The Internet of Everything/Everyone (Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX)) is, perhaps, the ficklest of all platforms going into 2018. As much as I would like to say there is going to be some exciting news about it, I think it is just going to be MOTS (more of the same). That is simply due to its opaque nature. The IoX is more like parallel assembly lines, with so many elements and segments that will need to be integrated into this burgeoning envelope as they come off the lines. Both the lines and the integration are a massive undertaking.
Add to that the fact that there are no pervasive, solid guidelines or definitions, or specifications of what the IoX really is, or supposed to be. At this point, it is really just a collection of interconnected machines, of one type or another, across a multitude of platforms, many of which are yet to be connected or integrated under a uniform umbrella. In addition, those that are being integrated are not anywhere near fully integrated and completely functional (smart homes/cities/grids, wearables, vehicles, retail, supply chain, etc).
To support that, I point to the many iterations of it that I have heard; Internet of Your Things (IoYT), the Industrial IoT (IIoT), the Internet of Medical Things, the Internet of Retail Things, and so on. In fact, one can place just about any adjective between “of” and “things” one desires.
At least with 5G we have some specs; bandwidth, latency, spectrum handling, etc. Currently, the IoX is a wild west of technology, platforms, and devices – most of which are dissimilar, with their own protocols. There really are no rules. Anybody can call anything an IoX device and there is no way to dispute it.
The IoX is not a definable, tangible object that has substance of its own. It is the sum of the parts connected within it. What all this says is that there is no real metric by which the IoX can be measured. Therefore, whatever happens in 2018 can be spun a number of different ways.
For the next year or two, or three, key things will occur. The first is obvious; more interconnected devices will deploy, and the rate of that deployment will accelerate. Those hyping the IoX will focus on the fact that this is the IoX’s mission. However, in reality, it will be mostly more M2M with better interconnect. The real accelerated growth in IoX devices is not expected until 2020 at the earliest.
The second area of movement will be in advancing the connection of disparaging networks. That will be enhanced this year as movement speeds up with the wider adoption of standards like the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) for device-to-device interactions in smart home and enterprise applications, OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) for Process Control (OPC UA), and Open Mobile Alliance lightweight for M2M (OMA LwM2M) for device management. However, these have been around for a while so it is not like these are new and everybody is getting on the bandwagon
Progress will be made in 2018, in these areas but it will be slow and steady. How fast that will happen is hard to predict.
What is likely to see significant movement in 2018 is LTE M and NB-IoT. The need for these types of platforms is critical for the IoX. Low power, wide-area technologies will be the predominant networks for the IoX. A recent report by Mobile Experts predicts a ramp up in 2018 with a 200 percent CAGR for LTE-M and NB-IoT By 2020.
While industry, across the board, will see benefits from IoX philosophies, certain industry segments will move faster than others, and 2018 will start to slice those out. Large-scale interconnect will greatly enhance areas such as retail and medical, they will become the implementation leaders in 2018. The vertical, IIoT is also expected to gain significant traction in 2018.
Industries other than manufacturing are expected to shell out money around IoT solutions, as well this year. This includes transportation, which is expected to spend $85 billion, and the utility industry, which is expected to spend $73 billion, according to a report from IDC.
Other IoX areas that will see progress in 2018 will be attempts to develop some sort of standards, even if they become ad hoc, other than what was mentioned earlier (Wi-Fi, and similar). Performance metrics such as speed, bandwidth, latency, power consumption and power source life, etc. will start to see clearer definitions this year. That will aid in the development of devices that are more IoX-friendly; i.e. IoX-protocol aware. Additionally, partnering and mergers will move to the center of the radar screen as companies look to leverage IoX expertise and find some return on investment.
However, there will be some growing pains. John Grimm, senior director of security strategy at Thales eSecurity, notes “We will start to see an acceleration of consolidation. The number of IoT products and platforms is growing, as well as the number of security bodies, initiatives and standards that are coming out. It is inevitable that we will begin to see consolidation of standards development, particularly around IoT platforms, with over 300-400 platform products available now. As the market matures, there won’t be nearly as many products available as there are now.”
While 2018 will be filled with a lot of noise about the topics mentioned, a lack of commonality will continue to exist. Industries will move cautiously into vesting in IoX technology until progress is made on developing a “black box” that can interconnect disparaging technologies. Thusly, IoX proliferation will only expand moderately faster than 2017.
Security – big spoiler — the IoX is the widest and deepest attack surface with the most prolific device stratification. The consumer segment poses the biggest threat since it is the largest segment.
For industry, security risks will also rise but the curve will not be as steep as with the consumer segment. The issue here are vulnerabilities in global internet-infrastructure systems. As more devices become connected to one another, the window for security solutions becomes smaller and smaller, with shorter timelines. Business and industry will be challenged to keep security ahead of hackers and patch the holes quickly since any malware has a cornucopia of devices to jump to, and from. There are other security challenges around the IoX, beyond diversity and ubiquity, as well. Topics such as the collection and ownership of data, liabilities around privacy and personal space, analytics, security deployment responsibilities, and more are still to be resolved.
This fluidity that surrounds the IoX makes it difficult to wrap one’s arms around it at present. That is why 2018 will not be a key year for explosive traction in most areas.