2018 has been another important year in the development of the Internet of Things – and if there’s one thing you can be sure of, 2019 will be even bigger. According to IDC’s most recent spending tracker, global IoT spending will hit almost $750 billion in the coming year, led by the manufacturing industry.
Here, IoT News takes a look at the trends and opinions that shaped 2018, as well as polling executives at the sharp end of the industry on what they see happening in 2019.
The 2018 IoT news agenda
While plenty of column inches were devoted to key areas such as smart cities and standardisation, there were three primary areas which saw the most development in 2018.
Connected cars – which of course naturally dovetails with the smart cities conversation – saw a plethora of updates. In April, Counterpoint Research posited that there would be more than 125 million connected vehicles being shipped by 2022. Partnerships sprung up all over the place in 2018, from tech to vehicle, such as Volvo and Ericsson, to two motoring behemoths joining forces in the shape of Ford and Volkswagen.
A global shift in funding also took place. Dyson pumped £200 million into a UK driverless vehicle campus in August, while a month later Porsche committed €150 million (£134.5m) into emerging startups. Toyota’s outlay, meanwhile, was on another level meanwhile, with the Japanese behemoth investing $1 billion in ride-hailing firm Grab and $500m into Uber’s self-driving initiative in the same quarter. Perhaps the largest funding – albeit not especially connected car related – was in April when Microsoft announced it would pledge $5 billion over the next four years.
Indeed, details on organisations’ initiatives continue to be extremely hot property. In July, a former Apple employee Xiaolang Zhiang, pleaded not guilty to charges of pilfering driverless car secrets to work at a new company.
Artificial intelligence was an important topic throughout 2018. While its benefits are clear, ethical issues persisted. In November, Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, reportedly told employees the company would continue selling facial recognition to law enforcement. Momentum has been building over Silicon Valley workers striking back at what they see as unethical use of technology from their employers. At the more absurd end of the scale came the story of a Chinese business executive in November who was flagged up as a potential jaywalker – only for it to be revealed the city of Ningbo’s facial recognition system ‘caught’ the victim as her picture adorned the side of a bus.
As ever, security and its associated scares remained at the forefront of stories over the past 12 months. In August, a report from Dynatrace found a significant number of consumers simply didn’t trust IoT devices, having already encountered performance issues with them. This publication reported on some of the more salacious goings-on, including an incident where hackers connected an IoT parking kiosk to a pornography site.
Yet not all hackers are set on causing mischief – at least, not intentionally. In December, a so-called white hat hacker spoke to a man through his Nest camera in an attempt to warn him of the dangers associated with IoT-enabled devices.
The best of IoT News opinion in 2018
News stories naturally generate opinion and discussion – and with that in mind, below is a selection of some of the most popular opinion pieces published in 2018:
“If we want to see mobility and smart city solutions at scale, then the type of cooperation between public authorities and private companies has to change”
Writing for this publication in July, Dimitrios Spiliopoulos, IoT sales enablement manager at O2, looked at his experiences in living and working in various countries to assess the three major problems big cities have to deal with – and how IoT and AI can improve them.
Spiliopoulos identified mobility challenges – how to improve citizens’ lives and bring them closer – air pollution and home care for elderly and vulnerable people as the key issues, and concluded partnerships and ecosystems need to be sharpened up going forward.
“A new approach to city problems need to be followed, and this is development of a strong ecosystem of partners, meaning many different suppliers with complementary services and skills that are ready to invest resources in order to innovate together with the city learn together from the pilots and later to scale,” he wrote. “This ecosystem needs to include stakeholders from different backgrounds, such as local authorities, local universities, private or public associations, startups, and some key corporates.”
“Wireless protocols like Z-Wave and Wi-Fi are the backbone upon which IoT infrastructure sits; yet in some cases they have created fractured or closed ecosystems that create barriers and confusion for end users”
In the same month Mitchell Klein, executive director of the Z-Wave Alliance consortium, penned a thoughtful piece which explored the history of the smart home and its connectivity, recognising struggles along the way and what the future holds.
“The smart home market will continue to grow and so far, we haven’t seen a large push for one standard or technology to rule them all. But we do have a responsibility to help consumers understand what they are bringing into their homes and the role that each technology plays in their overall experience,” Klein wrote.
“All wireless protocols have their pros and cons, but the most important factors for adoption continue to be interoperability and security, and greater product choice,” he added. “It’s up to all of us – standards groups, manufacturers, retailers, developers – everyone in the smart home ecosystem, to move the conversation forward and fulfil the promise of connected living.”
“AI and machine learning is going to be as core to John Deere as an engine and transmission is”
IoT News spoke to two senior executives at agricultural manufacturing giant John Deere in 2018; John Stone, senior vice president of the company’s intelligent solutions group, at Mobile World Congress and Than Hartsock, director of precision agriculture solutions at IoT Tech Expo.
Hartsock told this publication of how even during his schooldays, he noticed how Deere was ‘uniquely committed to precision agriculture’, and how the company’s recent strategic moves – including the acquisition of Blue River Technology towards the end of 2017 – continued to play into that ethos.
“[A] tractor is equipped with many sensors around the engine and transmission, and then that tractor, like most of our large ag machines, is equipped with a 4G modem that then provides connectivity between those sensors and data that’s being acquired, and then connected to the cloud,” explained Hartsock. “Once the data gets to the cloud we give the user, the farmer, contractor, the authority over the data to dictate control and share with other partners and other companies.
“You really then have this ecosystem that evolves, develops, for usage of the data… all generated out of the work that’s being done in the field by that smart machine.”
“IoT has seen a fair few buzzwords roll through over the years – but there is a fresh batch of cutting-edge technology that will really change the way businesses and consumers alike interact”
In September, Martin Keenan, technical director at Avnet Abacus, selected eight critical areas where emerging technology will complement the Internet of Things. Some, such as 5G, AI and LPWAN, were obvious. Others, as in the case of multi-functional polymer composites, were less so.
“While current IoT applications might include sensors embedded in substances such as reinforced concrete, that can alert when the concrete is dry and later on if structural damage is detected, the new wave of composites will have this type of behaviour built or baked in,” wrote Keenan.
“For example, structural members in an aircraft will not only be lighter, stiffer composites, but these materials will increasingly be inherently able to detect delamination, cracks, or other signs of mechanical fatigue.”
Key merger and acquisition activity in 2018
February: Google ‘re-acquires’ Nest, brings it back under hardware arm
April: Intel sells Wind River to TPG for undisclosed amount
July: Facebook acquires Bloomsbury AI for reportedly up to $30 million to tackle fake news
August: Siemens acquires low code platform provider Mendix for $730 million (Editor’s note: link goes to sister site Enterprise CIO)
September: Munich Re acquires IoT middleware platform Relayr for $300 million
What is going to happen in 2019?
Ron Victor, founder and CEO of IoTium: “In 2019, we’re going to see broad, scalable deployment of Industry 4.0 technologies with adoption fuelled by the business insights made possible by widespread availability of analytics applications.
“While IIoT itself will gain traction across industries, the oil and gas and energy markets will be the ones to watch in terms of adoption. At the same time, IIoT in manufacturing will lag behind other industrial markets and that while IIoT security will continue to be an important dialogue in the coming year, 2019 won’t be the year of IIoT security.”
Charlene Marini, vice president of strategy, IoT services group at Arm: “Expect drivers for smart cities to mature from just cost reductions (e.g. LED lights or better waste management) to better citizen engagement and more revenue streams (e.g. red light violation detection, Wi-Fi hotspot, 5G services, smart towers, crime detection/analysis, information broadcast) with the help of advanced technologies like computer vision and machine learning.
“Expect buildings to also now take energy efficiencies from optimised HVAC, efficient lighting as table stakes. Smart buildings will increasingly move towards space optimisation, object detection for safety/security, wayfinding and asset tracking, with the help of locationing, computer vision and ML.”
Chris Penrose, president of IoT solutions at AT&T: “IoT solutions will be key to helping companies achieve their sustainability objectives by conserving water, reducing energy and fuel use, and driving lower carbon emissions.
“More and more companies and cities will adopt IoT solutions with a goal of improving the environment and the society for the greater good. Industrial IoT applications such as asset and fleet management solutions will unlock massive efficiencies and help reduce emissions across multiple industries such as manufacturing, transportation, logistics and energy.”
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their IoT use-cases? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.