The Internet of Things (IoT) is touching every technology sector around the world, and it's having a significant impact on how enterprises and consumers interact with machines and devices.
TechRepublic talked to IoT experts in a range of disciplines to find out what they think the biggest trends will be in 2017. Participants were Kevin Curran, IEEE senior member and senior lecturer in computer science at Ulster University; Francesco Cetraro, head of registrations, .cloud; William Webb, IEEE fellow; Glen Robson, executive vice president, Verifone; Ian Ferguson, vice president of marketing and strategic alliances, ARM; Steven LeBoeuf, co-founder and president, Valencell, Inc.; Sukamal Banerjee, executive vice president and global head, IoT Works and HCL Technologies; Adebayo Onigbanjo, director of marketing, Zebra Technologies; Rick Orloff, chief security officer and chief privacy officer, Code42; Macario Namie, head of strategy, Cisco Jasper; Jason Collins, vice president of IoT marketing, Nokia; Jeff Woods, vice president of marketing strategy, SAP; Simon Moffatt, senior product manager, ForgeRock; and Hossein Rahnama, CEO and Founder, Flybits.
Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, healthcare IoT, industrial IoT, and wearables are some of the topics of conversation about where the Internet of Things is headed in 2017.
SEE: The power of IoT and big data (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature)
TechRepublic: What impact do you think IoT will have on artificial intelligence (AI)?
Kevin Curran: "AI, and machine learning in particular, is the process of building a scientific model after discovering knowledge from a data set. It is the complex computation process of automatic pattern recognition and intelligent decision making based on training sample data. AI techniques can replicate some specific elements of intellectual ability. Computers can already solve problems in limited realms. 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. The IT giants such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others have all been using AI techniques in various research projects. Google acquired DeepMind technologies who use neural networks and deep learning methods that deploy low-level transistor networks to produce high-level effects."
Rick Orloff: "There is a big distinction between artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial general intelligence (AGI). The former is akin to your GPS finding the best route to the airport, with the latter being associated with actual intelligent thought, which ties into robotics. As we rely on artificial intelligence to handle more tasks and both these categories evolve, we're going to see a huge demand in 2017 for security skills applied to AGI, AI, and robotics, even more so when you combine AGI and robotics. The need for better real-time data correlation to improve the service stack as well as the security stack will become a critical skill set."
SEE: Special report: How to implement AI and machine learning (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Hossein Rahnama: "We are beginning to enter the initial stages of consumer use of the "AI-driven internet." This new era of internet is a shift from what we have traditionally experienced, interacting with two-dimensional interfaces for 2D experiences, such as using a smartphone or computer screen. The AI-driven internet will utilize 3D interfaces to generate 3D experiences. Your physical environment with become your internet interface. Take Uber for example, in which you interact with a digital service that takes into account your real-time environment and it creates a physical result by sending a car to your exact location. We will begin to see many more of these services emerge this year."
Jeff Woods: Application programming interfaces (APIs), the computer codes that serve as a bridge between software applications, are not traditionally a hot topic outside of coder circles. It was significant when Apple announced in June that it would open up Siri to third-party developers through an API, giving the wider world the ability to integrate Siri's voice commands into their apps. Similar decisions were made by Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google—all of which have AI bots or assistants of their own. In 2017, we predict that there will be a new wave of artificial intelligence-based innovation, fueled by the opening up of Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and other AI technologies. We expect to see coders using artificial intelligence as platforms to build new apps that can more rapidly expand AI uses and capabilities. The value will be less in the specific AI products a company introduces, than in the value of the platform for innovation. We call it the 'platformication' of AI."
TechRepublic: What impact will IoT have on smart manufacturing and industry?
William Webb: "We tend to think of IoT in terms of consumer products, but 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."
Sukamal Banerjee: "2017 will see a fundamental shift in terms of industrial IoT adoption. As per our 2016 global IoT survey, 38% of organizations have already started their IoT journey, and 57% are currently planning to, thus, making 2017 an inflection year for Industrial IoT adoption. 2017 will see a significant increase in investment in IoT by industrial organisations. In our survey, 69% of respondent organizations plan to increase their investment in IoT in the next one year."
TechRepublic: What will happen in the security and privacy realm for IoT?
Macario Namie: "Governments will step in to mandate higher IoT security. High-profile DDoS attacks such as those in late October, which took down the likes of Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, and PlayStation, helped to highlight the need for improved levels of security in IoT environments. As the number of connected devices ramps up, we will see not only more cyber criminals attracted to IoT, but also more sophisticated types of attacks. As IoT continues to expand beyond businesses and into the realm of smart cities and connected government programs, the requirement for watertight security will continue to rise. 2017 will be the year where we see policy makers and governments step in to mandate IoT security guidelines across industries. In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security just issued its Strategic Principles for Securing the Internet of Things (IoT) document in November."
Francesco Cetraro: "The number of devices able to connect to the internet and independently share information will keep growing, and more companies will look into launching integrated solutions with hardware and services. This trend may signal new interest in the deployment of IPv6. This could result in more connected devices and shift IPv4 addresses for human uses (like access to content that is still primarily hosted on IPv4-only networks). However, this growing number of connected devices will also come with new security concerns. Expect to see many players offering security for these new devices, and many conversations around the content being shared and how to promote privacy across the board."
Banerjee: "Security will remain a critical attribute for choosing the right IoT platform. Organizations are very aware of security concerns that come with IoT and will invest in solutions that offer robust security measures for devices and cloud data."
Orloff: "As we head into 2017, we will see an enormous amount of IoT devices associated with individuals, residences, and vehicles. Consumer IoT devices will be transmitting constant data exhaust and opening themselves up to more security risks than ever before. As we increase the amount of connected devices associated to us (e.g., smartphones, tablets, thermostats, refrigerators, clocks, watches, pet feeders, etc.), the ability of hackers to access one thing and move laterally through your connected devices/network will have huge security implications.
There is no doubt that popular forms of attacks, such as ransomware, will find their way to every data storage device between the internet and any given organization. The massive success of Mirai—the IoT botnet that took down a portion of the internet—was just a precursor to the types of large scale attacks we can expect to use the IoT as a delivery mechanism."
SEE: Here are the biggest IoT security threats facing the enterprise in 2017 (TechRepublic)
TechRepublic: How big of a role will predictive data and data analytics play in IoT?
Adebayo Onigbanjo: "Over the last few years, we have witnessed an exponential growth of unstructured data generated in almost all industries that have been disrupted by IoT and data analytics. However, the conundrum remains—many organizations are unable to fully make sense of this data fast enough before it loses its value. We believe data is perishable. Its value is time-sensitive and has a limited shelf life. Businesses must make sense of data before it expires. However, enterprises are losing valuable insights as there are many disjointed sources generating and collecting data on their own, contributing to only bits and pieces of the big picture, instead of rendering a broad view. Decoding this data collected through IoT-enabled devices and wearables will help companies accelerate their decision-making processes and make more informed business judgments. According to IDC, every person online will create 1.7 megabytes of new data every second by 2020. At this rate, the concept of 'perishable data' is more relevant than ever. We see that one of the challenges next year will be for businesses to translate captured data into actionable insights as fast as they can."
Ian Ferguson: "To truly predict the future, we need to digitize the present. As a result of this, the creation of the digital universe accelerates in 2017. In this new digital universe, IoT feeds in data from the real world. Then AI techniques are applied to this data to help people and businesses make better decisions."
Curran: "The Internet of Things (IoT) has emerged as a leading factor in the future state of the Internet. Its significance is described in terms of providing a different lens on how to link the Internet with real world objects. The truth is, the value of the Internet of Things only comes from the astounding mass of data it is bound to produce. Once millions of home appliances are connected to the Internet of Things, there is a real opportunity for monetization of consumer behavior through analyzing appliance behavior. This will lead to businesses suddenly realizing the money that can be made from pairing predictive analysis with it."
Banerjee: "2017 will see a tipping point for IoT analytics. Today we see proof of concepts around point solutions; over the next year or so we will see more and more point solutions which will drive the need for a platform. The complexity and sophistication of analytics will increase, as will the resulting business value."
Namie: "Big data and IoT are often considered in isolation from one another, but there is a huge overlap. As IoT gains momentum, the volume of data generated will be stratospheric. Not only will there be more data, but there will be different types of data, and data from sources that have yet to be considered. All this new data points to fresh opportunities for revenue generation. Big data analytics will evolve into a distributed analytics model, which will help with the monetization of IoT data. We will see more devices capable of analyzing data locally, processing and capturing the most important data for more real-time IoT services."
Jason Collins: "Industry will move from M2M (Machine to Machine) to IoT. Analytics will begin to drive new business models. Currently, many industries are collecting data but aren't actively analyzing the data to drive the new business. An example of where we are beginning to see it is in the automotive industry. As a part of that, we will see the first data brokerage services that will exchange anonymized data from the IoT to produce totally new business value across industries, for example."
SEE: Why the most boring IoT data may actually make the most money (TechRepublic)
TechRepublic: What will we see regarding healthcare IoT?
Webb: "IoT devices for consumers have to satisfy a real need, rather than just being interesting and cool. Perhaps the most compelling area is healthcare. From connected scales to smart pillboxes and body-worn monitors, these devices can bring real benefits especially for those with chronic conditions or something similar. 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."
Steven LeBoeuf: "Regarding health wearables, I predict you won't see anything big commercially available in 2017. Companies are still validating technology, form factors, and use cases. In many cases the technology is viable, but clinically validated data and regulatory certifications are not in place to make medical claims. Plus, there is a still a great deal of work to do around how to get the data to the right place, at the right time, in the right context to be valuable to healthcare providers, patients, and payers."
Simon Moffatt: "In 2017, the distinction between in-home and clinical healthcare devices will continue to erode. To date, smart wearables and exercise devices like Fitbits and Apple Watches have been perceived as a means to track exercise in order to further fitness goals— distinct from clinical medical devices like heart monitors, blood pressure cuffs, or insulin pumps. At the same time, it's become common for high blood pressure patients to monitor their BP at home, capturing it on an app on their phone—exactly how fitness trackers work. The wealth of data available to clinicians flowing from such devices is leading to expectations that individuals can and perhaps should play much more active roles in preventative care. But the ease with which personal health data can now be gathered and shared will increase pressure on healthcare IT decision-makers to turn to identity management and authentication as the technology most effective for achieving security objectives. The proliferation of digital systems and devices in healthcare settings creates more vulnerabilities where personal data can get exposed or stolen. By adding contextual authentication and authorization through strong digital identity, hacking these systems becomes more difficult—for example, adding presence, geo-location, and/or persistent authentication."
SEE: Photos: The trendiest smartwatches and fitness bands for 2016 holiday season (TechRepublic)
TechRepublic: What will occur with environmental IoT?
Curran: "In rural areas, sensor-enabled devices can monitor woods, rivers, lakes, and our oceans. Many environmental trends are so complex that they're difficult to conceptualize, but collecting data is the first step towards understanding, and ultimately reducing, the environmental impact of human activity. Smart irrigation systems collect data on soil content and other environmental factors from a network of wireless sensors to reduce water waste. The system analyzes the data it collects to selectively water different plots of land based on need. Smart irrigation systems save energy, water, and money. Using a prototype, fourteen sites in Europe were able to reduce their water usage on average by 40%. Automated insect monitors wirelessly transmits the data, including its GPS coordinates, allowing farmers to view a map of the types of insects that have been detected. Wireless bridge sensors can help reduce risk by monitoring all aspects of a bridge's health, such as vibration, pressure, humidity, and temperature. The US Geological Survey Advanced National Seismic System uses accelerometers and real-time data analysis to monitor the structural health of buildings in earthquake prone regions."
TechRepublic: Will augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have a bigger role in 2017?
Namie: "To date, the primary focus of AR/VR has been entertainment and gaming with apps like Pokemon Go and devices like the Oculus Rift grabbing the headlines. However, when combined with IoT services, AR and VR have the potential to become serious business tools. One of the key use cases we will see in 2017 will be the deployment of AR and VR in connected manufacturing and factory settings. For example, combined IoT/VR solutions will enable factory workers to view (via AR/VR goggles) the health and operational efficiency of all connected robots and equipment. By looking at a robot, workers will be able to see if that machine is functioning properly, or whether it needs maintenance."
TechRepublic: Will we see more contactless mobile payments in the new year?
Glen Robson: "Peer-to-peer payment methods expand our definition of commerce and help to unleash the Internet of Things. 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, according to eMarketer. Contactless and mobile options will continue to gain traction and the trust of users. This trust in digital payments is what will start letting retailers and payment providers integrate into daily life and begin to offer countless, seamless transactions for lower monetary purchases. Like the rise of mobile, this new type of commerce is hard to gauge but will greatly impact our day to day lives significantly in the coming years."
TechRepublic: And finally, what will happen with consumer IoT?
Webb: "2016 saw a decline in smart watches as users failed to see a real need to have them. The Amazon Echo and Google Home style devices are similarly interesting but ultimately lacking a clear need for most at the moment. To be really effective they need to integrate well with all the other systems in the home from entertainment to heating. While this can be done, too often it requires a specific product or non-standard connectivity solution. Unfortunately, a single standard for home IoT connectivity still looks a long way off."
Curran: "The 'always ready' capability that IoT delivers leads to a new form of synergy between human and computer, characterized by long-term adaptation through constancy of user-interface. The arrival of wearable devices has been made possible by advancements in miniaturizing electronics and also in part to advances in battery technologies. Novel IoT devices are entering the market on a daily basis. We will perhaps see 2017 as the year that IoT hits the headlines for more reasons than the recent hacking attacks associated with poorly secured IoT devices."
- Video: The top 5 home IoT essentials (TechRepublic)
- Sensor industry to grow to $162 billion thanks to IoT, smart cities and eHealth (TechRepublic)
- The next wave of IT: Where do we go from here? (ZDNet)
- Z-Wave smart-home gadgets announce new IoT security standards (CNET)
- The Internet of Things companies to watch (ZDNet)
- Experts predict 2017's biggest cybersecurity threats (TechRepublic)
- Why big data leaders must worry about IoT security (TechRepublic)
- IT in 2017: Prioritize these 10 strategic initiatives, says Gartner (TechRepublic)
Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including People, W and Women's Wear Daily.