At the end of 2015, we at FreeWave Technologies issued five bold Industrial IoT (IIoT) predictions for 2016 and beyond. At the time, the IIoT market was really beginning to pick up speed as more companies were looking for ways to securely and reliably connect their entire networking infrastructure. As a result, several people at the company had big ideas on how 2016 would shape up. Let’s revisit and reflect on those predictions to see where they currently stand.
2016 Bold Predictions
Status: Perhaps the boldest prediction of the bunch, FreeWave predicted that discrete RF manufacturers will be on their way out the door. Crediting this major shift to inevitable open standards, FreeWave predicted that the IoT industry will eventually commoditize the market by bringing backwards compatibility and interoperability between different radio manufacturers. While RF technology is still widely used at the end of 2016, we see a continued push for standards and regulations in the IoT industry. All of these signs point to RF obsolescence, but only time will tell.
Status: FreeWave viewed the new wireless networking protocol 802.11ah as a potential game changer in terms of connectivity and data transmission. The long range, reliable data transmission is very appealing, especially to industrial markets that rely on connectivity for operations. It is especially beneficial for rural solutions that have challenging connectivity issues and long distances to transmit data. However, new technology designed for this networking protocol is up against stiff competition with low bandwidth, BlueTooth 5. On the other hand, an article in IoT agenda cited security as a weak link for BlueTooth 5. This could be a big issue because machine-to-machine (M2M) devices account for the majority of digital IoT traffic and it is increasingly important (as seen in the other predictions) to have a secure way to transmit data. The number of M2M devices in service will continue to grow in 2017 and secure connectivity is certainly on the radar – if one protocol does actually solve two problems for M2M, the size of the IoT pie will keep on growing!
Prediction #3: Predictive Analytics Alters Fundamental IT/OT Practices
Status: Technology continues to advance at an incredible rate and a new workforce is on the horizon as the original SCADA adaptors retire. The result: we are facing a constantly changing and growing IoT infrastructure. In 2016, Sensor-2-Server (S2S) solutions surfaced as a reliable, secure bridge between the mission-critical technology demands that define IIoT and the growing need for Big Data, in order to establish a predictive analytics engine. As predictive analytics is leveraged more frequently to improve operations, we expect to continue seeing revised Information Technology/Operations Technology (IT/OT) practices in the enterprise.
Prediction #2: Government Regulations Coming for IoT and IIoT Devices
Status: The regulation of IoT was a widely discussed topic in 2016. During a joint subcommittee meeting of the House of Representatives in November, IoT experts discussed regulations for IoT to increase security, citing “troubling” attacks that pushed Spotify, Netflix and Amazon offline, according to an article from GCN.com. The article also mentioned three pending bills in congress calling for an IoT strategy. NIST also is playing an increasing important role in the drive for IoT regulation, has been pushing for a holistic approach to security.
Status: This prediction was heavily focused on IT/OT convergence and the security implications as IoT pushes the firewall between the two closer together. At the end of 2016, while there wasn’t one show-stopping attack on a SCADA system, cybersecurity concerns lingered. Ransomware attacks that sell access to SCADA systems in particular are a growing concern in critical infrastructure industries. With IT and OT working closer together than ever before and the continuing adoption of IoT, it appears the focus on cybersecurity remains a top concern in 2017.
We will continue to monitor the progress of these predictions as the IIoT industry grows and evolves. Stay tuned for a new set of predictions for 2017!