Emerging technology always grows and adapts at an accelerated rate, with new uses and developments emerging with an impressive regularity. IoT may have been around for a little too long to be classed as a truly emerging technology, but the amount of new implementations and trends that it is involved in remains impressive.
And it doesn't look like IoT's progress will be slowing down in 2021. In fact, there are already some big predictions for how IoT will evolve this year, with healthcare, location services and new network technologies all likely to drive growth
Here are just seven of the ways that IoT is forecasted to change and grow in 2021.
IoT will align closer with AI
We're already seeing IoT and AI processes being used in tandem across sectors like heavy industry, where automation and monitoring can have real benefits to worker safety and business efficiency. Businesses which invest in IoT alongside AI typically see much better outcomes, and higher ROI, than those which only choose to implement one of the technologies.
As more and more businesses take advantage of these benefits, experts will emerge who can handle the technical aspects of both AI and IoT, a skill set that is currently lacking, to create more turnkey AI/IoT offerings for greater accessibility
Increased remote work will see more digital twinning
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the norm across the world, it's become clear that we won't be getting back into offices en-masse any time soon. This seismic shift towards homeworking has acted as an adoption driver for digital twin technology, digital replicas of items from the real-world.
Digital twins was an emerging concept before the pandemic, but now the ability to experiment and optimise without risk or overhead costs has proved to be extremely appealing to organisations. With better access to digital twins, employees can have more latitude to build and experiment from their home working space during these difficult times.
A bigger range of wireless connectivity options
Currently, IoT and mobile devices rely on cellular data networks (3G/4G/5G) in order to provide a stable connection. In 2021 though, businesses and consumers will be able to take advantage of a larger range of wireless connectivity options.
Research predicts that IoT will be able to make use of Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC) in 2021. Meanwhile, long-distance connectivity will be catered for by low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, of which there are currently more than 400 in use thanks to heavy investment from China and Amazon.
An increased focus on predictive maintenance
IoT has proved to be exceptionally useful in predicting equipment issues. With the right IoT solutions, these problems can be headed off before serious damage and shutdowns that negatively impact efficiency have chance to take hold.
Currently, factories that employ these smart elements receive warnings before technologies fail, but predictive maintenance is set to go even further. An example is the increasing use of linked climate control equipment, which is being scoped to help the likes of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) operators make more confident decisions around when maintenance tasks are needed to be carried out.
Mining sites are also being monitored with IoT technology, with paired artificial intelligence is used to predict equipment breakages due to use and stress levels. This lets operators act proactively to replace such parts before the impact on output. The benefits of predictive maintenance and pre-emptive action is clear, and so we can expect adoption to rise significantly this year and beyond.
Industrial automation will be adopted more widely and faster
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on supply chains, manufacturing and other operations, creating a greater demand for automation.
The advantages that are provided by technologies such as machine learning, remote maintenance and robotics are well known, and, while many industries were in the early stages of adoption, the ability to operate with less actual human operators on the factory floor is sure to be an attractive proposition as the crisis continues.
Social distancing will increase demand for space monitoring
Various Covid-19 vaccinations are currently being rolled out across the world, giving protection to the most vulnerable and at-risk first. Everyone will be vaccinated in time, but until then we will have to live with mitigating measures and social distancing for a while longer.
In order to allow businesses and organisations to continue their work safely, a number of IoT devices have been deployed to make sure guidance is followed. These include automated services, as we have already discussed, but the likes of proximity sensors and capacity monitors are also being rolled out to ensure that employees are kept safe in the workplace
As we continue to find ways to live with, and work around, the pandemic, it is highly likely that organisations will invest more and more in connected technologies that lessens the risks to the health and safety of staff.
Improving data processing at the edge
IoT has already made vast improvements to the quality of data analytics, but 2021 will see more IoT data processing with edge computing (where data is processed by the device in use, rather than being sent to a data centre). The amount of data that can be collected has increased dramatically, enabled somewhat by the emergence of faster 5G networks, and, used alongside IoT, this will allow businesses to drive digital transformation like never before.
Companies will need to make quicker decisions about their IoT usage in order to really harness the full potential value on offer, but those who do will see huge benefits.