In interviews with several Internet of Things executives worldwide we identified five main trends in IoT:
- Technology is right
- Enabling policies are lacking
- Regulations are getting simpler
- Verticals’ take-up speeds are moving slowly but show progress
- Startups are flourishing and sales forces specific to IoT are being deployed
Standards are agreed—via standard bodies or de facto standards—giving operators more confidence to invest. While implementation of narrow- and wider-band IoT technologies are still in the early stages in most countries, progress has begun. This involves both cellular NB-IoT and LTE-M as well as unlicensed LPWA (low-power wide area) using LORA Alliance and Sigfox solutions.
The IoT industry has yet to receive any palpable benefits from policy-enablers, such as mandates to introduce IoT solutions in energy and transportation. But here there’s a caveat—policy enablers that are just declarations of intentions don’t have any impact, but when governments put money where their mouth is, things move forward. In China, financially supported policies work together with other industry policies to push for Made in China 2025’s industrial IoT. In UAE, with Dubai’s Smart City Initiative, similar policies are mixed with strategies to enhance service industries such as air transportation and tourism. The U.S. and India have set government funding for smart cities but they’re too modest or too fragmented to drive exponential growth and lack clear impactful priorities.
While policymakers’ impact has been limited, regulators are stepping up to do what they can, facilitating market access to companies interested in deploying IoT. This has involved:
- Simple licensing, as in Singapore
- Allowing permanent roaming of IoT SIMs from other jurisdictions, as in the EU and in the U.S.
- Making power limits more flexible in unlicensed spectrum bands to accommodate LPWA technologies, as in Brazil
Much attention has been given so far to horizontals, such as connectivity standards and sensors/SIMs management platforms. Innovation in IoT management platforms continues, but the action now is in verticals. Progress is being made in mobility, involving car makers, insurance, and cargo companies. Policy induction attempts, such as the EU road safety policy, are caught in technology battles between various players in the car and technology industries. Metering for energy and water utilities is an area poised for growth, and it’s beginning to move. The successful cases across the board are market-driven.
Finally, there is fun in today’s Internet of Things. Sales forces of operators, systems integrators, and innovative startups are creating solutions to leverage IoT technologies by addressing real problems and educating consumers and businesses about the benefits of IoT. That’s where the buzz really is.