According to Gartner, there will be at least 20.8 billion connected devices by 2020; other research predicts as many as 100 billion. And the largest possessors of IoT devices will be consumers – people who want to control everything from their refrigerators and home security systems to their utility costs, cars, and beyond. In fact, according to data published by SYK Cleaning:
61% of older generations want smart technology for its cost savings’
52% of Gen X’ers have priorities for home security
39%of millennials just think smart devices are trendy and cool. And 72% of them would pay up to $3000 more for a home that has smart technology.
Generation Z, just entering the consumer marketplace will consider IoT a given part of their lifestyles.
But all of this boom in manufacturing and distribution of IoT technology does not come without its challenges. And manufacturers have much work to do in some key areas in order to truly ensure that IoT will and can become fully mainstream. Here are the six of them.
The IoT ecosystem at its current state comes with a lack of unified standards in the areas of data exchange and connectivity. This is particularly frustrating for consumers and serves to slow down wholesale and widespread adoption.
What that means for manufacturers is that they must take off their competitive “gloves” and collaborate on standards for the good of everyone. In doing so, they will all reap the benefits of greater consumer adoption and market demand.
This is an ongoing concern for both businesses and individual consumers. When an entire ecosystem can be threatened through hacking into just one individual device, the concern is real.
Just recently, we learned that a couple of our power grids were compromised, and researchers at the University of Oklahoma demonstrated how easy it was by hacking into a wind farm through a single unit.
Security testing of all devices must include identifying any potential vulnerabilities, processes for validating user access, and data encryption, etc. fortunately, there are some pilot programs investigating the use of blockchain technology, and this may indeed hold some effective solutions.
3. User Experience
For IoT devices to go thoroughly mainstream, users have to be comfortable with them, and they have to see them as more valuable than traditional devices. This means ease of understanding and use.
Manufacturers must conduct a lot of testing of devices before putting them on the market, including the following:
Compatibility of device hardware, operating systems, software versions, and communication protocols
Reliability of all components in a variety of environments and conditions.
User friendliness of application as well as usability in a variety of network connections, so that everything operates seamlessly regardless of platform.
This will be the key to success of any manufacturer of IoT devices. Devices and connectivity will certainly become less expensive, making them more attractive, but applications that allow devices to connect and share information with other devices, aka platforms, are numerous and growing That manufacturer who will be able to bundle multiple platforms into a single product will meet a challenge that will give him a huge competitive edge.
These will proliferate in the coming years, and there will definitely be “battles” among them. Ultimately, however, a few will emerge victorious and will dominate entire sectors – smart homes, smart cities, healthcare, etc. This is just another reason why manufacturers need to find ways to collaborate to achieve standardization.
6. The Need for Real-Time Data Streams and Scaling.
While a refrigerator will not necessarily need to provide real-time data to its owner (other than alerts if there is a malfunction), the need for real-time data will become critical in some IoT device use and management, for instance - smart cities. For manufacturers of devices that require real-time data streams, there will be a need for continual updating as newer technologies and apps are developed.
Blockchain, again, has been named among the possible solutions to more efficient, near-real time data exchanges. Yet, this technology currently lacks proper scaling mechanism, making it a questionable choice for larger ecosystems i.e. those created for smart cities.
IBM, however, may be close to solving this issue. The new pending patent application outlines a solution that would ditch the proof-of-work algorithm utilized by most public blockchains in favor of a dynamically adjusted alternative mechanisms that would limit the mining difficulty and associated power consumption by IoT devices to a determined threshold. This adjustment becomes possible after limiting the number of nonces – one-time-use numbers required to validate a transaction on the blockchain. This way, each IoT device connected to the blockchain will have equal chance to solve proof-of-work problem.
For any business that is gearing up to achieve success in the IoT marketplace, there will need to be a shift in thought processes that may actually involve a change in its corporate structure. Producing smart devices is simply not the same as producing a physical object. Mechanical engineers and product developers design physical objects. But smart device manufacturing will involve far more than these traditional roles. Interdisciplinary structures that provide for the necessary collaboration between physical and technological leader and developers may change the entire corporate landscape.