It’s been 10 years since the idea of the Internet of Things (IoT) was introduced to the world. At that time, proponents were confident the world would see 50 billion interconnected devices by 2020. Well, 2020 has come and gone and we are not there yet. According to Professor William Webb, author of the book The Internet of Things Myth, there’s no way to really know how many interconnected devices we have today, but he’s estimating its closer to 8.5 billion. Webb was a guest speaker at the recent Advantech Connect Online Partner Conference. Advantech is working on the concept of an Intelligent Planet using billions of interconnected devices.
Webb thinks we will eventually get to that magic number of 50 billion interconnected devices, but that it will take more time.
But the present results beg the questions: what went wrong and why is it taking so long?
Webb points to several issues, but here are two: too many people had a too simplistic view of what was needed to connect so many devices. The issue here is the range of network options available, from wireless, WiFi6, LoRaWAN, to 5G and others. The professor notes that there are too many competing technologies and designers can’t put them all in a design as options for customers.
The other point is that a CEO must examine nearly every aspect of company business practices to successfully take full advantage of the IoT, and often that examination leads to a near total revamp of the business model.
To me, it seems as though the goal has moved. The goal used to be about wringing out more operational efficiency. Now, proponents talk of every business, every city, everything people do being interconnected to solve present and future problems and deliver a better life for everyone.
Some of the trends coming to achieve this lofty goal include adding AI to IoT. Forecasters predict that the AIoT market (AI combined with IoT) will reach $450 billion by 2025. Some think we will see 8 billion AI capable devices by 2025.
Professor Webb noted that in the future, AI may be valuable but it will not resolve all IoT issues. The use of AI to look for correlations between all the data is fine. But the critical issue is getting the data, and there’s still a way to go there.
As for 5G, Webb notes that throwing 5G at the problem may do more to confuse the issue than help, especially with sensors. 5G might be a type of connectivity that is not needed there.
Edge computing is touted as an answer with concepts like edge analytics with AI, edge virtualization, and so on. Video based AI is gaining traction, again to deliver data and insights.
But security issues are an obstacle to IoT, especially with edge devices. With the potential for so many interconnected devices, businesses are reluctant to commit until all that transmitted data are secure. SaaS is seen as a possible solution here.
As Webb noted, for many CEOs, there are too many steps to take that can fundamentally change a business model just to make IoT work, and most are not willing to do that yet. What is really needed is for proponents of the IoT to deliver complete solutions that add value.
One key point made during the conference was the acknowledgment that no one company can offer all IoT solutions alone. You’ll see an approach similar to what Advantech is doing, which is to develop partnerships with a number of companies.
The goal of interconnecting all devices has been an ongoing project since the early 1980s. Its progression has pretty much been by inches, not leaps, each decade. It will be interesting to see where we are ten years from now.
More information on the March 24, 2021 agenda can be found here – Advantech Connect Online Partner Conference