The Internet of Things has been the most talked about topic in the past two years. Just as we step into 2017, let’s look at some of the major trends that IoT drove in 2016, and how they can shape the future of how we use IoT.

It has been an exciting year in the enterprise technology space. Cloud computing gained momentum, network technologies became more advanced and data analytics became a game changer for both big and small organisations. But one technology that stole the spotlight is the Internet of Things (IoT), especially because of the plethora of use cases it promises to deliver across industries.

 

Immense Potential of the IoT Market

According to a businessinsider.com report, 34 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020, up from 10 billion in 2015. Out of which, 24 billion will be IoT devices, while traditional computing devices (like smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, etc) will comprise 10 billion.

The report also highlighted that nearly $6 trillion will be spent globally on IoT solutions over the next five years and businesses will be the biggest adopters of IoT solutions.

Gartner claims that manufacturing, utilities and transportation industries will be the top three verticals using IoT. All together, they will have 736 million connected things in use. The research firm also believes that by 2020, the ranking will change with utilities in the number one spot, manufacturing will be second and the government will be third, totalling 1.7 billion IoT units installed.

A Statista.com report highlighted that the global wearable device market (this includes gadgets like smartwatches, fitness and health trackers, or even smart jewellery and smart clothing), will reach a value of around $53.2 billion in 2019, more than ten times its value in 2014.

The home automated system market, another IoT vertical, has grown significantly in the past year. By 2020, the global smart home market has been expected to grow to nearly $60 billion. The use of IoT will be extended to all types of buildings, as well as to the automotive industry. This creates not only smart homes, but also smart cars, smart offices, and eventually smart cities.

IoT Trends in 2016

While it’s true that IoT has reached the peak of its hype cycle in 2016, it’s also true that without robust connectivity, seamless storage, analytics and high levels of security, the potential of this disruptive technology may remain unrealised. Keeping this in mind, let’s look at some of the major trends that dominated the IoT ecosystem in 2016.

1. The Need for a Robust Network and Connectivity Increased

A major challenge for IT decision makers in 2016, was how to effectively manage downtime. As businesses today are heavily dependent on connected devices, even a small instance of downtime can cause severe damage. Now, we can only imagine the repercussions of a downtime in the IoT era.

According to a Cisco report, IoT will generate a staggering 400 zettabytes (ZB) of data a year by 2018, up from 113.4ZB a year in 2013. The traditional networks that have been serving Singapore business and government organisations might not be able to shoulder such enormous volumes of traffic. Hence, there is an urgent need for businesses—which are planning to implement IoT or those that have already implemented it—to embrace networks powerful enough to process increasingly heavy traffic without causing costly downtimes.

High-speed broadband connectivity and software-defined-networks will play a crucial role in strengthening the IoT network ecosystem.

2. Security and Privacy Concerns Intensified

In October 2016, a series of IoT-based DDoS attacks disrupted legitimate internet activity across the US. And what’s worse, was that it lasted for hours. Gartner in a recent report highlighted that by 2020, more than 25 percent of identified enterprise attacks will focus on gaining entry through IoT devices.

So, when it comes to IoT, security can be a massive challenge. Since a large part of IoT embodies machine-to-machine communication, it may so happen that human intervention—when transmitting data from one device to another–will be reduced to a bare minimum. But if security standards are not up to the mark, even a small breach in the data flow process can cause immense reputation and financial damage for both businesses and individuals.

Organisations that are gradually embracing IoT-driven technology must be extremely proactive when it comes to deploying security threads across the IoT ecosystem. Endpoint security, encryption, domain locking and enterprise grade firewalls will be the major keepers of IoT.

Privacy is another area of concern when it comes to IoT. Organisations, especially government bodies, need to be very careful when it comes to storing and accessing data that concerns their citizens. In this case, proper legal guidelines when handling sensitive data can be of great use.

3. Growing Significance of the Cloud

According to marketsandmarkets.com, the IoT cloud platform market is estimated to grow from USD1.88 billion in 2016 to USD 7.15 billionby 2021. And this spike, from 2016 onwards, looks viable as we know that IoT and cloud computing are inseparable.

As mentioned earlier, IoT and all associated technologies will generate immense amounts of data that need to stored, managed and analysed seamlessly. And building capabilities to do that within an enterprise or organisation can be financially taxing for businesses. That’s where the cloud comes in.

For instance, data generated by IoT sensors can be easily uploaded and stored in the cloud so it can be used intelligently to deliver prompt actionable insights for greater business benefits. Applications are another significant aspect of IoT, and switching to the cloud will enable organisations to access apps on-demand from anywhere and anytime.

4. Analytics is a Game Changer

Analytics became a competitive differentiator for businesses in 2016. From providing customer insights to saving costs, analytics is definitely proving its worth, and more so with IoT.

IoT is all about data. But without analysing the data generated by IoT devices, no business goals can be achieved. That’s why there’s a need to deploy robust analytics tools. IoT, coupled with analytics, can provide immense opportunities for Singapore business.

In Singapore, we’re always looking for new innovative agricultural methods due to the scarcity of land. In this respect, analytics (and by extension IoT), can prove to be invaluable. By analysing data generated by drones or sensors placed in agricultural zones, it may be possible for farmers to receive real-time updates on the health of crops and weather patterns. Through this data, agriculturalists can make split-second decisions that decide the survival of their crops.

For enterprises, analysing data generated by IoT devices can significantly enhance employee health and safety tracking, vehicle tracking, product lifecycle management and inventory. It can also make the process of tracking inbound and outbound shipments more efficient. Car insurance companies can analyse behavioural data of drivers (like frequency of travel, average speed etc.) and offer customised plans accordingly.

To recap, the growing momentum of IoT adoption has had a significant impact in major areas like network, connectivity, security, privacy, cloud and analytics. In the enterprise, IoT also played a crucial part. Here are two major business trends that IoT drove this year, and will continue to do so as we step into 2017.

 

Acquisitions are now a Norm

With the rise of IoT adoption worldwide, large organisations with a strong play in the IoT market have left no stone unturned, when it comes to buying smaller businesses that promise to enhance their existing IoT solutions. Here are five of the most noteworthy IoT acquisitions of 2016:

► Cisco Acquired Jasper In February 2016, networking giant Cisco announced that it would buy Jasper Technologies, a cloud-based platform provider for IoT.

► Microsoft Acquired Solair In May 2016, Microsoft bought Solair, an Italian company that offered IoT services to industries like manufacturing, food and beverage, transportation and retail.

► Nokia Acquired Withings Nokia Technologies, in May 2016, bought Withings SA to establish new businesses in the connected health space.

► SoftBank Acquired ARM To give a major push to its IoT drive, SoftBank, a telecommunications and internet company, acquired chip designer ARM in July 2016.

► Sony Acquired AltairSony, in February 2016, acquired Altair, a company that makes chips which connect devices to trackers and sensors, in a bid to build a robust and responsive IoT ecosystem

 

Increase in Business Partnerships

As IoT involves networks, analytics, sensors, storage, security and more, providing an end-to-end IoT solution is almost impossible for any single organisation. Hence, this has resulted in large businesses partnering with other companies to deliver well-rounded IoT solutions.

Top tech companies like IBM, Dell, Intel and many others have already started to expand their supplier network. And in the coming years, we can expect more of such partnerships aimed at driving IoT to become a more mainstream technology.

These are some of the major IoT trends that have dominated the technology space in 2016. Some of these are still work-in-progress while others have already started taking a concrete form. As we progress into 2017, we are sure to witness more disruptive technology and business trends driven by IoT.