The last few years have seen the Internet of Things (IoT) grow from a theoretical concept to a major priority for many organizations. As companies integrate IoT devices into their network infrastructures, they are looking for new ways to utilize them and manage the data they collect. Given the tremendous impact these devices are likely to have on the world, it’s worth looking at a few key Internet of Things statistics.
In a very general sense, IoT refers to a broad range of internet-connected devices that are capable of communicating with other devices and networks. They can perform a variety of functions but are most often used to gather information and perform specific actions. While many of them have the ability to process data, some are only intended to gather and transmit data elsewhere for processing.
The advantage of IoT devices is that their connectivity greatly enhances functionality. Since they can connect to a broader network, they can have extensive functionality with relatively modest hardware capabilities. They are crucial for automation strategies and can be used to control a variety of tasks and functions remotely.
That’s a lot of devices. When looking at the raw number of connected devices Gartner predicts will be connected to the internet by the end of the decade, it’s easy to lose sight of how large the figure actually is. For context, take a moment to look at the difference between a million and a billion in terms of time:
One million seconds is roughly equal to 11.5 days.
One billion seconds is roughly equal to 31.75 years.
The difference between a few million IoT devices and a few billion, then, is quite staggering. Other estimates that push IoT projections farther into the future provide even more striking numbers. Business Insider forecasts that there will be over 64 billion IoT devices by 2025.
Autonomous vehicles are coming, whether people like it or not. While precise numbers are difficult to determine, PWC estimates that the automotive industry spent around $46 billion on research and development of self-driving cars in 2015 alone. While driverless cars may not be taking over the highways soon, their need to gather and analyze huge amounts of data will demand more sophisticated edge data centers capable of directing the resulting digital traffic.
Even if self-driving vehicles aren’t here yet, existing automobiles are increasingly incorporating IoT features. From sensors that transmit usage and mechanical condition data to manufacturers and dispatchers to internet connectivity that facilitates better GPS and driver comfort, today’s vehicles offer as much connectivity as the modern home. The computing power that makes this connectivity possible will make IoT-enabled vehicles valuable tools in edge computing architectures.
Increasingly, IoT devices are popping up everywhere. Former Cisco researcher David Evans, who calculated just how many devices were being added every second, provides a glimpse into how widespread they’ve already become:
…“things” are no longer just computers and phones. Today, literally anything can be connected, including tennis rackets, diapers, clothing, vehicles, and, of course, homes. And although people may find this unsettling, the network is also starting to include biological things: Today, pets, crops, livestock, and the clothing on your body can be connected. We’re not far from an Internet link you can actually swallow as a pill.
With so many devices proliferating, IT professionals will need to be much more aware of potential security threats. Each device represents a different attack vector for hackers, and with so many devices coming and going in the workplace, companies must become more diligent managing access.
In a 2018 report on the mobile industry, Ericsson nearly doubled its previous forecasts on Internet of Things growth, largely due to the accelerating pace of deployments in China. The North East Asia market alone is expected to account for 2.2 billion connections by 2023. Short-range IoT devices are expected to see the greatest increase, but wide-area and cellular internet-connected devices are forecast to grow at an annual rate of about 30 percent by the same year. Much of this IoT growth will be credited to reductions in chipset prices and the expansion of cellular technologies such as NB-IoT and Cat-M1.
Many companies have already identified IoT devices as a clear value-add for their business. Far from just the technology sector, clothing manufacturers, healthcare providers, and municipalities around the world are investing in new ways to leverage the potential of interconnected devices.
With so much capital pouring into research and development, it’s safe to assume that the IoT market size of the next decade will look very different from today’s. One thing that won’t change, however, will be the importance of edge data centers in IoT networks. This may explain why colocation data centers continue to be a vital IT solution for organizations looking to rapidly scale their operations to make the most of IoT devices.
Research by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that IoT growth will continue to be rapid despite the fact that many of the most promising applications of the technology have yet to be fully deployed. Many companies already utilizing IoT technology are doing so modestly, such as using smart sensors to track products flowing through their supply chains. However, complementary technologies such as more versatile cloud technology and edge computing architecture will likely enable a rapid expansion of IoT applications. The expansion of 5G technology and reductions in hardware costs are also expected to help increase the widespread adoption of internet-connected devices.
Smart home devices, most of which are used to automate lighting, climate, appliance, entertainment, or security systems in a household, are already entering homes in record-breaking numbers. As an example, “smart speaker” devices like the Amazon Echo are already in 31 percent of US broadband households as of Q1 2019, up from a mere seven percent in 2017.
Healthcare is one of the most exciting use cases for IoT technology, which is why the market in that sector is expected to grow by 12 percent annually from 2017 to 2023. The potential of telemedicine and wearable sensors will make it possible for medical professionals to better monitor and treat patients, especially in traditionally difficult-to-reach regions. Although the healthcare sector faces unique challenges owing to the compliance demands of HIPAA/HITECH requirements, improvements in IoT security will help the technology to be applied more broadly in the coming years.
While self-driving cars and smart kitchens snatch most of the IoT headlines, some of the most exciting innovation is taking place in the manufacturing sector. From intelligent machines capable of performing automated tasks to augmented wearables that allow people to work more efficiently and safely, companies are experimenting with new ways of putting the latest IoT innovations to use.
Better data analysis will also enable predictive maintenance, better energy efficiency, and higher overall levels of production uptime. Combined with edge computing architectures, industrial IoT devices will be especially valuable for places where low or non-existent bandwidth has led to data infrastructure challenges in the past. Smart machinery will be able to operate in more places than ever before, helping to boost production, create jobs, and grow the economy.
The majority of business leaders in these industries seem to understand the value of investing in comprehensive IoT strategies. Some of that confidence could be due to the early return on investment many companies have already experienced. For instance, according to a 2017 Aruba study, while only 16 percent of business leaders expected IoT investments to lead to large profit gains, twice as many actually did see those profits materialize. Similarly, 46 percent of companies made improvements in efficiency despite only 29 percent of executives believing IoT would make an impact on their efficiency standards. As IoT technology becomes more cost-effective to implement in the coming years, more business leaders will surely be quick to support such initiatives.
Fully interconnected smart cities have the potential to fully unleash the possibilities of IoT, and cities around the world are racing to develop new strategies that use IoT technology to streamline municipal operations and services. While a majority of US cities are already implementing these solutions, another 25 percent are exploring potential IoT applications. On a global scale, the market value of smart city initiatives incorporating IoT and AI is expected to surpass $2 trillion by 2025, with the top 600 smart cities accounting for 60 percent of global GDP.
Online shoppers have already come to expect a customized shopping experience thanks to data analytics that allow online retailers to use past purchases and viewing history to promote the type of products customers are likely to find appealing. Thanks to IoT technology, brick-and-mortar stores will soon be able to do the same. With RFID and beacon technologies, companies will be able to actively shape the customer experience the moment someone enters a store. Real-time data from smart price tags will allow stores to be more responsive to purchasing trends and make adjustments to maximize sales.
If the total number of connected devices doesn’t provide enough shock value, consider the vast amount of data these devices are expected to generate. Cisco expects that total to exceed 800 zettabytes, which is quite a lot considering that a single zettabyte is equal to about a trillion gigabytes (following the time example above, one trillion seconds is equal to about 31,710 years).
Data centers will play a huge role in managing this information and harnessing its potential. Considering that about 90% of this data will be unstructured, it will be more important than ever for data centers to continue pushing the boundaries of both storage capacity and predictive analytics to keep pace with the demands of IoT.
While IoT devices are clearly already having an impact on the world’s network infrastructure, that influence is only going to increase in the coming years. By taking some of the current and projected figures into account, organizations can begin to position their business plans to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities and mitigate the risks these devices present. No matter how a company plans to incorporate IoT, a good data center will continue to be a vital partner in that process.
As the Marketing Manager for vXchnge, Kaylie handles the coordination and logistics of tradeshows and events. She is responsible for social media marketing and brand promotion through various outlets. She enjoys developing new ways and events to capture the attention of the vXchnge audience.