IoT: resolving the unknowns

Picture of John Denslinger
John Denslinger is a former executive VP Murata, president SyChip Wireless, and president/CEO ECIA, the industry’s trade association. His career spans 40 years in electronics

In this article, John Denslinger sees the expansion of existing IoT applications, plus the introduction of new connected technologies, as a fundamental driving force over coming years.

Forecasting several years out is often futile. Results are rarely accurate and frequently altered by disruptive technologies unknown at the time. Somehow, that doesn’t stop us from planning the future for many new technologies like IoT.

I admit a certain fascination with IoT. It stems from a white paper released in 2011 by Cisco projecting 50B connected devices by 2020. At the time, that caught my attention. The application was ubiquitous. It would require components, connectivity and engagement across every market segment. The opportunity for growth would be great.

The road to adoption was anything but smooth. It’s a great case study. Just five years ago, consultants everywhere were pushing huge growth in connected devices. Collectively, the projections varied widely as one might expect. The low-end forecast hovered around 25B (Gartner, McKinsey, Harper Research and others) and the high end at 30B+ (Statista, BI Intelligence). As a group, they missed and missed by a lot. The actual figure for 2020 is just a little over 20B. That means these forecasters over-estimated market adoption between 25 to 50 per cent. In a way, the forecast miss is the lesser story largely because billions were connected. Also, those billions will continue as the outlook remains at double digit CAGR affirmed by the latest consensus forecast of 64B to 75B connected devices by 2025. Whether adoption reaches that amount or not, it will be spectacular growth by any measure.

To be fair to our forecasters, the unknowns constricted 2020 growth. First, as IoT implementations occurred, companies acquired a deeper understanding of the networking complexities and from that grew greater concern for security, connectivity, data collection, data sharing, reliability and privacy issues. Secondly, the ecosystem for IoT was, and still is, under constant refinement as newer technology is introduced offering better performance, lower cost and solutions to many of the attribute concerns mentioned above. Lastly, enter the regulators. Around the globe, guidance initiatives and protective measures were instituted in response to national security and individual privacy concerns.

On a positive note, IoT is still in its infancy. There is an explosion of new ecosystem enablers and next-generation market drivers that will enhance IoT adoption. Think of the enablers as technology conduits. When applied to IoT, the performance of the entire ecosystem is elevated. Consider these five following technologies: AI driving faster decision making and unbiased control logic via algorithms; blockchains offering verifiable security for every digital transaction; nanotechnology pushing componentry to micro-scale levels with greater integration capabilities; VR augmenting control through vision; and lastly sensors, the under-pinning of the IoT network. Sensors are the eyes and ears of the grid. Each is becoming smaller, more efficient, less costly, more secure, and easier to mesh into any system set up.

As for next-generation market drivers, 5G and eSIM alone is expected to generate nearly 37B connections by 2025 according to Juniper Research. Add to that figure key emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, smart homes, healthcare wearables, smart cities, and smart agriculture. Plus, there still is substantial application expansion available in current markets such as EV, fitness, factory automation, consumer electronics, warehousing, and enterprise.

So much more is now known about IoT and its deployment. Solutions to every problem are many and readily available. The market opportunities are real. It would seem then that resolving the unknowns most assuredly paves the way to meeting the 2025 IoT growth forecast.