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Beyond IoT

The IoT (Internet of Things) gets a lot of play in technical and trade-focused resources, pointing out its value and growth among the advances toward the smart building, city and, eventually, nation. But there is another Io, the IoE, that is projected to be the end game, well beyond IoT.

First coined by Cisco about 2012, the Internet of Everything expands on the concept of the IoT world. Cisco defines the Internet of Everything as the networked connection of people, process, data, and things. The benefit of IoE is derived from the compound impact of connecting people, process, data, and things, and the value this increases connectedness creates as “everything” comes online.

Those Four Pillars of IoE, as defined by AIMultiple, are:

IoT, on the other hand, is only about connected things, a subset of IoE. IoT is embedded into IoE as one of its building blocks. IoT is a single technology transition, while IoE comprises many technology transitions (including IoT). Cisco estimated 99.4% of physical objects that may one day be part of the Internet of Everything are still unconnected. The company predicts $14.4 trillion of value will be “at stake” during the next decade, driven by connecting the unconnected through the Internet of Everything. These connections can be P2P (people-to-people), M2P (machine-to-people), and M2M (machine-to-machine).

And if IoE is to be true to its name, animals must be included. Chinese dairy farmers are already connecting their herds to the Internet. Cows wear collars with wireless sensors that collect biometric data such as body temperature and heart rate. Insights from this information are then used to improve milk production, helping farmers earn an extra $420 per cow each year, and increase overall profits by 50% annually.

The latest IoE dataset, from ABI Research, collates all its connected device data to present a view of the world of Internet-enabled hardware. It brings together three essential segments: the Internet of Things—connected sensors, asset tracking, condition-based monitoring—with the IoH (Internet of Humans) such as wearables, people tracking, and monitoring, and the IoD (Internet of Digital) including smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

The strongest growth in the installed base of connected devices comes from smart home, smart city, retail, advertising, and supply chain. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for automation, remote monitoring, and control in business operations increased significantly. This was coupled with the rise of AI (artificial Intelligence) and ML (machine learning) to manage large deployments of IoT devices (massive IoT). ABI believes applying these new technologies will vastly improve IoT device performance and information collection.

For example, AI-enabled software for managing supply chain logistics (e.g., route optimization and load optimization) will see OPEX (operating expenses) reduced, and associated waste eliminated, for more sustainable and efficient business operations.

Getting Smart

For the consumer, smart home devices, including automated switches, sensors, and smart appliances, can use AI and ML for user pattern recognition to provide a personalized smart home experience. Spikes in energy costs, along with more consumers adopting a more sustainable mindset, are driving the implementation of smart home devices to save energy and, therefore, money for the consumer.

The era of the connected city is also approaching, with connected streetlights and surveillance systems to enhance security in cities and environmental monitoring to red flag unsafe conditions for public safety. More connected vehicles than ever are being manufactured, and smart roadside infrastructure is planned to benefit commuter vehicles, public transport, and delivery vehicles. Public network access will also enhance other experiences like retail, advertising, and augmented reality.

According to ABI, the most significant growth forecast in this dataset is for smart home devices, which will exhibit a 29% CAGR in the years running up to 2026. Connected cars are forecast to grow at an 11% CAGR during the same period.

At the same time, smart city infrastructure is expected to see more significant growth at an estimated rate of 24%. This could be partly due to the need for infrastructure to support V2X (vehicle to everything) communications and other applications in the future, the specifications for which are still being defined.

The installed base of connected retail, advertising, and supply chain devices is expected to grow at a 23% CAGR, with a total installed base across all connectivity technologies of more than 21 billion by 2026. This can be mostly chalked up to asset trackers installed in vehicles, shipping containers, and transport palettes to provide better visibility for logistics in the supply chain.

5G and Bluetooth

ABI sees more and more applications for connected devices with each new development in wireless communication technologies. 5G is accelerating this quickly, though the most significant growth should be from low powered wide area-based connected devices during the next five years. Bluetooth is expected to continue to perform strongly, with most of the installed base of connected devices expected to use Bluetooth for their primary connectivity until 2026.

As with any technology, there are concerns and challenges. For example, will there be enough bandwidth and computer power available to provide the clouds needed for IoE? Will the grid support the growth and demand for power? Will governments allocate the necessary frequencies to sustain the constant, worldwide transmission of data? AIMultiple adds even more challenges:

Security: This is, arguably, an unsolvable challenge of IoE. As long as there are data stored in the cloud, there is the threat of cybersecurity. For example, if a household uses a smart lock for entry and exit, and hackers hijack the application, then they could, theoretically, lock the family out of their own house. This is just one example. Imagine a power plant’s software being hijacked, or a self-driving Tesla, with a passenger inside, driving to the unknown.

Privacy: Interconnected to security, privacy is another main challenge facing IoE. Consider smartwatches: they are already capable of predicting a heart attack based on the recognition of vital signs. If a health insurance company, through your smartwatch, accesses your medical data, they will be able to blindly discriminate against you in the shape of costly blanket policies.

Compatibility: The number of IoT devices is on the rise. There are thousands of different programmers creating more devices and software each year, using different methods, codes, and standards. Connecting all these devices into a harmonious ecosystem can require more oversight, larger IT expenditures, and longer downtime in case of repairs.

Have you ever found yourself carrying a USB-C cable for your phone, a Lightening cable for your laptop, and a Micro cable for your portable speaker? Compatibility can be frustrating on the physical side, even more so on the application side.

The good news is the existence of composable applications. “Composable applications” is the idea of using app builders to estimate what the most useful blocks are among multiple complete applications and then “compose” these blocks into a new application. This helps streamline the integration process.

And integration is key to the success of IoT and IoE. The Wild West approach that defined the 1980s in PC program development, where each company wanted to have its computer be unique among the many, is over. Operating systems are down to a few, API (application programming interfaces) are common, communication networks, both wireless LAN (local area network) and wireless cell, are open systems, and everything can, if properly designed, interface through the cloud or WLAN. The infrastructure is available, but will it support the future of IoE? The coming decade will be the proof.

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