediate impact, enterprises evaluating and experimenting with 5G will likely have a significant effect on the market in 2019 and beyond. 5G brings impressive new capabilities and 10X more radio spectrum. For the first time, the new wireless generation offers true co-existence with the previous one – 4G LTE, LTE-M and NB-IoT.
As 5G moves steadily towards implementation, we expect many companies to start considering how to make use of the ability of 5G New Radio (5G NR) to deliver high bandwidth over short distances with applications that go beyond fixed wireless broadband, such as location-specific, super high-bandwidth video or other applications for stadiums, malls and other facilities. Meanwhile, enterprises deploying LPWA applications will examine how various enhancements found in backward compatible 5G LTE might enable them to expand the capabilities of these applications down the road.
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