If you haven’t been paying attention to the evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT), now’s the time to start. No longer an experiment, IoT technology has become an integral part of the operations, processes, and customer experience for companies across all kinds of industries. And, according to Forrester, in 2018, we can expect to see IoT reshape the way we do business and the solutions our businesses deliver.
IoT’s reach and impact are becoming particularly evident in the context of the customer. With sensor data now embedded in a large and rapidly increasing number of products, we’re able to gather customer insights from a wide range of sources. But that’s only half the battle: determining which ones matter, and how to use the connect to them, is the real challenge for CIOs and their companies.
To help us understand the lay of the IoT land, Forrester has compiled a set of predictions for 2018. Here’s what you need to know.
IoT will touch every part of an organization
From operations and processes to customers and outcomes, IoT-enabled solutions have the potential to transform businesses from every angle. Granted, this is already happening in many companies, but in 2018, expect to see B2C brands — think household names like Dyson — scale IoT opportunities beyond pilots and proofs of concept.
That could have a major impact on marketing departments: traditionally, CMOs have led the charge in creating connected experiences for customers. With IoT becoming a bigger part of the picture, marketing departments would do well to lead cross-functional teams that leverage IoT solutions to gather and analyze customer data, which ultimately will allow organizations to enhance their customer relationships and create more intimate, customized brand experiences.
Forrester also predicts a major uptick in voice-based services, particularly from large enterprises. Currently, the majority of Alexa’s skills are developed by small companies. But in 2018, Fortune 500 companies are expected to double the number of available voice-based services.
As a result, consumer adoption of connected, non-smartphone devices will accelerate, which will greatly increase the volume of data that’s available for companies to analyze. Combined with AI advances, faster processors and wireless networks, and decreasing costs, we’ll see high-quality voice control of devices become a reality, and from the consumer standpoint, an expectation. Brands across all industries — from retail to airlines to financial services — should take note and begin experimenting now, if they haven’t already.
IoT infrastructure will continue to evolve
As businesses enable IoT solutions, they’ll need to align their network infrastructure and analytics capabilities. That means the role of IoT application developers will be elevated, particularly as the variety of IoT-enabled devices expands and enterprises continue to transform their operations by using connected assets to capture data.
Right now, IoT-enabled business processes occur mostly in data centers or in the cloud. But in 2018, we’ll see IoT infrastructure shift to the edge. (Edge IoT devices have the advantage of acting locally, based on data they generate, but they can also leverage the cloud for configuration, deployment, and management.) Organizations must transform the huge volumes of data they gather into actionable insights; depending on the industry, those insights can either enhance real-time business operations (think security and manufacturing) or provide customers with personalized experiences (think retail and hospitality).
Another trend, the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) business will continue to slow. In the past year, the major industrial IoT platforms have begun to make some of their industry- or IoT-specific capabilities available through hyperscale cloud providers — AWS, IBM, Microsoft.
Hyperscale cloud providers offer a solid foundation for IoT platforms, which means industrial specialists can focus on solutions, as opposed to developing and maintaining the underlying infrastructure. By leveraging hyperscale clouds, IoT platform builders can more rapidly enter new markets, scale delivering in existing markets, and create new features. Forrester expects this trend to accelerate as hyperscale clouds advance their IoT capabilities and overcome regulatory challenges.
We’ll also start to see specialization of IoT platform offerings. Buyers who are looking for a platform have a lot of options to choose from: AWS IoT, General Electric Predix, and Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, to name a few. But there are three IoT scenarios — design, operate, and consume — and each has their own set of needs. Not every platform is right for every scenario; product designers and business operators should take care to choose the IoT platform that fits their requirements.
Granted, while there are many platform choices, developers tend to have their preferences. Cloud-based options are attractive because of their low adoptions costs, quick deployment for prototyping, global reach, and easy integration/minimal maintenance with systems of record and engagement. As data volumes grow and control scenarios become more complicated, data processing and analysis will shift to gateways and devices. All of these considerations will drive developers toward AWS and Microsoft Azure in 2018. Forrester advises that organizations evaluate their platform choice if their vendor “can’t articulate a coherent edge strategy” by the end of Q1 2018.
Security and stability will remain a challenge
In 2018, IoT will continue to be the target of damaging cyber attacks. But instead of prioritizing security enhancements, most organizations are focused on improving customer experience, cost, and time-to-market. That means that IoT devices and ecosystems are still vulnerable to major attacks that can take systems offline and cause all kinds of problems — from minor disruptions to data exfiltration to potential loss of life.
To mitigate these risks, security professionals, CIOs, and other executives need to focus on implementing security controls. That includes conducting assessments of endpoint devices for gaps and addressing any barriers to cross-organizational collaboration — which is important to prevent blind spots. And, because breaches are inevitable, breach notification and remediation plans should be firmly in place.
Also in 2018, Forrester expects more than 5% of all IoT initiatives to integrate blockchain technology. The rise of blockchain, which represents a shift in trust from centralized to decentralized control, is reshaping the way people and businesses connect, collaborate, and transact across a wide range of industries.
The future of IoT and blockchain will be closely linked; while blockchain isn’t ready for large-scale deployments that require seamless integration with existing technology infrastructure, now is the time to begin experimenting. In 2018, the goal for CIOs and other decision makers should be to evaluate potential outcomes and the maturity of various blockchain vendor’s against their individual IoT scenarios.