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

The High Hurdles

• PRIVACY AND SECURITY: It will come as no surprise that privacy and security are the twin issues that seem to be keeping every type of company in the IoT ecosystem, from sensor manufacturers to analytics providers to end users, up at night. While many industrial IoT applications exist in relative security, behind corporate firewalls, there is certainly much work ongoing to secure data. Thus far, no calamitous data breach has been linked directly to an IoT deployment, but it seems only a matter of time before one is. On the privacy front, retailers and marketers are still examining the extent to which consumers are willing to share data through consumer IoT applications. No major hiccups here yet—New York City's "secret" beacon deployment notwithstanding. With cyber security filling headlines of late, however, both privacy and security are certainly top-of-mind for IoT technology providers and users alike. There are no silver bullets here, just a lot of work to be done in terms of how IoT technology is designed and deployed—and even how the hardware is made.

• HELP WANTED: There is a talent shortage across the IoT ecosystem, and it has become a definite problem, says Aapo Markkanen, an IoT analyst with ABI Research. "Some people underestimate how complicated the IoT can be," he told me. "But if you want to produce something commercially viable, you need skills in computer science, data science, analytics… it can be quite complex." Of course, Markkanen is far from the only one who has noticed this dearth of talent. PTC—which points out the especially strong demands for expertise in cyber security and IoT—as well as Cisco and others have launched concerted incentive programs and education challenges in order to foster more IoT talent and build up the pipeline of future IoT hires. It's something business that use the IoT need to think about, too, since having a strong IoT point person on staff can only help in deploying the technology.

The Potential Surprises

• THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS: Markkanen believes 2015 will bring with it some surprises when it comes to where the IoT is being successfully deployed. He specifically calls out agriculture, logistics and the utility industry as big end users in the coming year. (IoT Journal reported on a unique IoT deployment at a Canadian apple farm, and agribusiness giant Monsanto is making some IoT plays as well.) "You might not necessarily associate those industries with IoT," Markkanen says, "but with relatively minor investments, they'll see major gains in productivity through IoT technology."

• THE HYPE CYCLE IS ONLY STARTING: So much of the discussion about the IoT is really talk about hype around the IoT—especially in the consumer realm. If you think that is growing tiresome, you might need to get used to it, because the hype cycle is really only mid-rotation—or midway up the ski lift, if I may use this new Nest promotion as an example (sorry, Nest, I couldn't help it). I don't meant to pick on Nest, which has been an important harbinger for helping people think anew about how we use and misuse energy. But for every Nest, there are 100 startups that promise to revolutionize a process or product, from our homes to cars to places of business. My mission at IOT Journal is to help make clear the distinction between window dressing and true IoT innovations—and to amplify the innovations that could truly help improve your company's products and services.

I hope you'll follow along as I endeavor to meet those goals. Thanks for reading and supporting IOT Journal. Please let me know what you want to hear more (or less) about on the site. Aside from our daily news coverage, we'll feature a great event in 2015. The first Internet of Things Conference will take place on Apr. 16-17, co-located with RFID Journal LIVE!, at the San Diego Convention Center. I hope to see you there. Here's to a healthy, prosperous 2015.

Mary Catherine O'Connor is the editor of Internet of Things Journal and a former staff reporter for RFID Journal. She also writes about technology, as it relates to business and the environment, for a range of consumer magazines and newspapers.

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