The IoT Forecast for 2015

Taking a look at what might excite, confound and surprise the IoT industry and end-user community in the year ahead.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Dec 23, 2014

It's been quite a year for the Internet of Things. In January, Cisco CEO John Chambers declared in his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show—where "IoT" emerged as a major buzzword—that the IoT would grow into a $19 trillion market in the coming years. In the months that followed, Google made its intentions to capitalize on the IoT known, by acquiring connected thermostat maker Nest, and Samsung did the same with its purchase of smart home device platform provider SmartThings. This fall, General Electric said it had generated $1 billion in revenue from analytics services tied to its Industrial Internet products (which it estimates can save industries $276 billion during the next 15 years). All the while, some untold number of business owners and corporate boards held some unknowable number of discussions about how they could benefit from all this IoT business. And in October, RFID Journal LLC launched IOT Journal in an effort to help answer that question.

So, what does 2015 hold in store? I asked a range of industry watchers and vendors this very question, to get their take on what is likely to excite, confound and surprise the IoT industry and end-user community in the year ahead. Here, based on their input and my own observations, are the highlights:

The Big Opportunities

• THE QUANTIFIED MACHINE: This year, much has been written (and much hype has been generated) about the quantified self, which refers to individuals who use wearable electronics, such as the Fitbit fitness tracker, to count every step taken or better understand sleeping patterns, all with the goal of improving health and performance. For industry, we will likely see more focus next year on what you might call quantified machines, which use sensors to track mechanical health by monitoring things like vibration, temperature and humidity levels, in order to flag technicians when a breakdown appears eminent. This certainly is not a new application, but it's starting to have some real traction within the manufacturing realm. During an event held this past fall, Dave Gutshall, an infrastructure design manager for Harley-Davidson, said that since deploying a sensor network for preventative maintenance at a Harley Davidson assembly plant in York, Penn., downtime due to problems on the manufacturing line "went from hours to minutes or seconds" thanks to the real-time troubleshooting information the sensor network provides. "Before," he said, "machines would break and no one knew why. Now, the minute you see a [problem] you fix it."

• IOT UNDER THE HOOD: Jasper founder and CEO Jahangir Mohammed told me he thinks 2015 will be the year when consumers start expecting connectivity in any new car they purchase. This year, Chevrolet began selling cars with integrated 4G LTE Internet service, but that's just the beginning of the connected car. At the upcoming CES event, BMW is expected to demonstrate its self-parking car application that is operated through a driver's smartwatch—even when the driver is not in the car. And then there's Tesla, which is taking the connected car concept to new heights. Yet, in terms of business applications, telematics, derived not from integrated Wi-Fi but through cellular-connected devices inserted into a vehicle's onboard diagnostic port, are gaining traction across industries, from usage-based insurance models to fleet-management applications that allow companies to track drivers' mileage and driving habits. This data, integrated with traffic data, can help companies improve efficiencies and encourage or incentivize safer driving habits. I think these types of applications will grow in 2015, and there is some momentum behind the use of Bluetooth beacons to support asset tracking or the environmental monitoring of cargo inside vehicles as well.

• ANALYZE THIS: In past years, so much of the focus has been on the falling costs of sensors and processing, it was easy to lose sight of the end game: pulling actionable data from IoT technology deployments. But that is already starting to change, and will become a bigger focus during the coming year, as software companies vie for the job of aggregating, filtering and analyzing sensor data and then packaging it up in a manner that a customer's existing systems can easily accommodate. Cisco is a big player here—especially because it is focusing on selling edge devices that can perform some of the initial filtering and analysis to reduce the torrent of data flowing downstream to the enterprise. But many middleware providers (MachineShop, for example) and IoT-focused service providers such as AGT are really honing their analytics toolsets.

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