Projected to be worth nearly $2.5 trillion by the end of 2022, IoT owes much of its growth to the availability of wireless connections, both cellular and Wi-Fi. In fact, the two have really grown together: As app and data usage has increased, the need for cellular and Wi-Fi capacity has increased as well.
Additionally, as networking options, Wi-Fi and cellular have overcome respective challenges, such as bandwidth shortfalls, coverage questions and cost concerns. Now the two exist as complementary alternatives, and the ability for the average consumer to stay constantly connected has never been greater. Even so, with IoT devices expected to surpass 20 billion by 2020, our needs are still expected to outpace our current Wi-Fi and cellular capabilities.
Enter 5G, which will provide the technological boost needed to sustain this growth and present valuable opportunities for IoT innovation. What kind of innovation? Here are a few examples of how IoT is currently changing the game — and what we see coming next.
Smart Appliances are Here to Stay
As part of its ongoing expansion, IoT has found its way into our homes. First introduced with products like Amazon's Echo smart speakers and Nest thermostats, IoT is now updating household mainstays and integrating with the likes of refrigerators, washers and dryers, and air conditioning units. These smart appliances tap in to a home’s wireless connectivity to unlock their full IoT capabilities and create a fully-connected whole-home experience.
As just one example, today’s smart refrigerators can utilize RF identification tags to monitor and analyze a users’ buying habits to build a grocery list. They can even help consumers consume smarter and save money by notifying homeowners when food is nearing expiration.
Smart Vending Machines are in their Infancy
Traditionally, vending machines have offered limited functionality: Collect payment, dispense product, distribute change and repeat. But, believe it or not, IoT and our ability to stay constantly connected are changing vending as well.
Intel is developing intelligent vending machines with the capability to identify top-selling items and automatically communicate with distribution centers when inventory needs to be restocked. Much like smart refrigerators, this is big news for efficiency — on a much larger scale. This immediate and ongoing data exchange can help vendors reduce supply chain operating costs and improve the customer experience.
However, it’s important to note that for these advanced IoT devices to function properly, they must have a strong wireless connection that allows for continuous communication.
Smart Cities are the Future
Smart cities are no longer the stuff of film and fiction – they are our future, and efforts are being made to make that future a reality sooner than you might think. In fact, the smart city industry is expected to be worth $400 billion by 2020.
To be considered a smart city, there must be a minimum level of wireless connectivity available and IoT must be integrated within city infrastructure. Simply put, everything from street lights to buildings will be tied into a wireless network with advanced IoT capabilities. The smart cities of the future will utilize IoT-powered sensors for total connectivity — linking things like autonomous vehicles to roads and street lights, for example — and seamless communication.
How will we manage all the data that comes with this level of innovation? Luckily, we’ve already got that pretty well covered. According to a study from the University of Albany, current smartphones and tablets have the ability to analyze and organize two-thirds of the data that smart cities collect through sensors.
Security Gets Smarter, Too
While all this innovation sounds exciting, there are obvious risks to intertwining our screens, machines and critical infrastructure. Constant connection requires constant protection — that’s why security experts are exploring new safety features like artificial intelligence and blockchain technology to meet the demand for increased data protection. As these features are developed, the responsibility for security will extend to our elected officials as well to introduce legislation that regulates and updates manufacturing requirements in an effort to protect the public.
IoT is carving out the future of various industries, influencing supply chain, city infrastructure, data security, and more. With the help of wireless connectivity, these unique innovations will continue to move our world forward — and there’s so much more to come.
Fortegra Financial Corporation (a Tiptree Inc. company) and its subsidiaries comprise a single-source insurance services provider that offers a range of consumer protection options including warranty solutions, credit insurance, and specialty underwriting programs.
See also: Unlocking The Potential Of In-Store IoT