This could be a big year in the ongoing expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT), as many more businesses begin to deploy connected devices and bolster their network and analytics capabilities in anticipation of gathering enormous volumes of data from countless sources.
Also: What is the IoT? Everything you need to know
In 2019, enterprise IoT pilot initiatives and subsequent implementations will continue to evolve rapidly, said Taqee Khaled, director of strategy at Nerdery, a digital business consultancy.
"This acceleration is due, in part, to advances in manufacturing that have increased processing speeds, decreased physical size, and lowered costs of core technologies," Khaled said. "However, barriers to adoption have also decreased, with more and more senior leadership teams having gained familiarity with IoT's value proposition to the core business."
The most meaningful new frontiers will emerge at the intersection of IoT and artificial intelligence (AI).
"With data being analyzed through smarter and learning-oriented systems, more meaningful information will be generated easily and accessibly, ultimately fostering better informed business decisions and worker experience," Khaled said. "As this part of the ecosystem gains in complexity, we expect more third parties emerging to offer managed services platforms for IoT."
Four industries to watch in the coming year are healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, and the municipal or public sector. Here's a summary of what Khaled expects to see in terms of IoT developments for each.
Healthcare will see lots of IoT activity in 2019.
"Among providers, IoT enablement will be leveraged toward the triple aim of cost, quality, and population health," Khaled said. Simple, embedded digital tools are already being piloted at large scale to mitigate infection risk around replaceable medical instruments, while smart threads and sticker or patch sensors have improved in their fidelity, tracking everything from cardiac readouts to body chemistry and sleep patterns.
Among payers, IoT presents a distinct opportunity to enable smarter population risk management and accompanying reimbursement rate adjustments. IoT-enabled, long-term care facilities will be able to negotiate better rates if their sensor data supports fall risk and infection likelihood mitigation, Khaled said.
The growing ecosystem of wearable fitness devices will help insurers recognize members who are (literally) taking steps to actively change their individual risk.
IoT technologies supporting patient medication adherence will help both of these groups see major cost-saving and health improvement opportunities.
Manufacturing in 2019 will see a continued acceleration of trends seen in 2018, Khaled predicted. "We'll see more attempts by manufacturers to leverage IIoT [Industrial IoT] to bring whole facilities online as 'fully connected' factories, warehouses, and distribution centers," he said.
SEE: The rise of industrial IoT (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)
In some cases, this data will be used to add to pilot blockchain ecosystems that will help ensure more complete assurance around production and tracking. As AI interacts with these sensory ecosystems, whole facilities can "learn" to moderate energy consumption and improve efficiency based on the identification of hidden trends in production data.
IoT will continue to enhance the way traditionally driven and driverless vehicles interact with their users, based on real-time data. While the automobile display panel is the most common and long-standing example of basic IoT dashboarding, not much has changed for decades from typical engine, oil, and gas tank indicators, Khaled said.
"In 2019, more of these indicators will not only be available in dashboard readouts, but they will also interact more actively with users' phones, making the total management and awareness of vehicles more commonplace and engaged," he said. Outside the vehicle itself, IoT proliferation among fleets of vehicles can start to speak with smart grids in more meaningful ways about traffic conditions.
Smart cities will leverage IoT beyond the smart grid implementations we've seen over the past decade around water and electricity, Khaled said. As alternative energy sources are layered into communities, AI-driven grid management will accelerate in value by managing systems proactively.
Beyond energy and utilities, more local initiatives will connect residents with their neighborhoods and regions, redefining smart cities to include smart neighborhoods in which local city councils and townships invest in IoT to help residents gain insights about local traffic, school buses, power outages, trash collection, weather, and other areas.