This time of year, we are always talking about predictions for the year ahead, with some analysts forecasting up to five years out or sometimes more. The estimates are often grandiose—but do they always pan out? In a word, no. I like to hold the analysts’ feet to the fire, so let’s take a closer look.
Let’s start by looking at perhaps one of the biggest predictions in the IoT (Internet of Things) that fell flat. We all remember many tech companies and analysts predicted there would be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. I called that prediction out then, and I will call it out now, because the reality is that didn’t exactly work out the way they all thought it would.
Many of them ended up backpedaling on their projections, with some predicting that by 2050 there will be 24 billion interconnected devices. That is another thing many do. They will often change the wording of the prediction. What is a connected device? What is an interconnected device? What makes them different? The reality is the number of connected devices in 2022 was closer to 13-14 billion depending on who you asked and how they defined it—a far cry from 50 billion.
I’ll be honest here. Part of the problem is adoption rates for new technology tend to surge after an initial introduction period but maintaining that type of growth is difficult. If you think back to 2010 or 2011, the IoT was a burgeoning market and was experiencing significant growth at that time. But as with any technology, being able to maintain that type of growth is difficult. Unforeseen factors arise that hamper growth—like a pandemic, economic recession, or new regulations or standards.
This is simply one example. This could be true of any prediction related to sensors, AI (artificial intelligence), digital twin, edge, the metaverse—you name it.
I want to peel back the onion even further on this discussion and give some other examples. At the end of 2015, IDC laid out its 2016 IT market predictions. So perhaps it behooves me to check out what played out and what didn’t.
Predictions #1: By the end of 2017, two-thirds of the CEOs at global 2000 enterprises will have digital transformation at the center of their corporate strategy. I would agree that many probably accepted and moved toward it by the end of 2017—but was it the center of their strategy? Based on my conversations, I think many are still trying to sort that out today.
Prediction #2: By 2018, there will be 22 billion internet of things devices installed, driving the development of more than 200,000 new internet of things apps and services. Don’t get me going on that soapbox again…
Predictions #3: By 2020, more than 30% of the IT vendors will not exist as we know them today, requiring realignment of preferred vendor relationships. Huh? Many of the IT vendors still exist exactly as I knew them 30 years ago. Many have new products and services, but the companies themselves haven’t changed all that much.
The reason I say all this is not to throw the analysts under the bus. They have an important role to play in growth and projections. But I want corporate executives to be careful when reviewing these reports. It can be dangerous to base company decisions solely on analyst projections without doing some other due diligence as well. I will also say be careful of consultants. Ask the right questions and ask them again. There are very good consultants and then there are those that master the cardsharp lie.
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