What the Internet of Things will look like 10 years from now

I was asked recently where do you see the Internet of Things in 10 years?

It is a cool question to think about, and to frame it properly it helps to think back to what the world was like 10 years ago, and how far we have come since then.
iPhone launch 2007

Ten years ago, in 2007 Apple launched the iPhone. This was the first real smartphone, and it changed completely how we interact with information.

And if you think back to that first iPhone with its 2.5G connectivity, no front facing camera, 3.5 inch diagonal 163ppi screen and compare it to today’s iPhones, that is the level of change we are talking about in 10 years.

In 2027 the term Internet of Things will be redundant. In the same way that we no longer say, “Internet connected smartphone”, or “Interactive website” because the connectedness and interactivity are now a given, in 10 years time all the things will be connected and so the term Internet of Things will be superfluous.

Having said that, while the term may have become meaningless, that is only because the technologies will be pervasive, and that will change everything.

With significant progress in low cost connectivity, sensors, cloud-based services, and analytics, in 10 years we will see:

  • Connected Agriculture move to vertical and in-vitro food production, which will see higher yields from crops, lower inputs required to produce them including a significantly reduced land footprint, and the return of unused farmland to increase biodiversity and carbon sequestration (in forests)
  • Connected Transportation will enable tremendous efficiencies, and a major increase in safety as we transition to predictive maintenance of transportation fleets, as vehicles become autonomous and have vehicle-to-vehicle communication protocols as the norm, and as insurance premiums start to favour autonomous driving modes (Tesla cars have 40% fewer crashes when in Autopilot mode according to the NHTSA)
  • Connected Healthcare will move from the current reactive model to a more predictive healthcare, with sensors alerting of irregularities before any significant incident occurs, and the possibility to schedule and 3D print “spare parts”
  • Connected Manufacturing will enable the transition to manufacturing as a service, distributed manufacturing (3D printing) and make mass customisation with batch sizes of one very much the norm
  • Connected Energy with the sources of demand able to ‘listen’ to supply signals from generators, will facilitate moving to a system of demand more closely matching supply (with cheaper storage, low carbon generation, and end-to-end connectivity). This will stabilise the the grid and eliminate the fluctuations introduced by increasing the percentage of variable generators (solar, wind) in the system thereby reducing electricity generation’s carbon footprint
  • Human computer interfaces will migrate from today’s text-based and touch based systems towards Augmented and Mixed Reality (AR and MR) systems, with voice and gesture enabled UIs
  • And finally, we will see the rise of vast Business Networks. These networks will act like automated B2B marketplaces, facilitating information sharing amongst partners, empowering workers with greater contextual knowledge, and augmenting business processes with enhanced information

Many other aspects of our lives will be greatly improved (I’ve not mentioned improvement to logistics and supply chains with complete track and traceability all the way through the supply chain as a given, for example).

We are only at the start of our IoT journey. In 2007 when the smartphone was starting out the incredible advances we’ve seen as a consequence (i.e Apple’s open sourced ResearchKit being used to monitor the health of pregnant women) weren’t obvious, but they have happened. With the increasing pace of innovation, falling prices for components, and amazing network effects from the connected Internet of Things, the future looks very bright, even if we no longer use the term Internet of Things.

Photo credit Garry Knight on Flickr

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