6 internet of things trends that will dominate 2018

6 internet of things trends that will dominate 2018

Many organizations are already incorporating IoT technologies into their products, processes and workflows, but 2018 is shaping up to be a breakout year for IoT deployments. Here are six IoT trends to watch in 2018.

The internet of things (IoT) and industrial internet of things (IIoT) will breakout in 2018, with organizations ramping up deployments and incorporating IoT technologies into their products, processes and workflows. Research firm Gartner predicts there will be nearly 20 billion devices connected to the IoT by 2020, and IoT product and service suppliers will generate more than $300 billion in revenue. 

We spoke with a number of IT leaders and industry experts about what to expect from IoT deployments in the coming year. Following are six IoT trends to watch in 2018. 

Everything connects

Scott Gnau, CTO of Hortonworks, predicts 2018 will be the year of consumer IoT. "It will be an order of magnitude bigger than the industrial IoT," Gnau says. 

"I see a ton of opportunity in the industrial internet space where connected devices and networks will take advantage of real-time analytics, feedback and so on," he adds. "Consumer-facing IoT will have a remarkable impact on the way we live, work, and communicate — with each other and other devices. Imagine a diabetic with a blood glucose monitor that connects to their phone, that sends the information to their primary physician, that records that ping to an online portal to better manage levels and the impact on that individual's healthcare experience." 

However, Rich Rogers, senior vice president of IoT product and engineering at Hitachi Vantara, is still bullish on industrial applications, particularly in factories. 

Video: Reality check on the Internet of Things

"2018 will be the year that IoT technologies rapidly accelerate the transformation of industrial factories into software-defined factories," Rogers says. "OEMs will begin to provide smart connected conveyor belts, air compressors, cutting machines, etc. And, IoT technologies will begin to enable automation, orchestration, and DevOps-style operations. Mobile monitoring and factory management will become increasingly globalized — with IoT linking facilities with data insights from every location to drive better business decisions forward." 

Mark J. Barrenechea, CEO and CTO of enterprise information management specialist OpenText, has his eye on IoT applications in healthcare, autonomous vehicles, and the enterprise. 

"Advances in IoT-connected biotechnology will take healthcare to the next level, with around-the-clock monitoring, targeted treatment, and even automated doses of medication," Barrenechea says. "In smart cities, when everything is connected to the IoT grid, autonomous vehicles will eliminate car crashes caused by human error to save one million lives annually. In the intelligent enterprise, the IoT will connect the global supply chain from end-to-end, enabling pervasive visibility, proactive replenishment, and predictive maintenance. With the IoT, data-driven decision making will become standard in all industries and in our daily lives." 

New data infrastructure will be required

Collecting sensor data is well and good, but the end goal is to gain actionable insights from that data — and that will require new data infrastructure. 

"In 2018, the number of companies harnessing IoT capabilities in the field will continue to expand rapidly due to technological advancements that have been made with sensors and the value being realized through the data they collect," says Neil Barton, CTO of data infrastructure automation specialist WhereScape. "The blessing, and possibly the curse, of the staggering rate that companies are deploying IoT sensors is the vast amounts of data that is produced when tracking things in real-time."  

Companies seeking to put that data to good use will face the added complexity of combining vast troves of data in a wide variety of formats, Barton adds. 

"To capitalize on this, companies need to implement technology that can handle the constant stream of data in addition to looking at more effective ways to analyze the data, such as machine learning and deep learning in order to get actionable insight," Barton says. 

Processing extends to the IoT edge 

In 2018, expect to see data fabrics and computation that span on-premises facilities into multiple clouds. But these data fabrics will extend even further, predicts Ted Dunning, chief application architect of MapR Technologies. Dunning expects full-scale data fabrics to extend right to the edge next to devices, and, in some cases, threads of the fabric will extend right into the devices themselves. 

"Our expectations are driven by customer discussions and knowledge we've gained helping companies achieve measurable business value by combining advanced technology with pragmatic approaches to solving data challenges," Dunning says.  

Dunning predicts a need to tier IoT devices by sensitivity to partition and latency. Some devices don't need constant connection to the Internet, while even a few milliseconds of latency could lead to catastrophic results for other devices. 

"If you were to unplug the controller of a robot arm from the robot arm, you could get catastrophic motion from that robot arm that could kill somebody," Dunning says. "The controller must live right next to the robot." 

"Big data is now being applied to things that are much higher up in this tiering than before," he adds. "I can't have a fire control system on a ship take extra time to launch just because we've turned the ship a certain direction." 

Sastry Malladi, CTO of fog computing platform startup FogHorn Systems, agrees that the momentum for edge analytics and edge intelligence in IIoT will accelerate in 2018. 

"Almost every notable hardware vendor has a ruggedized line of products promoting edge processing," Malladi says. "This indicates that the market is prime for industrial IoT adoption."  

Because of this, Maladi sees traditional industries, such as manufacturing, embracing edge analytics to drive new revenue streams, or significant improvements for their customers.  
"Any industry with assets being digitized and making the leap toward connecting or instrumenting brownfield environments is well positioned to leverage the value of edge intelligence," Malladi says. "Usually, the goal of these initiatives is to have deep business impact. This can be delivered by tapping into previously unknown or unrealized efficiencies and optimizations. Often these surprising insights are uncovered only through analytics and machine learning. Industries with often limited access to bandwidth, such as oil and gas, mining, fleet and other verticals, truly benefit from edge intelligence. What's more, those that apply edge intelligence are able to benefit from real-time decisions, as well as insights from voluminous streaming sensor data." 

IT and OT will step up collaboration 

Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) have traditionally been separate domains. But that's likely to change in 2018, with IIoT deployments forcing IT teams and OT teams to work closely together to achieve success. 

"What was considered a wide gap between the two sectors — IT and OT — will bridge thanks to the recognized collaboration needed to successfully deploy IIoT solutions and initiatives," Malladi says, noting that OT will affect the design of IIoT apps in 2018. 

"Recent research and field studies suggest that analytics tools are being made more accessible to end users, i.e., domain experts and plant operators," Malladi says. "This means that advanced technology is now being made available to field workers, so operational decisions can be driven in real-time at the industrial location." 

Ken Hosac, vice president of business development at Cradlepoint, a provider of cloud-based wired and wireless networking solutions for distributed and mobile enterprises, believes OT teams will actually lead the IIoT charge in 2018. 

"In 2018, there will be more IoT projects deployed by business operational teams than IT teams. With 69 percent of 'State of IoT' survey respondents saying they have adopted, or plan to adopt, IoT solutions within the next year, the movement will clearly continue to gain steam in 2018. By addressing security issues that could undermine IoT progress, companies will be on track to take full advantage of this revolutionary technology over the coming years," Hosac says. 

IoT attacks will be motivated by financial gain 

Cisco predicts that as many as 1 million new connections per hour will be added to the Internet by 2020, expanding the attack surface and making IoT vulnerabilities more critical and more dangerous.  

"IoT will move from being seen as a massive security risk in the enterprise, to a critical part of an enterprise's security posture," says Scott Manson, cybersecurity lead for the Middle East and Africa at Cisco. "To meet the security challenges of the IoT — an attack surface that is both growing rapidly and becoming increasingly difficult to monitor and manage, a proactive and dynamic approach to security, and a layered defense strategy, are the keys to protecting IoT devices from infection and attack — or at least, mitigating the impact when some are inevitably compromised by adversaries." 

For now, industries seem to have adopted a wait-and-see approach when it comes to implementing specific IoT security solutions. FogHorn Systems' Malladi believes this stems from two emerging trends: 

  • Traditional IT security vendors are still in the process of repositioning their existing products to address IoT security concerns. 
  • Many new entrants are developing targeted security solutions that are specific to a layer in the stack, or a particular vertical. 

"Often IoT deployments are considered greenfield and emerging, so these security breaches still seem very futuristic, even though they are happening now," Malladi says. "Consequently, there is little acceleration to deploy security solutions, and most leaders seem to employ a wait-and-watch approach. The good news is major security threats, like WannaCry, Petya/Goldeneye and BadRabbit, do resurface IIoT security concerns during the regular news cycle. However, until security solutions are more targeted, and evoke trust, they may not help move the needle." 

IoT will pivot from pilot projects to business value 

Malladi also sees business cases and return on investment being critical for IIoT success in the year ahead. 

"The year 2017 was about exploring IIoT and led to the explosion of proof of concepts and pilot implementations," Malladi says. "While this trend will continue into 2018, we expect increased awareness about the business value edge technologies bring to the table. Companies that have been burned by the 'Big Data Hype' — where data was collected but little was leveraged — will assess IIoT engagements and deployments for definitive ROI. As edge technologies pick up speed in proving business value, the adoption rate will exponentially rise to meet the demands of ever-increasing IoT applications." 

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