By the end of this year, more than 8.4 billion connected devices will be furiously relaying information to each other. They will be tirelessly lighting our homes, paying for our shopping and monitoring our products and machinery.
All the while they will be producing endless amounts of information and then analyzing it to learn what we want, when we want it, and how our modern needs can be better served.
And they will be multiplying. Oh, how they will grow – with 20.4 billion of these little lifestyle aids chatting to each other by 2020, according to Gartner.
So, who is this mighty Jeeves of the modern world – so busy, so productive and so increasingly prolific? Well, it’s the Internet of Things, and these are the top areas to watch in 2017.
Big Data and AI
While we’ve seen the rollout of internet connected devices like wearables, mobile phones, smart fridges, TVs and even prototype cars for some years, this year will be a seminal year for the artificial intelligence computer algorithms that allow them to better communicate and process information, according to pundits.
Although it may not illicit edge of your seat excitement regarding gadgetry, what AI will offer is better data analytics, and that has implications for every industry investing in the IoT.
Ulster University’s Kevin Curran told the Tech Republic:
“The basic idea of AI is simple, but its execution is complicated. First, the AI algorithm gathers facts about a situation through sensors or human input. The computer compares this information to stored data and decides what the information signifies. The computer runs through various possible actions and predicts which action will be most successful based on the collected information.”
And, as investment firm Motley Fool notes:
“Growth in IoT is accelerating the need for artificial intelligence. Connectivity, data analysis and security will require AI to function to scale, and leading IoT companies including Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft are forging partnerships and making big investments to build competencies in the unfolding scape.”
So how does this play out?
Datafloq explains this increased intelligence will provide us with more “mobile moments”, where we whip out our mobile device to get what we want, wherever we are, within a context.
“The technologies that have created the Internet of Things aren’t changing the internet only, but rather change the things connected to the internet. More mobile moments…will appear on the connected device, right from home appliances to cars to smart watches and virtual assistants.
“All these connected devices will have the potential of offering a rich stream of data that will then be used by product and service owners to interact with their consumers.”
Already this interplay between IoT gadgets, mobile devices, and AI is having implications in the home, a leading domain of the IoT industry. Smart Home applications like temperature control, lighting and Smart TVs are commonplace, but the central hub connecting them is becoming increasingly intelligent courtesy of virtual assistants.
Tech Radar notes voice activated assistants are set to be a major development in the home over the coming year, with personal assistants like Amazon Alexa playing music, answering questions and more, all by voice.
As noted by CNBC:
“Amazon Alexa and Google Home are examples of interfaces that connect disparate gadgets and services into a single interface. Alexa has a robust presence at CES this year, with sessions on using the Echo for games, the home and yes, cars.”
There’s more on the horizon including a virtual assistant by the makers of Siri. Known as Viv, she will join an increasing list of devices which will be able to tell you how much milk is in the fridge.
Although IoT lends itself to talk about consumer products, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers fellow William Webb told the Tech Republic by far the biggest drive over the next year, or two is likely to be industrial.
Things like smart lighting are rolling out in increasing volume across cities, enabling energy savings from controlling lighting and maintenance savings from scheduling replacement bulbs as needed. These platforms are then sometimes providing information such as smart parking.
“Smart agriculture is taking off, especially in tracking and monitoring animals. Monitoring of remote assets from electricity meters to train tracks is also growing. These applications tend to lead because there’s a clear business case for their deployment, normally predicated on cost-savings that can be delivered.”
It’s also offering the opportunity to better monitor machinery, with sensors providing real-time insight into problems, progress or emerging maintenance issues.
Already the world of business is rapidly embracing IoT, from smart offices that seamlessly connect employees to tracking the manufacturing process and implementing ever simpler payment solutions.
And these trends will only increase throughout the coming years.
Increasingly smartphones and wearables will become a priority payment option, and that’s occurring via proximity payments, mobile Point of Sale, and mobile peer to peer payment apps, with e-marketer noting in 2017:
“45.8 million US adults—nearly one-quarter of US adult smartphone users—will use a P2P payment app at least once per month. That figure will exceed one-third by 2018. The value of P2P mobile phone transactions will total $59.42 billion this year, with that figure growing to $92.10 billion by next year”.
But it’s not just how clients pay for services that are altering; it’s how people within a business and their clients experience a brand or perform their jobs. This year augmented and virtual reality is to transform all this, providing new, exciting and immersive ways relate to products and services, and perform work-related tasks.
In an in-depth report into how this will transform business, Tech Republic identifies five key areas, including:
- Remote guidance to field officers requiring support
- Job training
- Visualising objects to see how 3D prototypes interact with the world
- Customer service to allow consumers to experience a product and brand
- New ways of working where remote data is fed back in industries like healthcare or insurance to estimate damage, injury or loss.
Healthcare is another industry already reaping the benefits of IoT and is set to implement it further in the coming months.
Already, connected devices including wearables, sensors and even communication are impacting the healthcare landscape. Devices can tell your blood pressure relaying this data to your physician, and they can track your sleep patterns and more.
Tech Republic notes 2017 will see the continued erosion between clinical healthcare and in-home devices – from smart pill boxes to insulin monitors and blood pressure analytics.
“…these devices can bring real benefits especially for those with chronic conditions or something similar,” notes Webb.
“Of course, these are not new, but as AI provides better insight from the measurements and as healthcare professionals become increasingly open to using data gathered by patients, the value increases. We may be close to a tipping point.”
While human healthcare will be a major driver, so too will be the health of our environment where the potential to monitor environmental factors and alter practices is almost limitless.
From earthquake detection to water quality and weather conditions, the data available through sensors in the environment will allow humans to better tailor their impact and actions. It will furnish us with the information needed to decide whether to irrigate, what to wear, and whether to evacuate a city under environmental threat.
“Many environmental trends are so complex that they’re difficult to conceptualise, but collecting data is the first step towards understanding, and ultimately reducing, the environmental impact of human activity,” according to Curran.
The final word
Already the IoT may be all around us in almost every element of life. That trend isn’t likely to change anytime soon, with the Internet of Things now honing its ability to learn and service us better than ever before.
In the coming months, the IoT will continue to be busy, productive and increasingly prolific as it marches its way to what Forbes expects will be a $19 billion industry within the next three years.
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