Five trends that will shape the next decade in IoT (Vodafone on 2022 – and beyond)
Eighteen months ago, in the middle of the first COVID-19 wave, we launched a study to learn more about how businesses were using IoT. We sought to discover if IoT was helping them cope with the unprecedented challenges caused by the global pandemic. The findings were remarkable: almost all organisations deemed IoT essential for business success and a guarantee for operational continuity during periods of disruption.
As another year starts, people and organisations are still dealing with the uncertainty and upheaval caused by COVID-19, and IoT is still helping them to adapt, recover and thrive. IoT adoption has surged dramatically; Gartner predicts 47 percent of businesses are planning to increase their IoT investments.
Society is also benefitting. From vaccine distribution to greener grids, IoT has become one of the main platforms for the next phase of the ‘new normal’.
Even though the current crisis is far from over, I am very optimistic about the future. Organisations have access to an unprecedented range of innovative solutions to make better, more informed decisions, improve their operational efficiency and create more inclusive and sustainable products for their customers. Digitalisation, which the pandemic made a strategic necessity, has now become central to national efforts to ‘build back better’.
IoT has proven its mettle over the past years, and there is much more to come as businesses and society unleash the potential of the internet of things. This is my take on the five key trends that will shape the next decade in IoT.
1 | IoT will be an operational asset
According to Transforma Insights, the total number of IoT connections will grow from 9.4 billion in 2020 to 27.8 billion in 2030. This doesn’t just signal a surge in adoption; it also indicates an increase in reliance, and as more processes are automated, connectivity becomes as critical as electricity. This means IoT is no longer simply a technology; it’s now an operational asset on which businesses rely to manufacture, deliver and support their products and services.
2 | 5G will make IoT autonomous
5G will open up a new set of use cases for IoT that require real-time control. Today, IoT use cases are focused on information about the location and condition of devices. However, the combination of high bandwidth, low latency, high capacity and quality-of-service which comes with 5G makes the network deterministic – that is to say, guaranteed and reliable.
As a result, the next-generation connectivity adds a third use case for IoT – control – allowing devices to be operated from a distance or run autonomously. Looking forward, 5G will make the controlling of remote devices, haptic sensing and virtual reality (VR) a reality. And in the next 10 years, 5G will unleash the potential of IoT to power autonomous vehicles, remote surgeries, green smart grids and much more.
3 | IoT ‘hyperscalers’ will emerge
As adoption and reliance on IoT increases, so does users’ expectation for service quality; customers today expect their Internet of Things solution not just to perform, but to perform consistently, reliably and predictably. Therefore, the value of IoT is no longer in the ‘technical build’ but in the ‘operational run’, and customers will demand not only high levels of technical reliability but also performant support.
For organisations relying on IoT, an ultra-fast network is pointless if not underpinned by a support infrastructure that can perform to the same standards. This means the role of IoT providers and the conversation with customers will change as users start to demand holistic solutions from their suppliers that meet their technical, operational and support requirements.
4 | LPWA IoT will be a game-changer
As hardware continues to shrink and become more power-efficient, the new low-power wide-area (LPWA) IoT networks like NB-IoT and LTE-M will make IoT accessible to new use cases that require low cost and long lifetime connected devices. These LPWA technologies will be a game-changer for businesses and society over the next decade.
5 | IoT will drive sustainability
The worldwide lockdowns due to the global pandemic caused carbon emissions to decline by an estimated 2.4 billion tonnes in 2020, which taught organisations and governments an important lesson: if you don’t use it, or use it less, you reduce your impact. By using IoT, organisations get greater insight, can identify and eliminate wastage and can monitor and track their performance against their sustainability goals.
Whether this is improving drivers’ behaviour to reduce fuel consumption, minimising the amount of raw materials wasted in production or energy use, IoT offers the means to measure, control and optimise processes. IoT also provides the eye and ears for sustainability thanks to devices to monitor the environment, so this data can be used to target and drive sustainable change.
At its core, IoT is an optimisation tool: something organisations seek and implement to achieve efficiency via the use of data. And it’s these efficiencies that organisations can tap into to become more sustainable, making better use of resources and driving out waste.