For several years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been a key trend involving the transfer of data to and from cloud-connected sensors and the software that enables companies to perform analytics on that data.
Gartner Research projects the number of connected things will reach 14.2 billion in 2019 and 25 billion by 2021. In addition, Gartner predicts the price of IoT sensors will come down in 2019, which will enable more companies to use them to gain insights into healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and other industries.
Ironically, a burgeoning IoT trend I bumped into several times while researching this article concerns not the technology but the name. For how much longer will we all be using the term “IoT”? There’s been actual work done on this issue.
For example, Forrester Research predicts that the term “IoT” will be replaced in favor of other, more descriptive phrases to describe the process.
“Basically, the term is too generic and confusing,” Frank E. Gillett, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester, told PCMag. “We think terms like ‘connected product’ or ‘connected operations’ will rise. That, plus more specific use case terms like ‘predictive maintenance,’ ‘condition-based monitoring,’ and ‘cold chain monitoring,’ will be used because they are specific and descriptive.”
Rebecca Wettemann, Vice President of Research at Nucleus Research, agreed about the limitations of the current “IoT” terminology. She thinks we should be “moving beyond the buzzwords around IoT and actually making it have practical value for a business.”
Whatever happens to the name, IoT technology is developing at a breakneck pace and everyone agrees that it will continue to do that throughout 2019. Here are eight specific IoT technology trends you should look for in 2019.
MDM Will Protect the IoT From Ransomware
Security is always a concern with the IoT, and this became top of mind for the city of Atlanta when it suffered a ransomware attack in March 2018 that seriously affected ticket payments and water services, in effect crippling the city. A hacker demanded $51,000 to unlock the infected systems or $6,800 per unit.
Experts predict more ransomware attacks could hit smart city projects, and cities will need to invest in security to combat these threats. These types of attacks pose a threat to smart lighting, traffic controls, and public transportation, according to Forrester.
The IoT Will Enable Smart Cities
Many cities have been developing IoT services as part of smart city initiatives. Cary, North Carolina uses IoT data to connect traffic lights to Salesforce’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform in order to alert utility companies if the traffic lights go out.
San Diego, California uses intelligent lighting and automated street meters. Current, powered by GE(GE’s IoT platform) enables the smart city implementations in San Diego and incorporates “CityIQ,” an intelligent node that is embedded with multiple sensors.
“We’re seeing a reasonable pickup in smart city projects,” said Dan Hushon, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at DXC Technology. The rollout of 5G networks could provide a boost to smart city implementations such as parking meters, plus draw less battery power from the devices, according to Hushon. (Image credit: GE)
IoT Technology Will Keep Food Safer
The IoT also provides insights to improve food safety. In one example, cold food storage operator Lineage Logistics, which offers hybrid cloud platforms, is working with ndustrial.io and AT&T to keep food safe.
Smart meters from industrial.io as well as approximately 1,000 sensors with connectivity from AT&T Internet of Things help companies measure temperature and humidity in cold storage facilities.
Expect to see more implementations like this in 2019. As part of this effort, Lineage Logistics helps optimize energy management in food storage settings. AT&T helps with using sensors and data to gain insights. Companies can use heating maps, alerts, and reports to see data on the temperature and environment in food storage facilities to ensure food safety.
More IoT Data Will Be for Sale
In 2019, companies will continue to sell IoT data in a practice called “infonomics,” Gartner predicts. According to Gartner, this practice of selling data will be an important component of many IoT systems by 2023.
Appliance manufacturing companies may sell IoT data not only for the additional revenue but also to prove, through predictive maintenance and IoT network management data, that their products work well.
For instance, data could be mined from smart water sensors, which can detect problems such as leaks. That information could then be sold to manufacturers or service firms for use in sales and digital marketing campaigns.
IoT Will Play a Bigger Role in Helpdesk and CRM
IoT data will be increasingly used to help automate customer service, and by extension, sales efforts through customer relationship management(CRM) software. A basic scenario will be an IoT device notifying companies when they sense customers are having a problem. This could work not only for appliance-style products but also utilities, such as cable service.
The IoT device could alert the utility’s service desk software before the customer even knows to report it. From there, the IoT data can be fed into the company’s CRM software and used to fuel sales discussions down the road. Integrations such as this are easy with products supporting effective application programming interfaces (APIs), such as Zoho CRM.
“I think CRM is an ideal place to take advantage of the IOT,” said Nucleus’ Wettemann. “With field service and service itself being such a differentiator for companies, there’s real value there.”
IoT Will Simplify Preventive Maintenance in Manufacturing
One of the best ways to gain benefits from the IoT is when sensors provide guidance about problems with machinery before a field service technician gets to work on-site.
Preventive maintenance is advancing rapidly, so we’ll see more of this in 2019. Smart factories are an area in which preventive maintenance plays a role; workers rely on wearable devices that provide insights into safety and factory conditions.
“In the manufacturing space, we see a lot of smart factory-type deployments nowadays, where we have wearables for maintenance where they’re connected to mobile devices. It’s to make more effective use of time, make more effective use in terms of safety, and get feedback from the factory floor,” said Taher Behbehani, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Mobile B2B Division at Samsung Electronics America(SEA).
“Essentially, in the old days, there was a barrier between the factory floor and management, the control center. And that [barrier] is now removed by having the wearables deployed throughout the factory and worn by employees.” (Image credit: SEA)
IoT Will Improve Workforce Management
Beacons have been around for years to help companies send targeted messages to consumers’ smartphones. But now, with the costs coming down on the devices, they can help with workforce management as well. Beacons can even take the place of time sheets or clocking in, Wettemann noted.
With beacons becoming more economical, more companies will begin to implement them this year, predicts Nucleus’ Wettemann. “Beacons have gone way down in terms of cost, so we’re not talking about being as cost prohibitive as they used to be,” Wettemann said. Organizations can also use beacons to monitor employees to ensure they are using the right safety gear.
This could benefit the health care industry as beacons can monitor doctors and nurses in a hospital, making sure they’re following proper procedures regarding medical health records or using the right medical equipment, Wettemann noted.
IoT Will Power Smart Stores
Stores are getting smarter than ever, with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags providing key insights on product inventory. Smart lighting can also tell stores how long customers linger in a certain aisle or interact with products on the shelves.
Current, powered by GE is one product that offers this type of functionality. After analyzing the data from store video and Wi-Fi-enabled foot traffic-monitoring software, retailers can make adjustments to merchandise amounts or store layouts. Even general-use business intelligence (BI) software, such as Microsoft Power BI, can provide these types of insights.