IoT devices seem to be ubiquitous, but the truth is we’re not nearly there yet. In fact, IoT Analytics continues to predict steady growth as the future for IoT for years to come, with more than 27 billion devices online by 2025.

They’re not alone in their bullish IoT predictions either. MarketsAndMarkets projects the global IoT market will more than double from 2021 to 2026, growing from just over $300 billion to over $650 billion.

We’re seeing several trends influence this growth. First, the IoT market has matured to the point where regulations and standards are emerging to cope. Second, Moore’s Law isn’t dead, and IoT devices continue to get more powerful and efficient. Finally, other technologies that complement IoT, like AI/ML, 5G, and SD-WAN, are also coming into their own.

In the sections below, we’ll drill down and look at five specific trends to understand what the future of IoT looks like.

Trend #1: Growing IoT security and regulation requirements

police caution tape

As the IoT market matures, we’re seeing more legislation around the security of IoT devices. California’s SB-327, a.k.a. “The Default Password” law, is one early example. The idea behind SB-327 and other comparable legislation is simple: default passwords = easy-to-compromise devices. The law requires passwords on any network-connected devices, including IoT devices, to be either unique or force a change on initial login. While SB-327 is California legislation, in practice it tends to impact all of the U.S.—since the same devices sold to California residents are usually sold to the rest of the nation (and beyond).

By requiring manufacturers to create unique passwords per device or force a change on login, the law makes it harder for botnets to grow. This doesn’t change much for admins that we’re already changing their default passwords (you are already changing your default passwords, right?!). For admins that weren’t, expect to have password changes forced upon you as you deploy new IoT devices.

This is seen as more of a bellwether event than an anomaly, as similar legislation is cropping up across the globe. In the United Kingdom, the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill (PSTI) addresses many of the same points as SB-327. Even non-governmental agencies like the International Medical Device Regulators Forum (IMDRF) are prioritizing cybersecurity. The IMDRF has made managing medical device cybersecurity risks critical pieces of their 2021-2025 strategic plan, which is likely to influence what’s to come specifically for IoMT security.

Beyond default passwords, there’s also plenty of activity related to data privacy and data security in the IoT world as well. Compliance with standards like GDPR, HIPAA, and PIPEDA has long been a requirement in modern networks, and security and data privacy best practices for IoT are catching up. Case-in-point: an EU Radio Equipment Directive update adds requirements for wireless devices to better protect consumer privacy.

Frankly, keeping up with all the nuances of legislation across industries and borders can be difficult. So, let’s boil this down to what practical impacts network engineers can expect to see in managing their IoT device networks:

  • Encryption everywhere. Hopefully, this one is already a standard for you. But if it’s not, expect regulations and default device configurations to push you towards encryption throughout the 2020s (e.g., HTTPS instead of HTTP, SNMP v3 instead of v1/v2c, MQTTS instead of MQTT, etc.).
  • Certificate-based authentication. Passwords are a bit of a necessary evil in IT. They have their flaws, but the industry hasn’t delivered a great way to get rid of them. Certificate-based authentication helps us (somewhat) move away from password-based authentication, and many smart device manufacturers already use technologies like PKI and X.509 certificates.
  • More IoT security standardization. Some of the security innovations in IoT are going to mean more work for IT. The curveballs encryption can throw into network discovery, monitoring, and packet inspection for IoT visibility are prime examples. However, we’re also seeing more authoritative standards and best practices emerge. Today, the NIST Cybersecurity for IoT Program and ENISA’s Good Practices for Security of IoT are good starting points if you’re just learning about IoT security, and we’re likely to see more standardization rolling out soon.

Trend #2: IoT will get edgier

a man sits over the edge of a building in toronto

Since this is an article about network trends, we’re obligated to mention the edge (and we’re sure this is the first you’re hearing of it 😉). But there is some legitimate substance behind all the edge hype.

From smart cities to wearables, and manufacturing, there’s a persuasive argument for processing data as close to the source as possible. And fortunately, IoT devices (the source in this case) are getting more efficient at processing data. At the same time, 5G is emerging as a high-throughput transport mode for IoT data, and SD-WAN enables agile network routing. All this comes together to create a reality where use cases previously constrained by bandwidth, processing power, or network agility will all become possible.

Many of these distributed low-latency examples fall under the umbrella of multi-access edge computing (MEC). Practical examples of MEC applications include fleet management for autonomous vehicles, traffic management, and richer augmented reality experiences for everything from ads to games (like Pokemon Go).

For network managers, supporting these edge use cases will require a more dynamic approach to network infrastructure, IP address management (or even just finding IP addresses in an IoT network), and performance monitoring. Not only are there more endpoints to manage, but IoT endpoints can be mobile, and, with SD-WAN, the underlying transport medium connecting them can vary.

Trend #3: IoT marketplaces will continue to grow

a row of fresh produce

For IoT deployments, getting the implementation specifics right can be tricky. No single IT team can be expert-level in all the specifics across different use cases. The requirements for an industrial application are different from wearables, which are different from smart medical devices.

IoT marketplaces address this challenge by providing a centralized list of solutions for specific applications. Today, marketplaces are already making it easier to deploy production-grade IoT systems. A few examples include:

These marketplaces help take the complexity out of building IoT systems by allowing administrators to avoid reinventing the wheel. Instead of piecing together hardware, software, and connectivity solutions from scratch, curated kits help you hit the ground running.

While fully turnkey solutions aren’t yet practical for most cases, marketplaces remove a lot of the initial friction from solution design and deployment.

Trend #4: IoT and AI

a man wears a VR headset

AIoT is the relevant buzzword here, but we’ll keep it focused on the tech. Fundamentally, most IoT deployments are about analyzing data to make better-informed decisions. AI and ML can drastically improve the analytics process, and learn from the IoT data they generate.

While this may eventually lead to Skynet becoming self-aware in the long term, there is a lot of potential for good in the medium term (just kidding).

Some of the most exciting emerging AI and IoT trends emerging include:

  • Visual inspections. We’re getting to the point where IoT systems can aggregate enough high-quality data using ML and computer vision for use cases like visual inspection: looking for damages to packages or product defects.
  • Traffic management. IoT that leverages AI is a big part of smart city applications, and traffic management is a great example. With a plan to combine CCTV with AI and IoT in their traffic management system, New Delhi, India is one of the early adopters. In the years to come, expect to see more and more cities following suit.
  • Advanced wearable tech. Augmenting existing wearables with more intelligence increases possibilities for applications in industries including health, fitness, education, and more. Applying AI and ML to biometric data can improve the quality of insights on everything from a workout routine to the effectiveness of medical treatment. In education IT, AI can make game-based learning and AR/VR experiences more immersive.

A big networking challenge for AI and IoT is ensuring network throughput and performance is sufficient to support data transmissions in near real-time. Proactive network monitoring and granular network visibility are key.

thumbs up animation

Trend #5: The rise of smart industry

Female electronics engineer runs vehicle tests

If you needed words like Industry 4.0, IIoT, and Smart Industry to complete your buzzword bingo card, congrats! Smart industry use cases have been ramping up for years, and we can expect them to continue to do so throughout the 2020s.

Some of the textbook smart industry use cases are:

  • Predictive maintenance. Smart sensors can help plant managers be proactive about maintaining expensive factory equipment. Just how much of an impact can IoT have? A McKinsey Digital article reports sensor data can cut unplanned downtime in half, and reduce maintenance costs by up to 40%.
  • Making equipment utilization more efficient. IIoT gives plant managers better production visibility. This, in turn, enables more efficient load balancing across equipment and plants, and even when and where to identify opportunities for better, more sustainable, and more efficient ice cream-making options.
  • Improving supply chain management. IoT can optimize multiple aspects of supply chains. The right network of sensors helps reduce waste by ensuring products are shipped and stored in suitable environmental conditions, streamlining inventory management workflows, and optimizing transportation operations.

In all of these cases, it’s easy to draw a straight line between IIoT and business benefits. Expect to see proliferation, iteration, and improvement across nearly every facet of industrial production. Supply chains in particular are likely to see significant innovation in the years to come because we’re at a fascinating point in their history. In addition to technology reaching a tipping point, the industry is learning how to adapt to recent shortages that flipped “just-in-time” assumptions on their head.

The network as an enabler of IoT

One thing all these IoT trends have in common is connectivity. In particular, these new waves of IoT will tax networks and those that maintain them, like never before. If you’re not sure where to start, an IoT checklist is a great first step in preparing your network for the demands of IoT.

If you’re looking for a network monitoring and management solution to help, Auvik supports over 15,000 devices from over 700 different vendors.

Get templates for network assessment reports, presentations, pricing & more—designed just for MSPs.

Ebook cover - The Ultimate Guide to Selling Managed Network Services

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *