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It’s January, a fresh calendar page, and time to start gearing up for whatever the new year will bring in IoT. But never fear; face 2023 armed with the expertise of people who spent the last part of 2022 thinking about what might happen around the corner—and even around the corner after that. Analyst firm CCS Insight has been issuing an annual report of technology predictions for the past 16 years, and all the IoT-related forecasts have been indexed, just for subscribers of insight.tech, and made available as a download here.
Martin Garner, COO and Lead Analyst of IoT at CCS Insight; and Bola Rotibi, its Chief of Enterprise Research, join us to review those IoT trends and technology predictions. They’ll talk about the themes to expect in 2023, of course; what might be next for 5G, machine learning, and the metaverse; and even how CCS Insight did on last year’s predictions. Because if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t necessarily predict or plan for everything.
What’s driving the ideas or themes in your 2023 predictions?
Martin Garner: What we were hoping for was a period of stability after COVID, so that we could all recover socially, economically, etc., from the pandemic. That didn’t happen. Instead, we got the war in Ukraine; we got political instability in lots of places. We had the rise of energy prices and inflation, and we had supply shorts. It’s been a turbulent year.
For the insight.tech report we pulled out all of the predictions that are in some way relevant for IoT, and it’s quite a broad set, encompassing lots of fields and lots of technologies. That’s because IoT is a stack, from low-level sensors up through connectivity, edge software, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. It also affects many different types of people—management, operations, engineers, developers, users, consumers, regulators, financiers. Also, both consumer and industrial sides are relevant.
Normally we try to take the long-term view of where everything’s going, but here I’ll actually focus more on the shorter term and coping with current economic conditions. IoT got a big boost during the pandemic because it was really part of how we coped with COVID. And that trend has kept going—at an accelerated rate, in fact. So I think that IoT should still face good market conditions.
“The only point of #IoT is to give you the #data, and the value is in what you do with the data; that is #DigitalTransformation” – Martin Garner, @CCSInsight via @insightdottech
Bola Rotibi: Despite the uncertainty for everyone, I think there’s a moment of opportunity; and when there’s opportunity, there’s gain. One of the things that we looked into was whether people are still going to invest. And post-pandemic I think that there will be a re-collaboration of enterprise strategies that will drive something like 15% growth in IT investment in 2023 and 2024. I think what will shift is people being a bit more nuanced and targeted in their spend. IoT will play a very big part in that as we go forward, and as people look to efficiency savings, connectivity, and hybrid work environments.
How did your previous predictions play out over 2022?
Martin Garner: They basically did play out as we thought. We knew from the pandemic that the cloud providers had become indispensable, and they’ve always done a lot with IoT. IoT, as we all know, is a team sport. And so the cloud providers needed help with system development, application development, supply and support, and systems integration—all those good things.
Cloud providers have also become very involved in the telecom sector with 5G. And now, although various aspects of the cloud providers are under stress and in some cases are letting people go, actually I think the IoT area seems to be going okay. And part of that is because of 5G. I think in the industrial world, in particular, private 5G networks have become real; they’re one of the hot areas at the moment.
The intelligence side is also very interesting—how we use machine learning, and how we make intelligence easier for people in the IoT world to use. I think there’s a bit less focus on IoT for the sake of IoT. The only point of IoT is to give you the data, and the value is in what you do with the data; that is digital transformation. So we sense that the term “IoT” is starting to fade a bit.
What IoT trends or technologies should enterprises focus on in 2023?
Bola Rotibi: One is the hybrid work environment I mentioned before. We’ve come out of the pandemic now, and people are going back into the office. At the same time, people are also still wanting to work remotely. What we’ve learned is that is possible.
But what is going to come out of that? What needs to come out of that? I think we’re going to start seeing a lot more remote support operations—allowing people to feel that they can work remotely or they can work in the office, but the experience will be similar. And that’s both the connectivity experience, as well as being able to collaborate with their colleagues just as if they were actually in the office.
One big side of it, I think, will be enterprise-collaboration tools adding immersive spaces to help replicate the in-office experience. And we’ll also start to see headsets change—connecting with a lot of the collaboration tools and the video-streaming tools—to help bring about that immersive experience.
The other thing is that people are recognizing that employee experience is really important, and important to driving customer experience. So the connectivity between employee experience and customer experience is another one of our predictions for next year, in a demand for software that measures and tracks that link between them.
Martin Garner: I’ll add one very specific trend to watch out for: It’s very easy to think about IoT as just worrying about things, but IoT systems need to properly integrate with the way that people behave in the workplace and in society, as well.
One specific prediction that highlights this idea is that by 2026 there will be road testing of an external system to communicate autonomous vehicles’ intentions. This is all about the fact that there’s a real diversity of road users, and there are lots of different subtle signals about how they give way, how they acknowledge each other’s presence, and so on. Autonomous vehicles just don’t have those signals at the moment, though there are some early tests being done. Society needs this; and it needs to be national, not proprietary. So I think that sort of integration—of IoT with people and the way they do things—that’s going to be a trend to watch.
Where do you think 5G and even 6G adoption is going to go in 2023?
Martin Garner: 6G? Whoa, hang on a minute. It doesn’t quite exist yet, and it’s some years away, really. But 5G is one of the main interest areas in connectivity, especially private 5G networks. And the reason is that 5G is the first generation that’s been designed with industrial usage in mind; recent software releases are bringing low latency, location—all the things that make it an industrial system are being realized.
So I think that by 2025 private 5G-network systems will be repositioned as a platform. The reason is that you can use 5G for various different things—tracking worker safety, autonomous robots, workflow—but it’s a complicated network, and not many people have got all the skills needed to set it up and do it properly. So we expect to see private-network app stores where you can download packaged applications, connectivity options, preconfigured connectors to IoT platforms—and then just get on with what you need to do.
How will this idea of the metaverse play out going forward?
Bola Rotibi: I think the metaverse is going to create a lot of opportunities. Right now we are in its infancy, so a lot of our predictions around it are looking towards the end of the decade. And where it will end up might be different from where it is at this moment.
I do think there is quite an important relationship between the metaverse and digital twins. It’s this environment where you can actually have a digitized representation—the digitization of all data assets in order to give a representation.
By 2028 I think there will be a “blockchain of you” trend that lets developers build viable digital twins of people to support personalized services. Now that’s quite exciting. Because there we’ve got three different technologies: blockchain, digital twins, and the metaverse. So, what does that mean? It means that people could actually have a representation of their health data, of their personal likes and dislikes. And that blockchain means that they would have a certain level of ownership over it: It couldn’t be changed. And then they could trade that information with organizations that may want to use it to do testing against drugs or liabilities or other things. The possibilities are endless.
How will organizations and industries continue to adopt intelligent features?
Martin Garner: As soon as you get into IoT, there is so much data generated that the only way to make really good sense of it—and to get as much as possible out of it—is to use machine learning. Over the next few years we expect that, first of all, the tools will become much more user friendly. Intel®, with OpenVINO™ and things like that, has done quite a good job of making that easier. We’re also seeing more good examples of prepackaging, so that you can buy systems that have machine learning just built in.
The other bit that needs an awful lot of attention is harmonizing the data so it’s easy to use; there hasn’t been a strong imperative for that yet. We’ve heard stories of manufacturers having multiple generations of sensors that are all different in the way they present data. Maybe 20 years ago it made sense to do it that way, but now it makes no sense. And this needs to be within suppliers themselves—because they need it for their own internal analytics—but also across suppliers, for digital twins, supply chains, etc. But it’s going to be an awful lot of effort to get that right.
Bola Rotibi: From a developer point of view, we’re starting to see AI and ML actually have everyday viability. Whereas before they were very much for the big things—the big calculations, the big modeling—we’re now starting to see accessible AI, accessible ML. The tools have come a long way.
In fact, you can have tools at multiple levels: You still have tools for the data scientists—those who understand the modeling concepts—but now low-code/no-code capabilities have been incorporated. And there’s a broader range of developers—not just professional developers, but those who have got domain experience and want to add a level of programmability to their applications. They’re being brought into the fold, too.
What’s also important is that we’re starting to see small data sets, and people are using their domain experience to make these small changes that don’t require vast compute resources. And I can’t stress the word “accessible” enough, because I think that is what is bringing in a broader church of people who are capable of building those AI and ML applications. These are people who are more task oriented, and I think that is really key, because it’s going to really spearhead adoption. We’ve got an exciting next few years for AI and ML.
Martin Garner: It’s very clear that more and more of the kind of people who need to use AI and ML are not data scientists. They are engineers or operations specialists or process managers or all sorts of people who run things in companies. They need to use it, and it has to be easy for them.
Any final thoughts or key takeaways as we begin this new year?
Bola Rotibi: One thing I would add is sustainability; I think IoT will play a big part in that. It will allow edge solutions to be part of the sustainability story; it will bring together AI and ML capabilities; it will raise an incredible environment for developers—that broader church of developers—and give opportunities to those who are delivering connected solutions.
Martin Garner: I so have one as well. We haven’t talked a lot about cybersecurity, and it is still the single biggest concern of people implementing IoT. As systems are now scaling up to supply chain level, the idea that your whole supply chain might be hacked is honestly terrifying. But the war in Ukraine has meant that there’s been a very large collective response to cybersecurity issues around the world. The question is, how can we as industries maximize the benefit from that collective response? I don’t know the answer just yet, but we’re going to have a think about that. That’s maybe a prediction for next year.
To learn more about IoT trends and technologies, listen to IoT Predictions for 2023 and Beyond: With CCS Insight. For the latest innovations from CCS Insight, follow them on Twitter at @ccsinsight and on LinkedIn.
This article was edited by Erin Noble, copy editor.