IoT Blog
IoT Blog

Internet of Things Year in Review: 2017

As 2017 comes to an end and before we start setting New Year’s resolutions, it’s time to reflect on the year gone by. Significant advances in IoT technology and countless new use cases were introduced. Here’s our IoT Year in Review—our take on the milestones that will have the most impact on how businesses operate and how we live, work and play:

LPWA hits major milestones

With the ability to deliver low-power, low-speed and low-cost connectivity with wide-range coverage, Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWAN) remained a central focus for the IoT industry in 2017. Carriers launched their networks, LTE-M and NB-IOT devices hit the market and  interoperability challenges were addressed, making cellular LPWA ideal for connecting IoT devices that will improve the safety, efficiency and resource management of our lives and planet.

LTE-M and NB-IOT also deliver best-in-class security and network quality compared to proprietary LPWA options. Most importantly, LPWA technology delivers on the 3C’s for IoT use cases – Cost, Current and Coverage.

The affordability, low power consumption and extensive coverage of LTE-M and NB-IOT have made them popular in a variety of industries. Applications range from luggage tracking and water management to air quality monitoring and kids’ communication devices. One of the most widely-discussed applications for LPWA technology is in smart cities, where governments can leverage the IoT to make life more comfortable and cost-effective for their citizens.

With LTE-M and NB-IOT technology, the Internet of Things can become the Internet of Everything. In 2018, we expect to see greater LPWA adoption as organizations look to use data to provide better products, services and experiences.

Making the complex simple

One of the greatest concerns that we hear from business leaders is that it's too complicated and time-consuming to deploy and scale IoT connectivity, especially internationally. Businesses have to negotiate foreign contracts, purchase different SIM cards and ensure they ship with the right products to different countries, and manage their devices across dozens of different platforms.

Industry standards and innovations, like eUICC-enabled Smart SIMs and Ready-to-Connect modules made major strides towards reducing development and deployment complexity, allowing businesses to focus on making great products — instead of struggling with international connectivity challenges and complex supply chains. 

In 2017 and for the second year in a row, our offering was recognized on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Managed M2M Services. Our vision is to remove barriers for customers by taking the complexity out of the IoT. With our recent acquisition of Numerex, we’re expanding our IoT services and solutions to help our customers streamline operations and deploy large-scale IoT solutions.

Open source innovation

Another game changer in 2017 was the mass market availability of mangOH Red – the only industrial-grade, truly open source IoT enablement platform aimed at cellular. Smaller than a credit card, it includes all of the building blocks needed to prototype and test ideas in days instead of months, with minimal investment. mangOH Red designs can then be modified and repurposed for mass production for all kinds of IoT applications, from industrial monitoring to smart cities.

In November, developers signed up for the Cloud-to-Edge experience at our IoT Developer Day, where they spent the afternoon using mangOH Red-based developer kits. They experienced firsthand how mangOH Red provides a unified platform and programming experience for developing embedded software and cloud applications – all wrapped up into an industrial-grade hardware platform. 

We’re proud to say the industry is taking notice too. We won gold in the IoT Innovator Awards, and we have another exciting award win to announce in the New Year.

IoT transforms businesses and daily life

The IoT is touching all facets of life and new use cases are constantly emerging.

This year, we were especially interested in how the IoT enables the sharing economy. For example, the ability to pinpoint a vehicle’s location using IoT tracking has changed the car-sharing industry, providing new, more flexible business models and increasing revenues. Companies can provide real-time updates on a vehicle’s location, allowing customers to locate and book the vehicle more quickly.

IoT tracking has also impacted the logistics industry, which plays a major role in the modern global economy. Last year, eCommerce alone was worth $1.9 trillion. The IoT is automating the logistics industry and providing invaluable intelligence on the endless moving pieces. Whether it’s the machine-controlled warehouses, connected trucks or self-tracking packages, constant connectivity and access to data matters. From the connected warehouse to your door, the IoT plays a key role at every stage of the process.

Reliable, global connectivity has also transformed the energy sector, impacting how businesses run and our daily use of energy. On the supply side, grid analytics systems identify and analyze potential faults on the grid. By finding problem areas, these systems save utilities time and money. For the end customer, IoT-enabled smart meters streamline communication with utilities to ensure the smooth delivery of electricity.

We can see and feel the impact of the IoT in our daily lives. For urban-dwellers, smart city solutions, like smart parking, make life a little easier. Using IoT devices, smart parking helps drivers find available parking spaces, taking pressure off the roads and improving commute times. Apps run on the cloud make payment and ticket collection more efficient. Plus, urban areas with easy parking and less traffic congestion can expect a boost in tourism.

Before long, you may not be responsible for driving at all – your vehicle will do it for you. Autonomous driving stayed top of mind in 2017. Earlier this year, we outlined five levels of autonomous vehicles; we’re currently on level two. It may be difficult to imagine fully-autonomous vehicles on the road today, but the benefits are enormous. Self-driving vehicles will make travel safer, faster and give (former) drivers their time back.

We saw applications fusing Artificial Intelligence and IoT technologies gain more traction in 2017, collecting and analyzing data from connected machines to vary the outcome of a situation or behavior. This solution targeting the trucking industry is just one example. It pairs connected video sensors with artificial intelligence to actually see what is happening on the road and report these findings to a central cloud, where they can be analyzed, reviewed and acted upon within minutes, giving feedback to the driver to avoid an accident. 

The IoT is also changing how first responders operate. One of the main weaknesses of wireless technology for first responders has always been that agencies often use different networks—both public and private. In the U.S., the solution lies in FirstNetTM (First Responder Network Authority)—a dedicated public safety broadband network—which will operate on its own dedicated band of the LTE licensed spectrum. The main benefit of FirstNet is that it will provide a dedicated network that enables first responders to communicate on one network, sending their data securely and reliably. This opens up a number of innovative applications, like live video feeds and immediate intelligence updates, giving responders the right information at the right time to make the right response. Similar initiatives have been launched in Europe, with PC-STORM in France and ESN in UK (Emergency Service Network over LTE).

IoT’s challenge: delivering on security

Following issues such as October’s KRACK attacks, IoT security has been a hot topic, and for most businesses considering IoT adoption, it’s a necessary and serious concern. While security challenges vary across industries, almost all have one challenge in common: maintaining endpoint integrity. Endpoint integrity protects networks and devices from hackers on every level, from Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to spyware.

Organizations can counter threats by implementing defense in-depth, a layered approach that mitigates the impact of a failure at any one level. Secure device interfaces, reduce the attack surface by disabling or removing all essential services, safeguard firmware updates and encrypt device communications. Security is a key consideration and not to be taken lightly, but security challenges can be overcome with an ongoing security strategy and shouldn’t stop businesses from adopting IoT technology.

The road to 5G is paved by LTE-A Pro

The IoT world has been abuzz this year with how 5G will change the industry for high-bandwidth applications, and LTE-A Pro brings us one step closer. Operating like a data superhighway, LTE-A Pro transfers more data, more quickly. With lower latency and support of a wide-array of devices, these modules will enable the world’s fastest IoT applications. By focusing on LTE advances now—namely LTE-A Pro—organizations can prepare for the 5G future

Watch for more exciting developments in these areas, as well as emerging themes like the increasing importance of edge computing to come in 2018! Subscribe to our blog, newsletter and social media for the latest IoT updates. Start with Sierra today to learn more about how we can help you transform your business with the power of the IoT.