IoT is essentially a network of devices which are connected via the internet. The term ‘IoT Device’ has become synonymous with the discussion around IoT, so to define them simply, they are electronic devices which utilise sensors, processors and embedded microchips that are enabled for internet connectivity. These devices can collect and transfer data whilst also communicating with other devices within the network with a degree of autonomy.
One basic conceptualization advocating IoT is the idea of an IoT enabled fridge. This fridge would still have the same primary function as a normal fridge, however due to the computational intelligence and internet connectivity, it would have much greater functionality. An example of this would be that the sensors inside the fridge would be capable of constantly monitoring the contents of what’s inside it and then able to act in response to that without human intervention. This could come in the form of the fridge recognising that it is running low on an item and then sending a notification to your smartphone to stock up on that item, or going one step further, order the item autonomously so you never run out.
Whilst that is a rudimentary example of how IoT innovation will lead to increased efficiency and improve our quality of life, it is not purely limited to household appliances. The main appeal of IoT lies within the scalability of the concept. Various industries are becoming more reliant on the data gathered by connected devices to improve the efficiency of business processes, mission critical services, productivity and the quality of products for consumers.
Because IoT implementation isn’t purely limited to the IT sector, it is no surprise that worldwide, the number of IoT devices has increased dramatically in the last few years. The number of connected devices has increased by over 10 billion in the last 4 years alone; from 15.4bn in 2015 to over 26.6 in 2019. As a result, companies are already planning and implementing IoT strategies to capitalise on the benefits, such as increased efficiency and insight from the data collected by IoT devices.
This has led to an IoT talent gap, as companies’ current employees either do not have the technical skills to implement their strategies or companies are unable to find the necessary talent on the market. As various industries are all scrambling to source top quality talent, the market is experiencing a lack of talent for roles across IoT device production and subsequent data analysis.
5G networking capabilities will act as an accelerator for widespread IoT implementation and development. From an outside perspective, the implementation of IoT appears to be relatively straight forward, however one of the main stumbling blocks is the latency between device communication. Latency, which is normally measured in terms of milliseconds, is essentially the duration between data being sent from a connected to device and when that data is processed and returned to the same device. Devices can only send and receive data as fast as the network allows, meaning that low speed networks will result in high levels of latency. 5G is the next generation of global telecommunications, paving the way for new networking infrastructure – progressing from what the previously possible within 4G LTE and current fibre optic capabilities. 5G boasts the capacity to transfer larger quantities of data than was possible over 4G and at much improved speeds, up to 10 to 100 times faster. That being said, the important features of 5G, in relation to IoT innovation, is that it will reduce latency.
Now high levels of latency don’t necessarily pose a risk when dealing with an IoT connected house, however delayed responses caused by high latency in a network of automated cars, factor production or robotic devices used within surgical procedures could have massive ramifications. As 5G networks become more widespread, it opens the possibility that we see technological advancements such as smart cities, smart roads and advancements in robotics used in healthcare procedures in the very near future.
It is expected that 5G will be mainstream within 2 years, with AT&T and Verizon already announcing plans to facilitate 5G for mobile devices in selected areas in 2019. Furthermore, within the United Kingdom, government backed testing is already underway, with smart factory trials taking place at the Worcester 5G Test Bed in February of this year. This is a clear indicator of the commitment to 5G and the way in which 5G will accelerate the implementation of IoT – making it an exciting time to be working within the IT industry.
Companies that are seeking to implement their future IoT strategy must be proactive now in securing the talent necessary to fully capitalise on the IoT technological advancements that are just around the corner.