The IoT, along with AI, machine learning (ML) and cloud technology, has been one of the most important trends in everything concerning high-tech over the past few years. It has been developing at breakneck speeds since the very moment of its inception, often rapidly changing directions and taking new and unexpected forms. Nevertheless, experts have ways of predicting how it is going to grow, and in this article, we will cover the most important trends to look out for in 2019.
So far, the IoT has mostly been a prerogative of companies offering connected devices. Smart houses filled to the brim with connected technology anticipating the owner's every whim have been the pinnacle of what could have been achieved in terms of smart environments. However, we already see the first efforts to broaden such environments to entire cities. So far these applications are relatively simple – for example, Cary, North Carolina, uses the IoT to track the condition of its traffic lights. If they go out, the system notifies utility companies so that they can immediately dispatch a technician to solve the problem, minimizing the problem for the citizens. In the near future, we are likely to see more ingenious applications of such kind.
Growing security concerns
Undoubtedly, the IoT makes for incredibly comfortable and convenient living environments when used as a part of smart houses and smart cities, as it takes upon itself many tasks that people are used to performing manually. However, growing reliance on digital systems leads to new challenges and dangers. In the past, a malware infection meant just lost or compromised data, which is unpleasant but firmly belongs to the world of information. The emergence of the IoT means that virus or ransomware infection can easily spill over into the real world, disabling or taking under its control vital functions and services. And it is not an image out of a cyberpunk movie, as these things already do happen – like in Atlanta in March 2018, when ransomware crippled the city's water services and ticket payments. Therefore, everyone working in the IoT space is going to pay greater attention to its security aspects as the year continues.
People have been using wearable devices for hundreds of years, but only over about the last decade, they became truly smart. Smartwatches take the lead both in terms of capabilities and explosive growth as they are expected to ship 149.5 million units in 2021 (compared to 61.5 million in 2017), according to the IDC. Most of them remain purely functional devices, but many fashion brands and elite watch manufacturers are beginning to build in connectivity into their watches as well. Perhaps so far they do not belong to the same category as, let us say, Cartier watches, but they are likely to permeate all spheres of our life, including luxury brands.
Connected devices implemented in stores already provide valuable insights for their owners, and in 2019, we are likely to see these applications growing more diverse and ingenious. For example, smart lighting devices, video feeds and Wi-Fi enabled foot traffic-monitoring software allows store owners to collect information about how customers move about their shop, how much time they spend in each of its aisles and how they interact with products on display. After studying this data, retailers can change the way they lay out their merchandise and how much of it they put on display or even alter their store layouts to optimize them according to customer behavior.
The rise of 5G
5G networks are the next step in the development of cellular mobile communications, but their spread will mean much more than just a faster internet connection for your smartphone. With their extremely high speeds, they offer a host of new possibilities for the IoT, allowing for the degree of connectivity that was impossible with previous standards. Through them data can be collected, analyzed and managed in real time, almost without delays, significantly broadening potential IoT applications and opening a path to further innovations.
While cloud tech will retain its importance, 2019 is likely to see the shift from centralized and cloud to edge architectures, providing numerous new options for IoT. Edge computing means that data is stored in micro-centers rather than in a single cloud, offering a cheaper, faster and more efficient approach to data processing. Part of the data is stored locally with a corresponding IoT device to be immediately available on demand, decreasing the stress on the network and the necessary bandwidth.
Of course, taking into account the rapidly evolving nature of the IoT it is impossible to claim that exactly these trends are going to be the most important and high-profile in 2019 – but so far everything speaks in their favor, and we are likely to see many fascinating new developments involving them.