This article is part of our Essential Guide: A CIOs guide to the Internet of Things (IoT)

A lot of nonsense touted about IoT, says analyst

There is a lot of nonsense being touted about the internet of things, says Ovum analyst

There is a lot of nonsense being touted about the internet of things (IoT), according to Gary Barnett, chief analyst, software, at Ovum.

“Predictions that there will be one trillion IoT devices by 2020 and that there will be an explosion of data are examples of this,” he told a Westminster eForum in London.

Barnett said the only way there will be anything near one trillion IoT devices by 2020 is if an IoT device was defined as “anything through which an electron passes”.

“There is still a lot of learning we have to do before IoT will become exciting, and it will take time. IoT networks will not magically appear. Someone has to deploy devices, and that can be difficult,” he said.

Ovum researchers believe the number of IoT devices worldwide in 2020 is more realistically likely to be around 30 to 50 billion.

“The vast majority of these will be simple sensors,” said Barnett. He also predicted that in the next six years there will be few IoT networks with more than just a few hundred connected devices.

The big networks are most likely to be associated with smart metering, healthcare, smart cars and smart cities, he said, while most will be localised networks not even connected to the internet.

“Sensor data from production line machines does not really need to be accessible outside the company and will not be interesting to anyone beyond the maintenance crew,” he said.

For the “massive scenarios” such as smart metering and healthcare, Barnett said IoT has a profound role to play, but there are some interesting debates around privacy and security still to be resolved.

“Healthcare is one domain that could be transformed by IoT devices that have the potential of enabling health services in pharmacies and even supermarkets in future,” he said.

Undoubtedly, there will be an increase in data production, said Barnett, but there will not be any huge explosion of data. Ovum researchers believe the data growth will be gradual.

“Many of the systems people are envisioning will take time to bring online and a lot of data from sensors where there is little rapid change can be consolidated easily,” he said.

Deployments will also take time, he said, because IoT hardware is difficult to design and software is expensive to develop.

But Barnett said IoT is a rapidly changing technology domain and could provide significant opportunities for UK companies. “This is a nascent market, and everything is up for grabs,” he said.

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The Internet of Things is really not a new premise. There have been a multitude of nodes serving different purposes for years (web cams, anyone?). The only difference is that more devices in different locations are becoming accessible. It's interesting, to be sure, but it's not revolutionary. getting devices to autonomously talk to each other and dynamically react to one another in a scaled and meaningful sense? Hey, now that could be cool :).
I'm only mildly impressed that my refrigerator can order eggs when my supply runs low. Or adjust temps when the shelf is filled with eggs. I can do that, too. But as our data gets bigger and our access to it becomes richer, this has the potential to become a lot more interesting.

Somewhere in the chain of information, someday, the grocery store will get my egg order, the farmer will be alerted that eggs are selling, the breeders will be notified that more laying hens are needed, the truckers will be told that they'll be moving more cargo AND all the drivers will be warned that this route on that road is about to get more crowded.

And, presumably, my self-drive car will choose a different road to travel. Or convert to auto-air status and fly me above it all.

The IoT is coming; it's already here in baby form. It certainly seems to be a good tool, but we'll have to learn how to use it before it becomes really useful.
I'm still having trouble envisioning why I would WANT to have so many 'thing' internet-enabled. I have a phone, computer, and video game system with internet abilities, and I like those because I have specific things I want to access across the internet using those devices. Outside of that, internet access seems like more of a vulnerability than a benefit.
2020 isn't all that far off. I don't see that many advances in such a relatively short period. I'm sure that the number of smart "things" will continue to grow, but I imagine the adaptation into mainstream uses will be slow and steady. I agree that it could be a vulnerability. I'm not an early adapter of technology; I like to be more cautious and wait for any bugs to get worked out. That often takes years. 
I agree. IoT is nothing more than new devices to find, secure, and manage. Therein lies the problem. With IT/security shops already overwhelmed with the complexity associated with their legacy network systems, the last thing that's needed is a bunch of "other" devices on the network creating entry points and facilitating attacks.

You can't secure what you don't acknowledge applies nicely to IoT. Here are some additional thoughts in a recent piece I wrote: