Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect changes in the trends and technology.
The only thing that can be definitively said for the Internet of Things (IoT) is that no matter what set of figures you look at, the IoT is growing — or spreading — and is likely to continue to do so in the future. That said, the speed of that growth is less certain.
How Big Is the IoT
If you look back even two years, research from IDC suggested that the number of devices connected to the internet, including the machines, sensors and cameras that make up the IoT, would be hit 41.6 billion devices, or "things," generating 79.4 zettabytes (ZB) of data in 2025. The World Economic Forum agrees with these predictions and estimates that there will be 41 billion devices capturing data on how we live, work, move through our cities and operate and maintain the machines on which we depend.
However, not every researcher believes that the figures will be this high and there are signs that many companies are beginning to downplay the estimated number of devices that will be in play. Statista, for example, estimates that the total installed base of IoT connected devices worldwide will amount to 30.9 billion units by 2025, a sharp jump from the 13.8 billion units estimated for this year.
Elsewhere,according to Professor William Webb, author of the book The Internet of Things Myth, said there’s no way to really know how many interconnected devices we have today, but he’s estimating it is closer to 8.5 billion.
Speaking at the Advantech Connect Online Partner Conference, Webb said he believes we will eventually get to 50 billion interconnected devices, but that it will take more time.
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What's Stalling IoT?
All this goes to the heart of a subject that is key to digital workplace strategies that depend on the IoT. Before investing, enterprise leaders need to work out what is holding up IoT development and consider whether it will impact their business strategies. In short, it begs the question: What are the big problems stalling the development of the IoT.We asked a number of people workingwith and usingthe IoT what they think the biggest problems are at the moment and why it is taking so long for the IoT to spread. They uncovered these 7 issues.
Jens Beck is director ofIIoT, Analytics and Innovative Cloud Services at Canada-based Syntax. He believes that 2021 and beyond will be a good and prosperous year for industrial IoT. However, there are still problems among them being maturity.
Digitization is not simply plugging a “smart solution” to your devices and then getting all the positive outcomes, insights and actions. Most companies have a quite heterogeneous shop floor with some of the machines not even being ready for gathering data. At the start of the industry 4.0 wave, the offerings from a technology standpoint, as well as the availability of experts, was very limited and the upfront investment cost was rather high. This led to a lot of early adopters having their first experiences be negative. This is a fairly common reason why IoT projects fail today.
“The IoT world is very rapidly changing and so you need to keep your landmarks in sight andstay open to integrate what is useful for you, change what can be optimized;” he said.
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Lack of Skills
IoT requires a breadth of experience that most companies don't have, Dean Croshere, COO at Sacramento-based Geocene, said. Converting a sensor to IoT provides easily digestible data that leads to effective (and cost saving or revenue generating) business decisions, but it's expensive to build and maintain.
Building a successful IoT product requires a breadth of skills. While a standard sensor can store data locally or communicate it over some relatively simple standard protocol like Modbus, the data collected by an IoT sensor must traverse a considerable breadth of custom-developed systems. The sensor must connect to a custom hub or a mobile app, requiring an additional device or a mobile app developer. The hub or mobile app must be uploaded to a backend server in the cloud and managed there, requiring a backend developer.
To have a useful IoT product, a company needs to aggregate and analyze the backend data. They can use traditional analytics or advanced machine learning techniques, but quality analytics requires a data scientist. Finally, they will also need to present the data back to users in a helpful way in an effective front-end system, requiring a front-end developer.
Many IoT devices run low-quality software susceptible to the kinds of vulnerabilities that were prevalent in the late 90s and early00s, Jacob Ansari, chiefinformation security officer (CISO) ofTampa, La.-based Schellman & Company IoT, said.Devices are vulnerable due to software exploits, weak cryptographic usage, authentication failures, and the difficulty in deploying software.
Device manufacturers also cease software support long before the users of the devices are ready to replace them. This is to say nothing of devices that capture video or audio and send it to other parties without the user's knowledge (e.g., voice assistants building voice profiles of individuals or cameras providing data to law enforcementwithout direct, informed consent).
Further, weaknesses in IoT devices lead to attack points that expose the networks on which they reside. This is true for both residences andbusinesses, as an IoT device that fails to secure the wireless network's security credentials then exposes the entire network. In the current situation, where so many people now work remotely, a single IoT failure canyield an attack that affects both home and business networks.
“The factors that lead to many fewer devices than anticipated are probablycomplex, and doubtless many are disappointed by this, but the silver liningis that we're not drowning in attack vectors from problematic software running on hard-to-service hardware, and for that, at least, we should begrateful,” he said.
Ivan Kot is a solution consultant focusing on business development in various verticals at Itransition, a Denver-based software development company. The major reason is that IoT turned out much more complex than previously estimated. First and foremost, there are numerous IoT connectivity options, but this variety proves overwhelming rather than helpful. IoT adopters need to either opt for a single one and limit their choice of devices and technologies, or take pains to orchestrate several. IoT also requires a rich and well-equipped hardware, software, and data storage infrastructure, so its adoption usually entails IT system revamp and sufficient investments — a feat that not every company is up for.
Other than that, most connected devices even today have limited computational power and are incompatible with robust protection mechanisms by design. To mitigate this grave flaw and safeguard the network from hackers and malware, IoT adopters have to equip it with multi-layered security controls.
In the consumer market, there's obviously many connected devices but few standards or the interoperability needed for creating an intelligent home or building let alone an Intelligent Planet, saidRon Exler, director and principal analyst, at Information Services Group. It seems like almost anything we can buy has an Internet connection—light bulbs, washing machines, vehicles, speakers, watches, picture frames, security cameras, doorbells. “Society could easily increase those numbers but I don't sense people necessarily need or WANT more things connected. The companies selling the devices are hungry for the consumer usage data but in my opinion aren't adding much added value to consumers yet for the connectivity,” he said.
The lack of standards and interoperability I mentioned above is also true of enterprise IoT. Enterprises seek to lower risk and one way to help with that is to not rely on a single vendor. Plus multi-vendor solutions can be more robust. Also critical is the IT systems connecting to the operational systems. But without adequate standards for data exchange and security, the idea of the IoT will not reach its full potential. Smart cities are fantastic in concept yet break down not only because of the aforementioned issues but also in the politics and funding.
Lack of security on privacy:* IoT devices undoubtedly provide consumers with a fantastic experience, but security issues have always surrounded the Internet of Things, Damien Knight , CEO of Workever, said. To achievethe desired results, IoT devices must first exchange data over the internet, which is a place where hackers can often be found in large numbers. A data breach of any magnitude can severely disrupt an individual's personal life.
IoT devices must share information with top-notch encryption to avoid data leakage. It would take a long time for this to happen. Increased complexity is another aspect that raises doubts about the reliability of the system. Since the Internet of Things is such a vast and diverse network, it is possible for apps to malfunction or for the IoT infrastructure to collapse.
IoT systems are shifting the way we interact with the world. The infrastructure model lends itself to global scale and global scale leads itself to worldwide public cloud developments, Mike O'Malley, SVP at Oak Brook, Ill.-based Seneca Global, said.Large scale public cloud projects started off as porting software into the cloud. This lift-and-shift approach, where on-premises applications can move to the cloud without redesign, works but doesn't take full advantage of native-cloud features and creates lots of waste, high AWS/Azure bills and inefficiency. As a result, many companies are now revamping their IoT strategies by creating updated Kubernetes based public cloud deployments, which means big additional investments before rolling out IoT on a global scale.