In 2019, 26.66 billion IoT devices were active across the world. The technology helped in the rise of voice assistants, the development of drones, new ways of managing energy consumption and improving sustainability. So what can we expect to see in 2020?
The year of voice AI
Voice assistant technology is on the rise. In December, Amazon launched its Voice Interoperability Initiative, which aims to allow multiple devices to work through a single speaker, and it is forecast that there will be 8 billion voice assistants in use by 2023.
It's predicted that the number of AI-powered speakers that help us complete tasks, such as playing music and turning lights on and off, will reach 500 million by 2023. In 2020, smart speaker user interfaces will evolve with the adoption of smart, tablet-sized displays. Forbes predicts this will be led by Amazon, Baidu and Google, who will add phones, cameras or screens to these smart speakers, to enable visual – as well as vocal – responses and interactions. Users will be able to access even more technology, such as video calling, from a single device.
IoT security is going to be a priority
Ransomware has been one of the biggest cyber security threats, but as IoT becomes a bigger part of our daily lives, hackers will also be probing IoT products in the home for vulnerabilities, blocking connections and denying access until money is paid, either by the user or the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
This means that IoT deployment should be approached with the principles of 'security by design' – a straightforward approach that ensures security is a key objective at each stage of product creation and implementation. By analyzing the potential threats, organizations can give the right levels of protection.
Improvements in healthcare
We have already seen improvements in healthcare thanks to the IoT, both in hospitals and at home. In Boston Medical Center, USA, wireless sensors in fridges ensure patients' blood samples and medication are kept at the correct temperature. Some companies are even using IoT technology to identify and collect data on cancer, including images that read changes in body parameters at different stages of the disease, to determine the development of cancerous cells in the body.
Meanwhile, at home, remote monitoring allows individuals to check their blood pressure or heart rate outside of a clinical environment using wearable devices, while mobile health applications allow health professionals and families to monitor the patient's health at home. This improves the quality and consistency of the patient's data, as well as the ability to access care when required.
With 60% of healthcare providers already adopting IoT solutions, in 2020 we are likely to see even more smart hospitals and surgeries use AI-powered tools and interactions between patients and care providers. This will help to achieve reduced costs, improvement in treatment, faster diagnosis, better drug management and fewer errors. With this, it will be crucial that patients' health data is kept private and secure. For EU citizens, the GDPR provides the framework to achieve this; elsewhere around the world, regulatory steps are being taken to improve the security of individuals' data.
The IoT in the workplace
Smart devices in the home bring greater efficiency through the use of smart lighting, smart doorbells and cameras, and smart thermostats. With approximately 175 million smart homes around the world, the IoT is now moving into the workplace too, allowing organizations to increase productivity and profitability by being better connected.
In the next 12 months we can expect to see the introduction of virtual assistants in the workplace, the creation of digital workspaces that deliver the information we need anywhere and at any time, and even the use of augmented reality to change and improve the way we interact with colleagues.
The year of the smart city
In 2019 we looked at some of the world's smartest cities, including New York and Antwerp, and in 2020 it's expected that cities will get even smarter. AI is expected to be the main driver of this, with investment into AI training and the subsequent creation of 2.3 million jobs. With the advent of 5G, greater connectivity could propel smart cities forward, and 2020 may well be the year where connected environments become capable of running themselves autonomously, improving efficiency and productivity.
More smart cities means more smart devices, and therefore a greater security threat. As a result, we can expect to see a greater uptake of blockchain, securing individuals' data through the use of a decentralized system.
Any development in IoT technology needs to come with the requisite security checks and balances: keeping data secure where it's stored and transferred is of the utmost importance. Through this, we can look forward to a more streamlined, efficient and connected 2020.