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January 5, 2017updated 28 Mar 2017 4:11pm

IoT predictions for 2017

At some point this year there will be one Internet of Things sensor or device for every person alive on the planet.

By John Oates

Depending on how you count them we might even have exceeded the 7.4 billion human headcount already.

Accurate predictions are hard to come by, partly because definitions of IoT devices vary wildly, but there are somewhere between 6bn and 18bn devices in use right now.

Predicting the future is never easy but researchers in this area have an especially tough job because the potential market is so huge.

A proper use case for smart light bulbs would skew the figures by a few billion at a stroke.

Several companies, like evrything.com, are building platforms on the expectation that pretty much every object will eventually have at least some IoT technology built in.

There will be fast growth in IoT use next year in power production, logistics, retail and manufacturing as well as consumer devices like wearables and in devices for the home.

But the big driver will continue to be business use, in data centres, in factory and through out logistics supply chains.

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Business use will continue to grow exponentially as firms demand suppliers and logistics partners adopt the technology to support their own systems.

In simple terms – if one company in any supply chain adopts IoT so the benefits for other partners in the chain increases.

As IoT sensors become ever more ubiquitous so there will be an increase in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning applications to make use of the data collected.

Better applications will create stronger business cases for extending IoT projects into new areas of the business.

The coming year might bring the first contracts based on IoT-audited service level agreements.

Researchers at Forrester expect to see experiments with smart contracts using blockchain technology in 2017. This has the potential to provide the equivalent of independently-audited SLAs for many types of business agreement whether in a data centre or for a cloud-based service.

Another big change IoT will bring is new technologies for the networks which they use to communicate with.

The data demands of the devices are different from those satisfied by traditional networks. Some require infrequent but quite large amounts of data to be transmitted, others require relatively small but very regular, or even constant, connections.

It is likely there will be more providers of specialised networks designed for specific IoT markets and that these will create and certify their own types of network technology.

We might well see different technical standards and specifications for IoT networks designed for different vertical markets.

Security will continue to be an issue. With IoT tech already blamed for the world’s largest ever denial of service attack it is a fair bet that there will be more attacks in the future.

2017 should also see IoT do more than add value to existing businesses. It has already proved how it can increase efficiencies in manufacturing and logistics.

The next step is for IoT to enable and empower new kinds of business and different business models.

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