We have roared into 2018 — at least as far as the weather is concerned. Massive snowstorms in the Alps, heat in Australia, ice storms in the south of the United States, bombogenesis in the northeast, and the list goes on. Clearly, 2018 has announced herself — time to buckle in.
One thing about the weather is it is not always easy to predict. Sure, we have an idea of whether it is going to rain or snow in the coming days and can rely on historic information to project what the temperature range will be in March or May. But when it comes to the sudden and unexpected — think blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes or even the stratospheric effects of a distant volcanic eruption — we really cannot predict when, how, where and to what degree the weather will disrupt our lives. This unpredictability disrupts all of our lives and can have a profound effect on our supply chains and other business processes that depend on long-term planning and orchestration among multiple trading partners.
But guess what? In 2018 and beyond we will be increasingly leaning on the internet of things to improve our ability in sensing and responding to outages and issues that may arise due to occurrences such as massive snowstorms or record heatwaves. So, what will IoT hold for us in the new year?
- IoT’s presence continues to increase within our homes. Just look at the sales of voice-activated home assistants such as Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, the latter of which sold close to 25 million devicesthrough the third quarter of 2017. As an increasing amount of homes have these IoT-enabled smart devices, how soon will the number of tasks they carry out lead to automating various aspects of our lives? Will Alexa or Google Home be the controlling hub for our smart kitchen appliances, smart garage or even smart bathrooms? We have already seen IoT-enabled refrigerators from the likes of LG and Samsung, toothbrushes and lighting from Philips, smart mattresses by Seebo and, of course, the IoT-enabled thermostat, Nest. The home will continue to become more connected, and players such as Amazon, Google and Apple will battle to be the controlling hub of this universe. Some of the use cases for these devices might not be immediately evident to the consumer, but as more aspects of the home become connected, vendors will campaign to make consumers wonder how they could ever have lived without their Roomba being able to connect to the web.
- Smarter IoT … how about AI and IoT? Why not. In 2018, the dividing line between IoT and artificial intelligence will become increasingly harder to distinguish. The two technologies are made for one another. All the data produced by IoT devices will overwhelm any traditional data analytics model, let alone human analysis. This will make the usage of AI that much more vital. There is a reason why the likes of Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, to name a few, are investing so heavily in artificial intelligence. As the world continues to create mountains of data, much of which is messy and unstructured, these firms realize they need the engines that can turn that oil (data) into fuel (something useful). Look for not only more investments in AI in 2018, but a continued partnering of AI with IoT. A great example of this is the likes of Under Armour buying workout applications such as MapMyRide. This marriage of product with technology brings together meaningful data and a purpose-built product like a running shoe, and by adding in a layer of machine learning to translate how using that product is affecting a person’s life, Under Armour can give its customers new context and an overall better experience. The ability to collect an increased amount of data is not helpful in isolation — there needs to be some layer of intelligence that makes data meaningful.
- Driverless vehicles continue to push our imagination. Notice we stated driverless vehicles, not simply cars, that will continue to inch along in 2018. Later this year, we expect to see a fully automated, captain-less sea vessel take to the ocean. The Yara Birkeland is set to sail, transporting fertilizer, and will do so without a crew. We have already seen experiments with driverless trucks in Nevada. Uber has also been looking to use driverless cars and is starting to experiment with them in the Steel City, Pittsburgh. While we do not expect that your next Lyft or Uber ride will be conducted without a human driver, there is a strong chance that 2018 sees more IoT-enabled vehicles such as shipping and trucking. Most likely running on routes that are lightly trafficked — we do not expect to see any driverless trucks on I-75 at rush hour trying to cross Atlanta!
- Speaking of driverless trucks, IoT grows within our supply chains.Connected factories and robotics is nothing new in the world of supply chain, and we will only see more IoT-enabled connectivity in 2018. Think of connected inventory, connected distribution, connected infrastructure and connected stores. All these attributes will make supply chains smarter. Moreover, it is not just about adding more connectivity within factories or in transportation; IoT will make the overall supply chain more connected, enhancing visibility and enabling more agility and responsiveness from one end to the other.
- Privacy concerns will not go away. Data privacy and information security will continue to be topics of high concern for the public — and should be for anyone working in the technology space. IoT-enabled devices will continue to be ripe targets for hackers. As IoT-enabled device creation seems to outpace the security layers that need to run in parallel. Expect 2018 to have some major data breaches and hacks that spread short-term panic, whether it is another hack of an IoT-enabled vehicle or a data breach that originated from a connected HVAC system. Companies that are using IoT need to put together contingency plans for this occurrence and should constantly test their networks for vulnerabilities and strive to have the proper countermeasures in place. In 2018 and beyond, it is not a matter of “if” but rather “when” some hacker, whether from a foreign country or someone living in their parent’s basement, tests the IoT vulnerabilities.
As a technology, IoT has lost some of its buzz over the past year, thanks to the likes of blockchain and AI. Still, the presence of IoT will only continue to grow in 2018 as we move beyond imagining what is possible and begin to inject this connected technology into more of the products we use every day — whether as consumers or in business.