2018 Was IoT’s Breakout Year

Person going through security using thumbprint scanning technology

Cyber-historians may well look back at 2018 as the year the Internet of Things (IoT) went mainstream. From connected devices at home to security cameras and sensors in factories, the acceleration of IoT has ignited the imagination and pushed product development in new directions. In 2018, we saw the emergence of several key IoT trends that will proliferate during the years ahead. Here are the ones that made our list:

AI meets IoT

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is to IoT what butter and salt is to popcorn. IoT by itself is exciting and interesting, but it’s AI that gives it the flavor, powering it with predictive analytics and data-driven decision making.

2018 saw venture capitalists pouring money into startups that are using AI in innovative ways, while legacy companies invested their own dollars to keep up. In fact, the second quarter saw a record $2.3 billion investment by US-based venture capitalists in AI startups. The action wasn’t just in the US, though. In August, Toronto-based Canvass Analytics, which provides a predictive platform used to help make more analytical, data-driven decisions on the factory floor, secured $5 million in funding led by Google’s AI investment arm, Gradient. What’s more, if companies weren’t investing in AI, they were buying it. In May, Nokia acquired SpaceTime Insight which will ad predictive analytics to its IoT portfolio.

The AI-fueled IoT revolution in 2018 centered heavily on predictive analytics, industrial applications, and transportation, but there are plenty of consumer-facing use cases like home automation that are driving AI forward as well.

The value of low-power wide-area networks

Why hire a whole symphony when a single violinist will do? That’s the thinking behind LPWAN’s emergence as a significant IoT player. Instead of relying on expensive multilayered network build-outs, IoT architects are using a variety of LPWANs with various new technologies to support IoT devices that need lower power.

Projections show that by 2021 about 3.44 billion devices worldwide will connect using LPWAN technology.

The tug-o-war continues over security

The jousting between manufacturers and network-breaching bad actors continued in 2018. No wonder IoT security spending was predicted to hit $1.5 billion over the last 12 months. Much of that problem stems from an ever-growing challenge: consumers are often looking for smaller, sleeker and lighter solutions, and those qualities don’t always converge with more muscular security needs.

This juxtaposition is especially acute in the burgeoning IoT medical device ecosystem, where lighter is almost always better to the customer. However, a lightweight pacemaker or connected contact lenses need the right security solution to accommodate their smaller formats. For example, the summer of 2018 saw two significant recalls of medical devices for security vulnerabilities. Medtronic recalled cardiac devices due to security concerns, and the FDA ordered 5,000 Abbott heart pumps recalled because of security concerns.

However, IoT security concerns also extend to household items like TVs or garage door openers. Hackers can hold your house hostage in exchange for a payout. But new frontiers for hackers also mean new opportunities for innovators.

2018 highlighted security concerns for IoT and the need for solutions. In fact, research in 2018 by Avnet showed 81 percent of IoT startups view security as a hindrance when launching a product.

By now we all know to click if we accept a site’s use of cookies and where to find the privacy policy. But that’s the easy part. Clicking consent on a smartphone screen is one thing, but what about the IoT security camera that captures your image and sends it to the cloud or your smart car’s sensor that’s collecting your driving data and send it to your insurance company?  Manufacturers and companies will have to provide consent options on all IoT devices involved in collecting personal data or risk fines. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation launch this summer put the issue top of everyone’s minds as GDPR is poised to become a template other countries will eventually adopt, forcing IoT providers to prepare sooner rather than later.
IoT on the edge

2018 saw the global edge computing market hit a record $10.6 billion. Those dollars illustrate the voracious appetite for on-site or close-to-site data processing, which increases security and deployment scalability. Imagine being able to filter out the most sensitive data your business deals while sending the rest to the cloud for routine processing. Edge computing makes that a reality.

In 2018, one of Avnet’s partners Intel showed it is a big fan of edge computing. By partnering with GE’s Predix, Intel applied sensors to all the fan filter units in its vast network of production facilities. The fans clean air in industrial machines and are found throughout the factory floors. Overheated or malfunctioning fans can grind production in a halt. Using predictive maintenance data and edge analytics, Intel reduced factory downtime by 300 percent.

Plenty of other companies are diving into the edge. Avnet and Octonion have joined forces to create an AI-powered security solution for edge processing, a perfect example of the opportunities that abound in this part of the ecosystem. Plus, this year brought the release of Microsoft’s Azure Sphere, a pioneering new solution for creating secure touchpoints across the complex IoT ecosystem in an industry-leading edge technology stack that Avnet distributes.

To tackle the trends, find the right partner

The opportunities for someone with an IoT idea and a partner to take it from prototype to production have never been greater. 2018 was a foundational year that has set the stage for new IoT ideas and inventions. Smart homes, connected cars, IoT-powered factories are all part of tomorrow’s 20 billion connected device world.


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