Inevitability of Time

IoT predictions being scaled back

For those who are confused by exactly what the Internet of Things is, you’re not alone. The term that grew to represent a revolutionary new way of connectivity over the past few years seemed like it was taking every industry, especially manufacturing, by storm—and that in order to have your business succeed, conformity was essential. However, a collection of recent data suggests that the whole IoT trend isn’t as densely-packed a snowball as initially thought. Estimations for internet-connected devices have been scaled back by the billions since initial 2010 figures projected 50 billion IoT devices would be online by 2020. Most now see the realistic figure as being somewhere in the 20-30 billion range…and if you want hard evidence, the figure for right now is either: 6.4 billion devices if you don’t include smartphones, tablets, or computers, or 17.6 billion if you do. IoT conversion isn’t the most appealing choice for small or local businesses. It depends on the contents (and consistency) of the operation.


This chart, compiled by IEEE Spectrum, shows past and current IoT projections from select major technology and data-related sources.—IEEE Spectrum image


While at least two executives projected this figure back then, and other projections from credible places such as IBM were even higher, the five to six years of time encompassed since have reshaped what these companies (most of them tech-related) are planning. A September 23 article from IEEE Spectrum, the main source used for this post, marshals a collection of then-and-now projections to give us a realistic update on what today’s realistic IoT outlook is. This data is illustrated in the chart above.

Just to be clear, the adjustment does not eclipse the reality of an IoT-functional world. Devices—including machines—are being connected via internet more and more, and nearly every industry is shaping the IoT concept into its future. It’s only realistic to be “connected” in today’s world, and in many cases, a business would be falling behind if it neglected online opportunities. However, certain industries are trickier than others. The IIoT, for example, or Industrial Internet of Things, applies to manufacturing. While certain large-market manufacturers such as GE or ABB are leading the IIoT charge into transition, and converting all of their products, this course of action doesn’t make sense for the little guy. Smaller shops and operations who have local clientele and a reliably established network wouldn’t benefit from the amount of money they would need to spend to convert their entire operation.

Secondly, as mentioned on the IoT-related website IoT Agenda, a major concern surrounding the Industrial version is “interoperability” between devices and machines. Many of these use different protocols and have different architectures. Additional technical challenges for IoT developers include security, analytics, and testing requirements for IoT applications. Cyber security in general is becoming an especially harrowing issue with every passing day.

Just like with most new ideas, the IoT seems to warrant case-by-case consideration, and is best implemented with a balanced approach. Also, 50 billion probably just sounded really awesome during those meetings in 2010.


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