Internet of Things

There will soon be more IoT devices in the world than people, security risks abound

Gartner predicts that 2017 will see 8.4 billion connected devices in use worldwide. Here's how enterprise users can protect their IoT devices against security breaches.

istock-579142910.jpg
Image: iStockphoto/Bannosuke

In 2017, 8.4 billion connected devices will be in use worldwide—up 31% from 2016, according to a Gartner report released Tuesday. That means that the number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices on the globe will surpass the number of people alive this year, with spending on IoT endpoints and services predicted to reach nearly $2 trillion.

IoT use is being driven by Greater China, North America, and Western Europe, according to Gartner, with those three regions making up 67% of the overall IoT installed base this year.

The largest user of connected things? Consumers. This group is operating 5.2 billion connected devices this year, representing 63% of the overall number of IoT applications in use. Enterprise users come in second, and are on track to use 3.1 billion connected things in 2017.

"Aside from automotive systems, the applications that will be most in use by consumers will be smart TVs and digital set-top boxes, while smart electric meters and commercial security cameras will be most in use by businesses," said Peter Middleton, research director at Gartner, in a press release.

SEE: The five industries leading the IoT revolution (ZDNet)

Among enterprise users, IoT devices made specifically for certain industries—such as manufacturing, utilities, and healthcare—will be primary forces for the growth of connected things, with 1.6 billion such devices in use.

Manufacturing, transportation, and utilities top the list of industries investing the most in IoT in 2016, according to a recent IDC report.

This will likely change in 2018, Gartner predicts: At that point, cross-industry devices including those for smart buildings (such as LED lighting, HVAC systems, and physical security systems) will drive IoT connectivity growth, as these devices rise in popularity and drop in price. By 2020, there will be 4.4 billion of these cross-industry devices in use, compared to 3.2 billion industry-specific devices.

Consumers may own more IoT devices, but businesses spend more, the report found: Enterprises will represent 57% of overall IoT spending in 2017. Enterprises will spend an estimated $964 billion on connected hardware this year, while consumers will spend $725 billion. However, by 2020, spending from both sectors will hit nearly $3 trillion, according to Gartner.

Total IoT services spending—for professional, consumer, and connectivity services—is predicted to reach $273 billion in 2017.

"Services are dominated by the professional IoT-operational technology category in which providers assist businesses in designing, implementing and operating IoT systems," said Denise Rueb, research director at Gartner, in the press release. "However, connectivity services and consumer services will grow at a faster pace. Consumer IoT services are newer and growing off a small base. Similarly, connectivity services are growing robustly as costs drop, and new applications emerge."

With the number of IoT devices in homes and workplaces on the rise, security issues abound. The Mirai botnet, which looks for vulnerable IoT devices and turns them into bots to use in cyberattacks, is of particular concern. In October 2016, a DDoS attack on internet performance management company Dyn used the Mirai botnet and left several websites without service for a day. Security experts predict a rise in IoT security breaches in 2017, making it extremely important for manufacturers to ensure devices are secure, and for enterprise and consumer users to have security protocols in place.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Some 8.4 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices will be in use worldwide in 2017—up 31% from 2016, according to a Gartner report released Tuesday.
  2. Consumers are driving the use of connected things, with 5.2 billion connected devices in use this year, compared to enterprise users, who have 3.1 billion connected things in use this year.
  3. With spending on IoT endpoints and services predicted to reach $2 trillion this year, it's of the utmost importance that consumers and businesses ensure these devices are secure to avoid cyberattacks.

Also see

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox