It’s 2019 and it’s time to delve right into the emerging technologies that are impacting the IoT (Internet of Things) in a big way: cybersecurity and legislation, 5G, and digital twins. But, more importantly, in this column, we will take a deeper look at some overarching trends that are being impacted in the IoT space.

The first big-picture trend that’s shaping the IoT is how this technology is being used to solve key societal issues. Clean drinking water is one example.

Clean drinking water is something many Americans take for granted, but that’s not the case elsewhere in the world. In fact, it’s estimated that billions of people worldwide don’t have reliable access to safe drinking water in their homes. The IoT can help us solve this global societal challenge.

In places like Zaragoza, Spain, Libelium, an the IoT company, has deployed smart water solutions that leverage performance sensors to measure water use and water quality and to provide data for more specific applications like fish farm management, chemical leakage detection, and seawater pollution monitoring.

As our climate changes, it’s going to become even more important to manage and monitor global water use and water conditions.

On a similar note, the future of food is also something that the IoT will have a huge part in shaping. All indications are that our population is set to explode in the next several decades, and we’re all going to need to eat and stay hydrated.

The agriculture industry is feeling this pressure. They’re going to need to grow and produce more with fewer resources, and that’s only going to be possible with the help of the IoT and other emerging solutions like machine learning and artificial intelligence. We’re really seeing a lot of change in the agriculture space, and this is only going to continue in 2019 and beyond.

Another societal need that’s being addressed by IoT tech is healthcare.

Depending on where you are in the world, healthcare may or may not be accessible to you and your family. However, connectivity is making it possible to bring healthcare to more people in more places. Telemedicine solutions, along with connected healthcare devices, are bringing doctors to patients virtually and bringing patients’ realtime data to physicians remotely. It’s part of a huge shift in how we as a society use technology to meet the basic needs of the human race.

Another big-picture trend is an emphasis on IoT education at the university level.

On The Peggy Smedley Show and on, we talk to professors all the time who are passionate about educating the next generation of business leaders about the value of data in just about every single context. We’re seeing a ton of graduate and undergraduate classes, not to mention entire programs and departments, focused on the IoT. And, actually, it’s not just at the university level, either. IoT education is starting much younger than college, in some cases.

One startup, and this one happens to be in the U.K., offers a fun and interactive way to show kids what they can do with the IoT. The startup is called Sam Labs, and it offers wireless Bluetooth-enabled “Sam Blocks” and companion software that allows students and teachers to design algorithms and programs.

This kind of educational solution, because it’s really immersive, can be used to supplement curriculum in a wide variety of subjects, from biology to math to music—if you think about it, it’s just up to the teachers’ and students’ creativity. We’re going to see more of this.

STEM (science, technology, education, engineering, and mathematics) is really important, and the more connected our world becomes, the more we’re going to see educators at all levels focusing on teaching their students useful technology skills.

Another big trend we need to keep watching this year is blockchain. More industries are starting to realize the potential for blockchain—a decentralized system for transactions. Several columns have addressed blockchain in energy and in finance, and we’re just starting to see how this technology is going to affect various industries. We could see blockchain starting to play a role in sectors like healthcare, real estate, and even politics.

More charities and aid organizations are going to start using blockchain too. Actually, the United Nations food program is already deploying blockchain tech to make cash-based transfers faster, cheaper, and more secure.

In this particular use case, thousands of refugees in Jordan are paying for food using a blockchain platform.

Technology is changing and the IoT is making a huge difference. We are going to see many exciting changes as a result of the IoT in 2019, so fasten your seat belt; it’s going to be an exciting ride.

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