What’s Ahead for the IoT in 2020

Jeremy Prince

By Jeremy Prince, President at SigfoxUSA.

The year 2019 saw widespread adoption of the IoT. More houses are equipped with smart devices than ever before, businesses began realizing the benefit that data collected by IoT devices can have on their bottom line; new and innovative applications have come to light to make life easier across both enterprise and consumer applications.

In 2017, Gartner predicted that there would be 20.4 billion connected “things” in the year 2020. With all the new innovations that took place in the last calendar year, those working in the industry know this is not only within reach, but there is even more to look forward to in 2020. Here’s what companies can expect from the IoT in the year ahead:

IoT will increasingly connect the unconnectable

If the cost of an IoT solution doesn’t show a rapid enough return on investment, businesses will not adopt it. Historically, IoT devices have often fallen into this category. IoT solutions have been less-than-practical for many companies and use cases due to the high costs associated with device purchasing, installation and maintenance. This doesn’t take into account the costs of network subscriptions and roaming charges. These added costs make it difficult for companies to see a quick, adequate return on their investments.

However, in 2020 new and inexpensive IoT devices and more affordable installation, maintenance and network options will continue to expand. The IoT will also begin moving toward a more affordable model through an increased investment in expanding networks, especially low-power, wide area networks (LPWAN) such as Sigfox 0G, to make the IoT more broadly available across the globe. These networks will create a wider array of options and low-cost solutions that make adopting the IoT worth it for organizations of all sizes and needs. As a result, companies will be able to harness the benefits afforded through IoT-enabled insights.

IoT security will become paramount

As with data security, IoT security continues to be top of mind across the tech industry as well as within government. This conversation will continue to evolve and mature throughout 2020.

In order to evolve, weaknesses in current practices need to be exposed. We saw the maturation in data security only after data breaches occurred. Similarly, the need for more secure IoT devices and networks will only come about after a security breach has occurred that spurs widespread action and pushes IoT solution providers to develop new offerings to prevent and detect breaches more efficiently and effectively. There will also be conversations around affordable, value-based security for the IoT. The best and most high-tech solutions to prevent breaches are of no good for the expanding number of IoT users if only a few can afford them.

Federal and state regulations will contribute to the continued development of IoT security solutions. On January 1st, California will become the first state to have a law in place that requires all IoT devices sold in the state to have “reasonable cybersecurity measures” embedded in them. Over the course of the next year, we can expect other states, if not the federal government, to debate similar measures.

The IoT will drive better decision-making through AI and machine learning (ML)

Organizations will increasingly turn to the IoT to provide data to enable their AI and machine learning solutions. Data collection is a significant part of ensuring that AI and ML applications are producing accurate and insightful results, and too little data often results in failed AI projects or biased results.

To truly take advantage of the data available and allow smaller operations to get the same insights as larger corporations, IoT must be adopted on a large scale. The IoT generates massive amounts of data that can provide valuable insights into operations, asset managing and other aspects of a business – if leveraged correctly. When this data is fed into machine learning and AI-enabled models, insights are delivered that allow business leaders and executives to make more informed decisions about their organizations.

With new networks and cheaper IoT devices becoming increasingly prevalent in 2020, small companies can make scalable IoT a reality. With sensors costing as little as $1, businesses of all sizes will be able to collect more data than ever before – and therefore feed significant data into AI/ML models – driving more accurate decision-making.

IoT will drive smart city development

The idea of the smart city is not new. That said, most smart city applications to date have been focused on providing WiFi-based connectivity in as many locations as possible. This has enabled easy access to important information – such as the arrival of public transit – but does little to provide the in-depth information that most IoT-enabled systems are able to deliver. This is largely due to the high cost of WiFi. While WiFi connectivity does the job for connecting people, it is too costly and energy-intensive to be a viable network for IoT-connected devices, meaning that cities are often missing out on valuable insights that can truly make them smarter.

What’s Ahead for the IoT in 2020In 2020, municipalities and governments can turn to more affordable connectivity options that will allow them to deploy IoT devices on a larger scale around the city. Low powered, wide area networks, like the 0G network, are designed to connect simple, low-powered and low-cost IoT devices to the internet. Networks like these cover a wide area, but only uses small amounts of energy, making them perfect (and practical) for cities to take advantage of when introducing IoT on a larger scale. In the coming year, the expansion of IoT running on LPWAN will enable smart cities to expand and provide better city services – such as better management of trash collection or quicker detection of crime.

The IoT, and the networks that devices run on, are poised for growth and maturity in 2020. Through this expansion, the IoT will continue to improve enterprises and lives through valuable insights it provides to users. While there could be hiccups along the way as industry stakeholders navigate new market challenges and growth opportunities, 2020 will be the year IoT truly takes off on a wide scale – and everyone should be prepared to be a part of it.

IoT Tech Expo Global 2020, London (UK)

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