2021 IoT Predictions: 10 Experts Weigh-In
One lesson we can take away from 2020: predicting the future is difficult. Factors outside of our control can significantly impact our plans - either propelling us forward, or knocking us off course. Many organizations had to shift their plans in 2020, but nonetheless significant patterns have emerged across IoT and wireless connectivity that can help us gauge what to expect from this industry in 2021. In this blog, we’ve rounded up experts in both commercial and industrial IoT to share their 2021 IoT predictions.
Sam Yang, Managing Director
I’m a firm believer that IoT devices that can provide real tangible benefits via automation will be the future – and thus will succeed in 2021. Take for example a smart TV with IoT features that you can control via an app. You may be able to change channels and control volume with it, but it is still not able to automatically turn it off when the occupant falls asleep on the couch or automatically apply parental controls when only kids are viewing it. IoT sensors that can provide true data that empowers automation without invading privacy (like using cameras) will fire up the IoT market in the near future.
Adam Belnap, VP of Sales & Customer Relations
With 2020 in the rear view mirror, uncertainty remains on what the “new normal” will look like. As we all get used to the restrictions and implementations that are upon us, it is the development of new IoT applications that will give us some encouragement by allowing us to adhere to the provincial and municipal guidelines more efficiently. As well, allowing properties to adapt to the changing requirements that are specific to various COVID-19 affected regions that they might occupy.
One of the most important applications going forward will be the effective use of occupancy sensors and occupancy monitoring. With the focus on social distancing, and monitoring facility capacities around COVID-19 protocols - occupancy monitoring is going to be something that everyone will grow to rely on in 2021. Knowledge is power, be it for staggered employee scheduling or seating assignment or for capacity counting in stores and restaurants. This allows owners and facility managers to review the information in real-time, so that they are able to make effective decisions and necessary adaptations.
Additionally, we are seeing a strong push toward the importance of water management and leak detection as a staple in the ownership and management of properties. Leak detection sensors are an IoT solution that is showing an increase in interest over the last year as insurance cost and deductibles within the built environment continues to increase at a rapid pace. With challenging rent control, rock bottom cap rates and ever increasing expenses involved in managing and owning a property, landlords, property managers and condo boards find themselves in a problematic situation and the risk management of water as an investment is proving to be an important consideration for any portfolio.
IoT applications in all areas will continue to be important as we progress through the “new normal” into what eventually will be referred to as “normal” again; but driven by technology, efficiency and optimization.
The focus on health and safety across all industries is driving the demand for new IoT solutions. For example, building occupancy has become increasingly important for commercial environments. IoT will be used to gather data on safe occupancy counts as it relates to social distancing in retail, corporate, hospitality and event spaces. This data will also be used to control building access and work space cleaning schedules. Likewise, the demand for indoor air quality monitoring solutions will surge to ensure proper ventilation and reduce the risk of airborne illness transmission.
Nathan Mah, Cofounder
In 2021, we’ll see a surge in smart building solutions that are able to prove their ROI within 1-2 years, or faster. Fair or not, technology is evaluated on the shortest timelines, and this is no different for the built world. Tenant experience, HVAC, smart cleaning and labour are all critical and you can expect these areas to expand with the best IoT products.
2021 is going to be the year of using IoT to monitor our individual, collective, and environmental health. Once COVID vaccinations allow us to leave our homes, we will still be more cautious about the spaces around us and their effect on our health. Wearable technology can track our personal health indicators, while smart building and smart city tech can help us understand if we are spending time in healthy spaces. With working from home being seen as more viable, there will continue to be a spike in demand for smart home devices. Monitoring our environments and health will better inform our actions, and I expect to see the public and private sectors move next year to make this information more accessible for all.
It’s a really interesting year to be asking this question because of the pandemic and the affects it has had on the IoT and it's relevance in dominant industries and industries that will increase IoT adoption due to COVID-19. We’ve seen a shift of emphasis over to applications that track, reduce, or eliminate human contact. For Losant, that’s been contact tracing and social distancing applications. My guess is that many companies will have put aside budget for 2021 to reduce the need for workers in densely populated areas like factory lines and warehouses, so we’ll see more companies focusing on manufacturing automation and lone worker scenarios such as remote maintenance workers. There’s also a whole subset of industries that have increased importance in 2021, like cold chain tracking and supply chain in general in wake of the COVID-19 vaccine deployment. As much as we don’t want life in 2021 to be centered around a pandemic, it will be and it will show in IoT.
Aside from pandemic use cases, utilities are really seeing the benefits of IoT use cases as well as addressing consumer demand for connected solutions. More and more organizations want to track energy distribution and consumption and want to implement water flow management, whether those organizations are property holders, energy distributors, or cities themselves.
We are seeing a huge increase in requests around remote monitoring and support tools. Since so many people have been forced to transition to working remotely and being socially distanced, we are all searching for alternatives to having additional people out on plant floors walking around to gather meter readings, head off equipment failures, or complete routine maintenance tasks. IoT products are stepping up to fill in this need, and the growing maturity of applications is now allowing us to do things like re-program PLCs and troubleshoot issues with a technician remotely rather than being physically present. Even as the pandemic subsides this year, I do not think that these applications will go away: there's too much value in allowing your best technicians and support personnel to work wherever they need to be.
Within the Oil and Gas industry we see that IoT is going to transform the way much of the field data is gathered & shared. Message based LPWAN will become the preferred method for data acquisition and monitoring. This will rapidly enable new and exciting control, monitoring, AI and overall field systems management capabilities.
In 2021 we expect to see large scale adoption of industrial battery powered LPWAN IoT sensors. This will be in both green and brown field modes of deployment. The advances in IoT device technology will fundamentally change the way temperature, pressure, flow and other simple measurements are obtained & delivered to production and field operations management & control systems. We see stepwise replacement of much of the traditional SCADA infrastructure and enabling data streams that were just too expensive to employ previously.
The solution services are numerous where these new IoT capabilities will deployed. Production management & optimization, equipment monitoring and secure data for next gen B2B digital transactions, to name but a few.
In addition we see a new generation of very smart but low cost LPWAN IoT asset tracking devices, enabling several new business process management improvements across the oilfields asset and materials base.
COVID-19 will have a direct impact on the IoT applications we will see in 2021. For example, health and wellness solutions like indoor environmental monitoring and occupancy detection will surge across all industries as organizations make a concerted effort to keep their employees, tenants and occupants safe. Wireless tracking solutions, real-time location systems and remote health monitoring will provide invaluable data on patients, staff, facilities and assets to not only give patients more control over their lives and treatment, but improve operational efficiencies so that healthcare professionals can focus more on patient care. Remote monitoring and maintenance solutions in manufacturing will also expand as a result of the new remote workforce and social distancing guidelines.
As we’ve seen with the connectivity options for smart buildings, not all wireless technologies are created equal and not all can manage every use case. For this reason, we can also expect to see growth in multiprotocol support. Devices that combine the complementary strengths of different wireless standards and frequencies in one design, increases flexibility, integration and as new IoT use cases rise, makes it feasible for more complex sensor networks to exist.
For example, LPWAN and BLE together provide short-range, inter-device communications with a long-range backhaul to allow the deployment of IoT networks in a significantly broader geographic area. This flexibility is increasingly important as more IoT sensor networks are deployed in far flung, industrial locations like remote oil and gas fields.
In addition, multiprotocol will bridge the gap between existing and new technologies enabling legacy sensors to work in new environments and be deployed in new use cases. In addition to devices, multiprotocol support will also be paramount in the next generation of IoT network and device management solutions.
What are your 2021 IoT predictions?