The Internet of Things (IoT) has been hyped for many years. A recent McKinsey report suggests that it has been talked about for at least 15 years, although that sounds a little early to me as many people were only just installing wi-fi networks 15 years ago.
The McKinsey report suggests that the number of companies using the IoT has increased from about 13% in 2014 to about 25% (in late 2019). The projected number of IoT-connected devices is 43 billion by 2023 – that’s about three times the number we saw in 2018.
Sensor technology is getting cheaper and more advanced as future investments in the sector continue. In fact McKinsey estimates that investment will continue to grow by at least 13.6% until 2022.
Early adopters are now delivering projects at scale and over 200 different types of corporate use have already been documented. We are seeing rapid developments in smart cities, smart cars, connected cars, and e-health. B2B companies selling products to other companies – such as machinery – are able to maintain a constant connection to their equipment now using IoT sensors and Digital Twin software. Most of this would have seemed impossible just 5 years ago.
McKinsey suggests that most of this IoT growth will remain inside the enterprise, although devices that are IoT-connected will see a fast uptake. This sounds correct and I can see IoT devices all around my own home now that were simply not available until recently.
One example is my Amazon Blink system. This system allows easy-to-install security cameras to be placed anywhere. The cameras are controlled by a central module that connects to a phone app, so it’s easy to video anything that moves when you are out, or to just check on a live camera feed. Similarly, I have a Furbo camera. This tell me when my dog is barking, allows me to see him, speak to him, and then even to throw a snack to him – all from a phone app.
Many of these applications may seem frivolous, but the important thing to note is that device connectivity is becoming ubiquitous. New cars are now almost all self-diagnosing problems and remaining connected to the manufacturer, constantly passing information on performance back to be checked.
The ongoing rollout of 5G will certainly facilitate an even wider use of sensors on just about everything. 4G develops connectivity issues when many sensors are close together, just like trying to use your phone at a rock concert when you are in a single place with 80,000 other people. As 5G frees us from this problem there will be many new applications, such as a blend of smart cities and smart cars – the vehicles and street furniture transmitting data in both directions.
We are already seeing immense growth in devices and applications that use the IoT, but I believe that 2020 and 2021 will really be the tipping point. Once 5G is more widely available the sky really is the limit – sensors will literally be all around.