In an exclusive article for Internet of Business, Harriet Green, general manager of IBM Watson Internet of Things, customer engagement and education, shares her ABC-led IoT forecast for 2018.
We are in a remarkable period of digital disruption and the IoT is playing a big part in the digital transformation efforts of those looking not just to survive, but to thrive, in the year ahead.
As I look ahead to 2018, I can pinpoint three key technologies that best demonstrate the true potential of IoT in preparing businesses for the digital age: augmented intelligence, blockchain and cloud computing on the edge.
A is for Augmented Intelligence
First on our ABC list is augmented, or artificial, intelligence: AI. Huge numbers of smart devices connecting to the internet are generating a deluge of unstructured data. As the IoT market continues to grow, AI is integral to the next wave of connected consumer and enterprise devices that can see, hear and understand the environment around them. From processes seen in the manufacturing, automotive and insurance industries, to everyday domestic appliances, AI is poised to be ubiquitous.
In just two years from now, say experts, 40 percent of digital transformation initiatives will include AI. By 2021, 75 percent of commercial enterprise apps will use AI and over 90 percent of consumers will engage with AI-powered customer support bots. Over 50 percent of new industrial robots, meanwhile, will leverage AI, according to analysts at IDC Futurescape. With the help of AI, IoT devices are poised to offer even deeper insights, engagements and efficiencies across every imaginable use case.
Imagine what it would be like to walk into a retail store and be greeted by an AI concierge that can sense your coat is too thin for the weather outside and direct you to warmer apparel. Or picture a device that can distinguish between the sound of a smoke detector, a CO2 alarm, a coffee pot or a toaster, and only send an emergency alert if it detects smoke or harmful chemicals in the air. Or perhaps a connected car, with weather data built into its navigation system, might alert its driver to patches of black ice on the road ahead.
In any situation where a steady stream of data can feed a machine’s ability to learn, there is the potential for our decisions to become more intelligent as a result.
B is for Blockchain
Next on our ABC list is blockchain. The need to ensure that sensitive information is kept secure, without jeopardizing data insights, is essential. During 2017, we saw the rise of blockchain technology, which is poised to transform digital transactions in 2018 and beyond.
With security remaining the largest area of concern around IoT, the convergence of IoT and blockchain will enable ecosystems of companies working together in supply chains to accurately, securely and transparently share data. By 2020, it is estimated that up to one in ten of pilot and production blockchain distributed ledgers will incorporate IoT sensors, according to IDC Futurescape.
It’s clear that blockchain for IoT has the potential to transform the way that business transactions are conducted globally, while preserving enterprise-level privacy and security. For example, as an IoT-connected package moves between multiple distribution points, its location and temperature information could be updated on a blockchain. This would allow all parties to share information on the status of the package, to ensure that its journey is smooth and secure and that it is delivered on time.
C is for Cloud computing at the edge
The third item on our ABC list is cloud computing and, more specifically, cloud computing at the edge. Living on the edge has never been more exciting: according to IDC, IT spend on edge infrastructure will reach up to 18 percent of total spend on IoT infrastructure by 2020.
As edge devices and apps increasingly become extensions of the cloud, and chip technologies continue to advance, it becomes increasingly easy to run increasingly complex computations and processes on even smaller devices, right at the network edge, where IoT connects the physical world to the cloud. The opportunities this presents – particularly in terms of generating business opportunity from unstructured, qualitative data – has the potential to be truly transformative.
For many businesses, leveraging IoT data will be key to achieving a deepening understanding of their industries, their markets and their customers. Using what a business knows – not what it will make – will be what drives it forward.
With that in mind, I’d like to challenge today’s IoT forerunners – and the C-level executives driving these companies – to continue to reinvent their businesses, to be bold and brave enough to place the big bets that will keep them relevant. They will only be limited by their own creativity and imagination.