For the second year in a row, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the leader in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, and one look at the slew of predictions around just how big the IoT will grow shows that it has earned its top spot.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but here it goes:

Verizon puts the number of connected devices at 5.4 billion by 2020. Gartner says 25 billion connected things by that same year. And Juniper Research predicts 38.5 billion connected devices by 2020. Any takers?

While we ponder what the IoT landscape will look like in the next few years, and wonder if it will be toppled from its perch in next year’s Hype Cycle, let’s take some time to look back at what 2015 had in store for the space.

Growing, Growing …

If any of these projected numbers are on target, not only will we see a huge jump in the number of connected devices, but we’ll also experience an explosion of data.

If companies can’t even keep up with the data they have today, what is it going to look like when billions more devices are added to the mix?

Bart Schouw, director of IBO Solutions (Intelligent Business Operations) for Germany-based Software AG, commented on the scope of the problem in a CMSWire article:

“If you thought big data was a challenge, wait till you start trying to deal with this,” he said. “It’s basically big data on steroids. Not only will it be bigger, but the variety will be much bigger as will the number of things that can actually talk to you.”

Gartner analyst Paul O’Donovan shared a similar view when he discussed growing competition in the IoT gateway market:

“The amount of data will have to be restricted,” he said. “Can you imagine the Internet being flooded with tiny little information packets from millions and millions of users about all kinds of things? We simply don’t have the infrastructure to manage all that.”

Making Data Useful

Of course, trying to make use of all this data was a monumental challenge this year, and will certainly continue to be so in the future.

David Roe reported that 65 percent of companies surveyed state that analyzing big data in real time is very difficult, while almost 75 percent struggle to get valuable analytics from their data flow.

In another piece, he discussed how only eight percent of companies are making full use of their IoT data, and that 17 percent capture and store IoT data, but do nothing with it.

He noted that “enterprises are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data the IoT generates and struggling to derive meaning from that data.”

Companies like Salesforce and Amazon announced that they want to help companies extract that meaning, as they introduced their new cloud-based solutions this year: IoT Cloud and AWS IoT.

Forbes contributor Theo Priestley noted that while Salesforce is trying to connect customer service and experiences to IoT, Amazon is trying to appeal to a more technical audience, like developers.

“It’ll be the company with the stronger developer community, and wider options to develop and sell solutions that will win between these two,” he predicts.

A Year of IoT Spending

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Spending Guide, global IoT spending reached $698.6 billion in 2015 and is forecasted to reach almost $1.3 trillion in 2019.

Who was spending? Asia Pacific was first with more than 40 percent of global spend, followed by North America and Western Europe, which spent more than $250 billion combined.

The report attributes the high spending of Asia/Pacific to government investments in business modernization and infrastructure development, and the fact that traditional IT isn’t meeting the technology investment needs of the region.

As for verticals, manufacturing and transportation topped the list in IoT spending for the year, while the fastest growing use case for North America was in-store contextual marketing, including beacons.

Insurance telemarketing lead the way the in Asia/Pacific; maintenance and field service in Latin America; and smart buildings in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Africa.

And the fastest-growing use case across five of the six regions? Connected vehicles, which includes iemergency, infotainment, security, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) applications.

Specific examples include Apple’s CarPlay platform, which allows drivers to control digital controls in their cars using their iPhone, and Google’s Android Auto, which released its mobile app this year.

The Search for Higher User Adoption

In early 2015, research from ParStream uncovered that 51 percent of companies have issues with user adoption of new technology — whether business or consumer users.

A recurring topic in CMSWire contributor Dana Blouin’s IoT coverage, he advocates increasing adoption by taking advantage of devices that people are comfortable using, such as smartphones.

“It goes without saying that most businesses constantly strive to improve the customer experience,” he wrote in an article covering challenges to technology adoption. “Sometimes there are hurdles to get over, such as technology adoption. When that's the case, it stands to reason using technologies that people already like and use boosts adoption — and is an excellent way to forge greater connection with customers.”

Security Still a Concern

According to Gartner, in 2016, 5.5 million new things will be connected every day. With the sheer number of connected devices, the opportunity to hack into a connected car, home, watch or even health care device is a major threat – and at the same time, a huge opportunity for the security market.

In fact, according to Marketsandmarkets, the IoT security market is expected to grow to $28.9 billion by 2020 from $6.89 billion this year, at a CAGR of 33.2 percent.

Underscoring the urgency around security, this year, we saw the introduction of the first IoT Security conference in Boston.

We also saw movement in the public sector, including a partnership between the National Science Foundation and Intel, which is focused on improving security around IoT.

The US Department of Homeland Security even got involved in the fight by announcing that it is seeking and funding startups that will help them identify and address specific security threats around the IoT.

And, finally, security — along with data, mobile, Google and innovation were hot topics of conversation this year for IoT leaders, according to a social insights report by Leadtail. If you want to know more about the hashtags, influencers, publications and topics of conversation important to those in the B2B IoT space, check out the article here.

Title image by Maria Carrasco