Updated: Jul 8, 2020
The current COVID-19 pandemic has strongly impacted the world economy. A majority of businesses, institutes and even entire industries are reeling under its effects. However, the IoT industry brings in a sliver of hope in these unprecedented times. Whether it's contact tracing, smart workplaces or touch-less public utilities, IoT has a strong role to play in our work life henceforth.
The ongoing research and development in core IoT domain in the pre-covid world coupled with the current need to operate businesses in the post-covid era has brought forth these top 7 IoT trends.
5G and Global Connectivity
5G comes with a promise of disrupting digital space by enabling billions of connected devices, high frequency transmission, ultra low latency and transmission speeds that are about 20 to 100 times faster than 4G. The IoT has been gaining higher grounds with the adoption of 5G.
The ubiquitous connectivity is going to empower IoT devices to converse with platforms and other devices with almost no latency. This realtime, streaming application of IoT can be deployed for mission critical systems and for mass deployments of connected devices.
While uncertainty looms, the future of work is at least partially imaginable. Working from home is here to stay but not all professions are conducive to remote working.
In the post pandemic world, to ensure a more productive and safe working environment, smart workplaces where touch-less washrooms, smart meeting rooms, occupancy indicators for buildings, accessible health services and process automation with robots would become a norm.
This would entail workspaces with biometric identity interfaces and contact free access mechanisms. The workplace of the tomorrow would need to remotely monitor the temperature of employees, manage gathering of people in common areas and track movement of workforce across facilities. Almost all such use cases would involve the use of IoT solutions. Smart Buildings and workplaces will become the need of the hour.
Edge Computing and Intelligence
Edge computing implies localized computing. With devices sending data at a massive scale in terms of both volume and velocity, storing all the data at a central database and then processing it, is counter productive. Edge is a storage and processing node, local to the devices, thereby, enabling lowest possible latency between data generation and decision making.
Edge computing also ensures data security as the raw data is processed on the device itself and only the inferences are transported to the backend. Although transport level security is ensured by SSL or TLS, data and identity theft is still a valid concern. Edge Intelligence does away with the need to transfer a lot of data across the network.
Most IoT platforms now also offer machine learning service on the edge. Massive investments by Cloud providers to enable more sophisticated edge capability is on the cards. The utility and therefore, the adoption of Edge Computing has been on the rise.
Solutions as a Service
IoT cloud providers like AWS and Azure are now offering more IoT solutions in SaaS model. So, it's not just infrastructure, platform and software components being offered but cloud providers have ventured into domain specific solutions like AWS Connected Vehicles, Cognizant’s RetailMate, Microsoft Azure's Connected Factory etc.
Point solution providers also offer their solutions complete with devices, platforms with data acquisition, storage, API and dashboards. As the IoT industry matures, individual components in the marketplace are being replaced by end to end solutions. Moving forward, this trend will only grow stronger.
IoT in Sustainability
Many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN can be effectively measured and achieved by employing IoT solutions. Some examples of the IoT use cases that can help build a more sustainable world are:
Measuring and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint of factories across the world
Smart Buildings with HVAC monitoring, smart lighting, leak detection and predictive maintenance all help in conserving energy while enhancing operational efficiency
Smart farming helps increase yield by enabling informed decision making based on measurement of temperature, soil moisture, sunlight and other external factors
Air quality and water quality measurements to make citizens and government aware of the health hazards in specific areas in cities and towns
IoT is going to be major contributor in achieving SDGs in the times to come. It's more pertinent now as the world opens its eyes, post the current pandemic, towards a safer and more sustainable world.
IoT enables data acquisition at high velocity and volume but the real value of data is in its analytical processing. Insightful decision-making is achieved by applying machine learning (ML) models on telemetry and events data from devices. Though artificial intelligence (AI) is at the early stages of adoption by the industry, its application on massive data produced by IoT devices is widely accepted.
Several organizations have adopted AI and ML as core strategic tools to gain competitive advantage. The post-covid world would need many more applications of AI with much less human interaction and that creates much more actionable insights.
Security has always been the most critical requirement and the biggest challenge in terms of IoT applications. Some of the security aspects are:
The device and data security is a prime concern to avoid unauthorized access to devices and to prevent tampering of data in transit and at rest.
Data compliance and residency is one of the most crucial necessity for all organizations to keep sensitive and person identifiable data within the boundaries of a country. Such data residency regulations are now followed by multiple cloud providers but many of their services are still not generally available in all geographical regions.
New frontier in infrastructure security is made possible with tools like Azure’s Confidential Computing. It involves the protection of data by securing the execution of code in hardware based Trusted Execution Environment.
Massive investments in IoT security are on the roadmap of all big corporations whether these are platform vendors or solution providers.
The above trends are going to be overarching in terms of applications of IoT now and in the post covid era. A plethora of innovative workplace patterns for offices, manufacturing units, retail outlets and education institutions would emerge. Many such scenarios would be made possible by IoT based ecosystems.