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From the edge to sustainability: five IoT trends driving change in 2020

As we look ahead into 2020 and begin to understand the impact 5G will have across all industries, the implementation of IoT solutions will play an increasing role across business applications and throughout society. The rapid deployment of 5G networks around the globe and an uptick in 5G subscriptions will drive an increase in the number of IoT connected devices worldwide.
Robot arms performing automated network operations to show how future IoT trends impact industries

For instance, Ericsson predicts in the latest Mobility Report that by the end of 2019 there will be 1.3 billion cellular IoT connections worldwide. By 2025 this number is expected to jump to 5 billion. Meanwhile, McKinsey estimates* that the economic value to be generated by IoT globally will amount to $3.9–11.1 trillion per year by 2025, and a focus in 2020 and beyond will be connectivity driving valuable outcomes.

Looking into the year ahead, here are five trends I see initiating this focus across industries as enterprises begin their digital transformation journey:

The “edge” is closer than ever before

As enterprises become “digitized” and enable more connected machines, sensors and solutions, the current computing power done in the cloud simply won’t be fast enough to optimize performance in real-time. In order to monitor, analyze and optimize connected IoT applications, enterprises will need computing power done near the edge.

The need for edge computing creates an opportunity for communications service providers who are building 5G networks. The high capacity, speeds and density of 5G networks and connections, combined with cutting edge software such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), will enable enterprises and its connected solutions to learn, adapt and change processes instantly to yield a greater ROI.  

We have seen the start of this edge adoption, most recently when Sprint announced two new updates to its Curiosity IoT solution, bringing IoT applications to the edge for its enterprise customers. And this will not be the last. 2020 will see even more telecom operators partnering with cloud providers, IoT platforms being deployed, AI and ML solutions becoming a key component and more, all driving edge computing and faster, more intelligent real-time data analysis.

Future IoT trends for Industry 4.0: Tools and gloves on top of construction plans

Customization becoming a reality

In 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) will gain momentum through the continued proliferation of 5G and IoT. This will support innovations in robotics, AI and more, all within reach of more enterprises. This will have a major impact in manufacturing across numerous verticals such as automotive, electronics, textiles and more as the manufacturing floor (and with it the traditional assembly line) becomes modular.

Powered by 5G and IoT, breakthroughs in digitalization and automation will enable fully digital manufacturing, allowing production to change mid-stream without any disruption. This will power hyper-customization, allowing the end-customer’s product to be tailored for specific requirements all while meeting demands. In fact, Ericsson is helping lead the way, announcing our own smart factory in the U.S. to drive sustainable production of 5G and Advanced Antenna System radios for North America customers. And we’re not the only company driving personalized production as we expect smart manufacturing will become more prevalent in 2020 and enable customization to become a reality. 

A person in front of large control screens

IoT security issues continue to rise for the unprepared

As 5G, cloud computing, IoT and other technological advancements drive digital transformation across all enterprises, the amount of connected devices will exponentially increase the amount of data transmitted – opening valuable new access points for attack.

As many IoT solutions are already deployed within enterprises, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued a report** outlining recommendations on how to mitigate risk and overcome security challenges. However, securing devices after deployment is much harder than doing so from the outset. Companies of all sizes, including network operators, must be prepared to keep critical operations up and running, and put end-to-end security solutions in place to protect their business and mission-critical applications from the start. For example, Swisscom, the leading telecommunications service provider in Switzerland, is deploying Ericsson Security Manager solution to provide security automation, visibility and control for the company’s Security Operations Center. Integrating this solution enhances capabilities and strengthens protection for critical infrastructures, and serves as a model for others.

An LTE antenna in Stockholm

Global connectivity becomes a must

As the world becomes more global and connected devices are manufactured in one country, deployed in another, and traveled with across many others the need for immediate and always-on connectivity no matter where a device is located is paramount.  

For instance, Brighter, a Swedish health tech company, saw a need for a connected insulin dispenser that would sample blood, measure glucose and inject medicine to optimize and improve treatments.  However, connecting a device that must be always-on and able to travel across borders can be difficult as the number of different cellular networks it must connect to varies dramatically. Working with Ericsson, Brighter solved this global connectivity problem and recently launched Actiste® in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the other five participating countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, potentially impacting the nearly 480,000 insulin-dependent patients in the UAE.

While insulin dispensers are just one example, there is a need for a fully global connectivity footprint for IoT as seen throughout our daily lives, from unlocking the car door to finding an open parking spot and more. Global connectivity platforms are now a must to not only ensure seamless connectivity management, but also to measure performance, usage, and other insights that can be valuable to enterprises looking to expand globally and drive greater business results.

Sustainability is set to be a focus in future IoT trends: Three girls playing with a tablet

Sustainability takes center stage

The Paris Agreement, signed in 2016 with the focus to limit the threat of climate change by keeping global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius, has become more of a focus for businesses around the world. As sustainability efforts have become a key business priority, the use of digital technologies such as IoT solutions can actually accelerate the reduction of global emissions by up to 15% by 2030, while being responsible for only 1.4% of global emissions. Also, to help the world meet these levels set by the Paris Agreement, the 2019 Exponential Roadmap was developed by leading companies showcasing how scaling 36 solutions could halve emissions by 2030, many of which are underpinned by technology innovations.

However, to reduce the threat of climate change, an ecosystem of service providers, OEMs and end-user enterprises must work together and deploy solutions that can help combine efforts seamlessly. Utilities are a great example of an industry that is using connectivity to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. We have worked collaboratively with Landis+Gyr and most recently with Telia, which is in the process of deploying 2 million electric meters across Sweden with cellular connectivity on behalf of utility companies E.ON, Ellevio and Kraftringen, all to capture greater energy efficiencies.

For more information about how Ericsson can help prepare you for these five IoT trends and more in 2020, learn about our IoT platform, IoT Accelerator, and Industry 4.0 to understand how we help connect and manage billions of devices easily, seamlessly and globally.


*McKinsey IoT report

**NIST report

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