It was quite a year for the Internet of Things (IoT); innovators proved its worth with interesting new projects, competitors moved to build or acquire IoT capabilities, and experts weighed in on opportunities and challenges facing IoT development. Here’s a few of the stories we covered this year.
Wearables are taking off. From service technicians boosting productivity to healthcare and consumer-focused services, building smart, connected capabilities into new types of peripherals was a strong trend. Expect this direction to continue in 2015, as designs and applications are refined.
The critical need for IoT privacy and security. If there was a common note of concern among industry analysts, it was how products and data will be safeguarded in the IoT. Amid a backdrop of ongoing viruses and hacking attacks, experts are right to question how a new wave of data-farming devices will be kept safe, and if they will be used wisely. The ability to observe and track behavior has been the subject of conferences and hearings. Consortiums are responding with an attempt to build standards around security, and companies are even resorting to hiring former criminals to protect against data incursions.
Smart home (components) are officially for sale. With smart home appliances like the Nest growing rapidly in both popularity and name-recognition, many companies have begun addressing how to incorporate connected products into consumer lifestyle, and retailers are lining up to sell smart, connected products. There will be no slowdown to this trend, as users get comfortable with everything from smart backpacks to smart toothbrushes.
Industrial and commercial development drives IoT change. Analysts from McKinsey, Gartner, and Forrester have scoped the immense size of the IoT and its disruptive nature, and it’s clear that the IoT will destroy some old business models and create new ones as it reshapes the manufacturing industry. Manufacturers will have to adjust everything from vendor relationships to systems engineering to properly deal with the IoT’s benefits and challenges.
The distinction between the IoT and SCP. Harvard economist Michael Porter and PTC CEO James Heppelmann have identified the distinction between the IoT (an abstract concept) and smart, connected products, which are the actual devices driving change. Porter and Heppelmann’s Harvard Business Review article reviews in depth the impact of smart, connected products on manufacturing, including their effect on the value chain, the top five strategy mistakes, how manufacturers will have to adapt, and how IT will play an unprecedented role in driving manufacturing innovation.
Helping people in real ways. The IoT is big business, but it’s also has a positive impact on safety, healthcare, and consumer lifestyle. We’ve seen IoT applications that streamline the home with less clutter and unreliable products, and the first ever social network for whales that helps prevent collisions with sea vessels. Items as simple as chopsticks are being enhanced with sensors to detect food contamination, and smart robots are making it safer for senior adults to continue to live on their own.
What’s next? 2014 was big for the IoT, and 2015 shows no signs of slowing. The IT World forum met in late November to discuss trends and patterns that will shape IoT in the coming year. Expect huge innovation to occur in the automotive market, a further push towards more robust smart home hubs, business activity around leveraging big data solutions for mining smart product information, and the emergence of IoT solutions globally, especially in nations and economies that are new to the IoT revolution.