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IoT Trends: What Will 2020 Bring?

Product evangelist Lee Stacey explains what he considers the biggest trends for the Internet of Things in the coming year—including Industrial IoT, MQTT, blockchain and more.
By Lee Stacey
Dec 15, 2019

The year 2019 has witnessed a continued proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) software platforms, and no doubt 2020 will see further use cases of the IoT as it cements itself even more deeply within business operations. We'll see further development of the IoT across consumer products and supply chains, too, but some areas to consider in more detail will include:

1. MQTT Will Become the de Facto IoT Messaging Protocol
Fragmentation has been a barrier to progress in the IoT since the very beginning, and messaging protocol is one area in which standardization would be massively beneficial. MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT) has been around for more than 25 years but has gained momentum recently thanks to the onset of the IoT. Simplicity and low-power efficiency, combined with comprehensive MQTT QoS, make it the ideal standard for the IoT. MQTT-SN will also come to the fore. Extra features added to MQTT for the purpose of relaying data from sensor networks will allow for IoT devices to use even less power to send messages.

2. Industrial IoT Will Overtake Consumer IoT
Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution finally happening? The number of consumer devices has been growing steadily for a few years, but the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has until now been relatively slow on the uptake. The IIoT has been held up by a combination of a lack of suitable technology and trust in the IoT as a whole. Important business processes—such as asset tracking, data gathering and new business modelling, to name but a few—will see enhancement through the introduction of IoT infrastructure. The past year has seen many advances in IoT technologies, particularly in security and the availability of technology. These advances will be the trigger for many IIoT networks to move from concept to reality.

3. Blockchain Meets IoT
In the IoT world, blockchain has been a buzzword and a "What if?" for some time, but a lack of real-world applications has made it difficult to prove the technology's worth. Next year will see many real-world IoT applications using blockchain to solve some of the trust and security issues inherent in IoT devices. For example, with smart homes using IoT devices, a home security system can be controlled remotely via a smartphone. But IoT sensors use a centralized model for information exchange, which lacks ownership of data and security standards. These security issues could potentially be solved by moving the data gathered from IoT devices to the blockchain.

4. Rise of the Smart Office
You've heard of smart homes; smart offices take the same concepts and apply them to the office environment. As we become comfortable with and accustomed to the smart technology we use at home, we will start to see similar devices and use cases appearing in the office. Smart homes use intelligent devices to save energy and make the home work better for those living in it, and smart offices will achieve the same at work. Sensors embodied in these smart systems can measure a variety of environmental elements: occupancy, light, air quality, humidity and even noise. The resulting data gathered from these sensors will help businesses to make important strategic decisions regarding facilities management—everything from costs to operations—with the added option of being able to track business assets.

5. More Networks Means More Fragmentation
The evolution of 5G networks, NB-IoT and a bevvy of unlicensed band networks means that there are more ways than ever to get data from the device to the enterprise. While this creates flexibility, thus making the IoT possible just about everywhere on the planet, it also makes things more complicated. For this reason, tried-and-tested connectivity solutions for which the hard work has already been done will win the day. But with more 5G IoT devices connecting directly to the 5G network rather than via a Wi-Fi router, will this make those devices more vulnerable to direct attack? Security will continue to offer up a myriad of challenges.

Lee Stacey is the chief noisemaker and product evangelist at Thingstream, which removes the complexity of creating and managing remote IIoT applications. The company combines connectivity and application management into a unique single platform. Lee has 25 years of experience working with technology-based companies, ranging from regional SMEs to global enterprises.

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