Future-proofing and Future Trends in IoT and IIoT
Dive into the importance of future-proofing IoT technologies, and future trends to keep in mind.
According to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “change is the only constant.” This remains true in every field—even millennia after. Though the internet of things (IoT) and industrial IoT (IIoT) are future technologies with great promises, they are also bound to change over time.
The application of IoT in an industrial setting will undergo evolution with better technology and use cases not known before. It is better to anticipate the future trends to future-proof technology implementations like IoT and IIoT.
What is “Future-proofing”?
The pace of change in technology is astounding. New technology can turn obsolete in a short period, and thus, may not have produced the required return on investment (ROI). Newer technology will have to be implemented due to obsolescence. The newer technology may also quickly become obsolete if the future changes in the technology landscape are not anticipated and incorporated in the design.
Figure 1. Designing an industrial motor.
Future-proofing is anticipating the changes that might occur in the future and designing systems to withstand the needs that might arise. This is commonly used in electronics, industrial design, medical instruments, and product design.
Businesses executing changes that require high capital expenditure is better off with future-proofing new implementations to ensure ROI. Immature technologies are most susceptible to changes in the future, and implementations must be future-proofed.
IoT and IIoT technologies are evolving fast and not yet mature. Such implementations have to be future-proofed to avoid obsolescence.
Future-proofing IoT and IIoT
Future-proofing any implementation relies on predicting the future with a high level of accuracy. Predicting the future is a hard task in itself. It becomes even more difficult when nascent technologies like IoT and IIoT are considered.
IIoT technology is evolving every day, and it is quite difficult to predict the technological state a year from now. Most industrial implementations have a time horizon of five years or more. The fast-changing technology and long time horizons make it difficult to predict the future, and in turn, future-proof IoT and IIoT.
However, difficult does not mean impossible. Smart considerations at the time of implementation can go a long way in making IoT implementations future-proof. A significant advantage is that software gives great leverage in future-proofing technology.
Some of the considerations that can help make IoT implementation future-proof are given below.
- Guaranteed updates: IoT devices are connected devices with software providing the muscle for the infrastructure. This makes updates easier. Choose vendors that guarantee updates for a long time frame and have a proven track record.
- Interoperability: OEMs would like to lock customers within their ecosystem, making a business reliant on a single vendor for all parts. It may become difficult to upgrade systems when constrained by an OEM ecosystem, so opt for vendors that use open infrastructure for their devices. This makes it easier to upgrade systems when necessary without relying on a single vendor.
- Technology transparency: As an extension of interoperability, IoT customers must understand the technology stack used in the devices. This includes understanding hardware, middleware, and software. A lack of understanding of the core technology may result in being locked into an OEM ecosystem.
- Security: Security is essential to the everyday working of industrial infrastructure. All around the globe, critical infrastructure of national importance is regularly under attack from malicious actors. Using IoT devices in critical infrastructure increases the attack surface, thus increasing the vulnerability. Therefore, security has to be an important concern for IoT implementations from the get-go.
- Planned obsolescence: Consistently staying ahead of the curve is the most efficient strategy to staying relevant in a fast-paced environment. Changing the infrastructure has to be baked into the long-term infrastructure plan. Planned obsolescence is actively replacing infrastructure with newer technology before the existing technology becomes obsolete.
Figure 2. Critical infrastructure like electric grids and SCADA systems are often subject to cyber threats.
Future-proofing IoT implementation is critical to ensure long life and high ROI for the project. The effective future-proofing strategy hinges on identifying future trends in the IoT space.
Future Trends in IoT/IIoT
According to Fortune Business Insights IoT forecast, the market for IoT is bound to grow from 190 billion USD to 1.111 trillion USD by 2026. This is an astounding growth at 24.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
The growth is expected to spread across a wide range of sectors across different geographies. Some of the future trends expected in IoT/IIoT are explained in the following sections.
Remote Access and Work From Home
The recent shift in how people work will have a long-term impact. The government-mandated lockdowns forced businesses to rethink their workflow; IoT/IIoT forms an important piece of the puzzle. IoT enables remote access in every industry and may make working from home (WFH) the predominant mode of working, even in heavy industries.
IoT In Retail and Healthcare
While IoT has been rising in industrial applications and consumer technology, other sectors have had lackluster adoption. But, this may change with the drop in cost of IoT implementation and the increase in the sheer amount of use cases.
The growth of IoT in retail and healthcare will be the most prominent as the base is very low and the large size of both industries. Retail and healthcare are also sectors where IoT can have a huge impact.
Mega-scale IoT Implementations
Current IoT implementations are limited to a home, plant, or organization. Large-scale IoT implementations will take place in the future. Connected smart cities will be a reality in the current decade. Such projects will connect transportation, government services, private businesses, and utilities within a city to provide seamless service to the citizens.
Figure 3. The rise of Industry 4.0 helps future-proof mega-scale IIoT implementations.
In the current model of IoT implementation, cloud computing is the prominent source of computing power, which may change due to the creation of powerful, smaller chips with low power consumption. This will enable each device to process information and make decisions without relying on a central server and move to an edge computing model.
Automation of factories will go on a hyperdrive. The advancement in hardware, software, and algorithms will help to create factories with completely automated processes. Factories that require no human intervention to operate are termed “dark factories.” Such factories will be commonplace by the end of the next decade.
An exponentially increasing number of devices that can connect to the internet will increase the vulnerability of industrial systems. As the attack surface increases with each new internet-enabled device, it becomes easier to gain unauthorized access. Cyber threats will become an important consideration for IoT implementations.
In most countries, there are no specific regulations for the IoT ecosystem. But due to the importance of technology in the lives of every citizen and critical national infrastructure, governments will pass regulations to manage the use of IoT devices. It is best to anticipate potential regulations and plan before implementation.
To future-proof IoT technology, potential future trends must be considered. Without future-proofing these technologies, they could easily become obsolete before the company receives ROI. What future trends do you foresee in IIoT?