Nearly 15 years ago, GE announced that it would connect refrigerators to the Internet. The collective yawn could be heard around the world. Fast forward to 2016, and it would seem that businesses and consumers alike are waiting with anticipation for what will be connected to the Internet next.
Disruption has become the new “normal.” As soon as we get used to technology limitations, someone, somewhere makes a breakthrough and changes how we live, work, and play. First, we connected to each other via email, chat, and groups. Then came smarter phones that became less phone and more computer. Some devices, like fit bands, have become a mainstay of every-day living. Others came and went faster than the one-hit-wonders of the 80s.
Bridget Karlin, VP of Intel’s IoT Insights division recently said, “We’re becoming a smart and connected world.” We’re not quite the Jetsons yet, but Ms. Karlin’s words ring true, and there are observable trends around IoT successes. Here are 6 IoT trends you’re not going to want to miss.
The widespread proliferation of wearables.
In 2013, the overwhelming adoption of fitness wearables took the world by storm. According to a Business Insider study last year, wearable fitness devices will reach nearly 163 million devices sold by the year 2020 with a continued, compounded annual growth rate of 24.8%. Furthermore, it’s estimated that fitness bands and smart watches will combine forces to produce smart bands that offer all the features you want and need right there on your wrist in a single device.
The concept of smart wearables presents a significant challenge to IT development. Just when we thought we mastered the art of responsive design, the hardware market disrupted everything we thought we knew. These tiny screens have the capacity to deliver customized data in real time, but they also offer a host of new development and integration challenges for developers. In order to understand the emerging complexities of micro-screen wearables, IT professionals need to embrace these devices by becoming early adopters and pioneers of new development practices geared toward their advancement.
Industrial IoT that revolutionizes business practices.
Most consumers think of the Internet of Things as a largely consumer-focused initiative. While it’s true that consumers are increasingly more open to the idea of smart refrigerators and self-driving cars, the industrial sector is also taking a hard look at how IoT can assist in automation, inventory management, trend tracking, security, and more.
Recently, Intel teamed up with Levi to create a system that actively tracked RFID tags throughout the store. The resulting system, which used GPS integration to geo-locate any item in the system, allowed associates to quickly find misplaced or improperly shelved items in order to assist with accurate inventory management and customer request fulfillment. As a side benefit, the system tracked customer movement around the store, and provided accurate metrics around item popularity.
Industrial IoT isn’t limited to the retail sector. Automotive, manufacturing, healthcare, government, travel & leisure, publishing – just about every industrial sector is seeking new best-practices for interconnecting systems in order to improve efficiency and increase customer satisfaction. In April of 2016, Samsung released their ARTIK cloud services, promising open data exchange for any device, in any industry, for any capacity.
Collaboration is not just encouraged; it’s required.
From the ancient era of smoke signals, carrier pigeons, and message runners, collaboration across distances has been critical to shaping world history. Technology has evolved everything from data storage to processing power to communication methods, improving the potential for increased speed, accuracy, and immediacy of collaboration. And yet, we still use fax transmissions – a 150-year-old technology – as a primary form of communication in some industry sectors. What gives?
According to experts at Samsung, collaboration and the Internet of Things go hand-in-hand. Not only do their technologists insist that collaboration is required to bring the IoT ideals to both the consumer and industrial markets, but they have made it clear that devices must reinforce collaboration by opening communication channels themselves. It’s no longer a world where we use devices to communicate – rather, we are entering an era where the devices themselves initiate and facilitate communication and collaboration.
As technologists, it’s critical that we rethink our old collaboration models, break free of our own assumptions, and realize that we are able to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any given time thanks to the breakthroughs in connectivity that are cresting the horizon. In the Levi example above, the devices in the IoT-enhanced retail store communicate with one another, allowing for immediate data transfer, reduced confusion, and increased productivity. And Samsung’s ARTIK promises open collaboration regardless of platform. It’s time for all of us to jump on board, because none of us works in a silo anymore.
Smarter systems yield superior user experiences.
In April 2016, Facebook announced the launch of its Bot engine, which spawned a series of Internet chatter ranging from giddy excitement and gushing possibilities to foreboding warnings of SkyNet and The Matrix. However, the Messenger Bot of Facebook was developed in keen response to IBMs Watson AI and Microsoft’s Project Adam. All of these platforms promise adaptive learning systems that continually improve their own performance and consumer experience based on observation.
Whether these systems are used to enhance human-to-computer interactions, automate systems, or customize user interfaces based on observed behavior, one thing is clear: AI is here to stay, and it is a required consideration for any future software development effort. As technology professionals, we need to realize how and where AI can and should play into our designs. Computers are going to start adapting themselves to our patterns and actions, and we, as technologists, must embrace this emerging reality.
Consumer IoT that is mostly convenience-driven.
There is a product on the market that will text you when one of your bathrooms is low on toilet paper. No joke. Amazon has a line of “Dash” buttons that can be pushed to auto-order everything from razors to laundry soap. Your phone and your car can communicate with one another to make sure you don’t get lost.
The convenience-device trend is on the rise. While some of these IoT devices seem like novelties that probably won’t stand the test of time, innovators are throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. Go poke around any of the inventor sites or crowd-funding sources and see what’s in the works. There’s even a dedicated site for IoT crowd funding: iot.do.
From smart homes that integrate with your smart watch, to golf clubs that monitor your swing and keep performance metrics, to toothbrushes that inform you by text if your children are neglecting their hygiene, there is literally an IoT-enabled device for just about everything. When working in technology, it’s important to keep up on which of these devices are gaining traction so that we’ll know what market sector is going to experience the next major disruption. It’s best to stay ahead of that curve so that our designs remain as future-proofed as possible.
In the heat of advancement, safety is paramount.
With great power comes great responsibility. When your home, car, phone, and watch all speak the same language, all it takes is one nefarious person with the right dialect to break in and steal – well – everything. When IPv6 opened up the possibility of a nearly limitless number of touch points into the Internet, it also ripped wide the potential for theft, fraud, and exploitation.
As the market into IoT expands, and more devices fall under our control as IT professionals, it is our responsibility to our clients, our customers, and the end consumer to make sure that we remain on top of security protocols and regulations. We have a moral obligation to security-test and validate any code we deploy or any device we integrate. With the changing nature of cybercrime, it’s imperative that we remain both vigilant and educated so that we can proactively design and build secure systems that offer all of the IoT benefits while simultaneously minimizing the risk to the consumer for identity theft and cyber-attack.
We may not have flying cars or teleportation devices yet, and we still have to grow and cook our food. However, our technology landscape is changing daily, disrupting our core business models and driving newer, better technology into the hands of our consumers. In order to remain relevant and fluid in the face of shifting technology, it’s critical to watch the IoT trends and stay on top of all that they have to offer.
If you have a great idea for a new application and need a leg up in the development space, give us a call. We’d love to discuss all of the possibilities that IoT can offer you!