What To Expect From IoT In 2020
2019 was an exciting year for IoT.
New products were released and old ones got revolutionary updates.
From Google’s Home Voice Controller and Amazon Echo to smart locks, kitchen robots and smoke detectors, IoT has firmly established its place in the common household.
According to HackerRank’s Developer Skills Report, IoT is the most realistic new tech that has the best chance of real-world application in 2020.
FinancesOnline, on the other hand, reports that IoT is changing consumer markets even more than AI and robotics.
Statista predicts the number of connected devices will increase from 26 billion today to 75 billion in 2025.
We’re pretty sure IoT isn’t slowing down in 2020.
But what can we expect next year as a result of this popularity?
The future might not be as bright as you think.
More Aggressive New Entries
Technology leaders have enjoyed massive ROI on their IoT investments.
Connected devices are now a given rather than a luxury in the household. They’re also deployed in the workplace to improve productivity and workforce management.
It’s easy to see why tons of new players will join the market with full force.
In a 2019 survey of over 300 companies with mature IoT programs, McKinsey found out that what separates leaders from laggards the most is their aggressiveness. IoT leaders are much more likely to implement lots of use cases, change their business processes and use advanced endpoints.
This might sound counterintuitive, but implementing new tech always has a learning curve. The more use cases a business has, the quicker it can climb that curve (with the right strategy and management, of course).
Businesses are now well aware of this fact.
That’s why we can expect a vast number of new and aggressive market players.
The Verdict On Smart Cities
Smart cities are one of those utopic ideas that have captured our imagination for decades.
It seems like they’ve arrived and we must decide whether that’s a good or bad thing. In 2018 Sidewalk Labs (Google’s sister company) shed even more light on their Sidewalk Toronto Project. In short, the company plans to turn a part of Toronto’s Lake Ontario shoreline into the most advanced smart-district today.
This project would be IoT-powered in the most literal sense.
Connected buildings, surveillance tech, cars and public transportation – you name it Sidewalk’s project has it. You can read their full plan in detail here.
So, why is this a big deal?
Because Sidewalk Labs is attempting to do something only governments have done – use public land to build out a project and collect/process data in the public space.
Critics have called this project an attempt by Google (of all companies) to privatize personal (and sensitive) data.
Whether that’s true or not, 2020 will be the first year where we’ll have to think hard about the implications of smart cities on our personal space.
Which brings us to our next point.
Privacy is a big deal in tech.
The more data a company collects, the more risk there is for users’ privacy. New tech is always an appealing target for hackers.
IoT devices are now collecting and processing incredible amounts of data every day. Unlike privacy concerns with Facebook, for example, IoT privacy didn’t interest the public that much. That is until a couple of months ago.
In April, Bloomberg reported that thousands of Amazon employees, many of whom aren’t even employed directly by Amazon, have access to personal data, gathered by Alexa. In response, Amazon allowed Alexa users to delete their voice recordings.
This should have been the end of the problem.
Even so, a letter from Amazon to a US Senator from June 2019 revealed some more troubling facts. Without going into too much detail, here are two direct quotes from the letter:
“….we have an ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts (transcripts already deleted by users) do not remain in any of Alexa’s other storage systems.”
“We do not store the audio of Alexa’s response. However, we may still retain other records of customers’ Alexa interactions, including records of actions Alexa took in response to the customer’s request. And when a customer interacts with an Alexa skill, that skill developer may also retain records of the interaction.”
So, transcripts of deleted conversations might still be lingering in Amazon’s databases. Skill developers may also retain records when they choose to. That doesn’t sound like user privacy at its peak.
As more and more devices become integrated, you users will become more cautious.
Companies will need to address privacy concerns and in a big way.
Increased Security And Data Processing Spending
A traditional way of dealing with these concerns is by ramping up security spending.
Companies have been doing that for a couple of years now.
In 2018 Gartner reported that IoT security spending had gone up from 912 million in 2016 to 1,5 billion in 2018 and predicted that number to increase to 3,1 billion in 2021.
Statista also predicts that the IoT security market will almost triple in size from 2019 to 2025.
Security spending is necessary for both security (duh) and to preserve IoT’s public image. Privacy scandals haven’t ruined Facebook or Google, but they have damaged their reputation. Maybe even beyond repair.
Besides user discontent, these scandals started a domino effect that has led to antitrust investigations against both Google and Facebook along with Big Tech as a whole. Not to mention the massive public outcry.
Companies with access to volumes of user data (like IoT companies) will need to make a bigger commitment to security spending and the ethical use data.
Whether that’s enough to keep their public image clean and user data safe remains to be seen.
2020 will be both a problematic and prosperous time for IoT.
On the one hand, new and exciting products are developed almost every day. We’re building new infrastructures (and entire cities) on top of IoT and we’ve only scratched the surface.
On the other hand, the problems that are plaguing tech companies regarding privacy, personal data and security are also reaching IoT vendors. These businesses must learn from big tech’s mistakes.
Finally, as users we’ll have to decide what IoT means for us and how (or if) it fits with our lifestyle.