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Feb 05, 2018

Five Key Predictions for IoT in 2018

By Altair’s Ilan Reingold for Wireless Week


While the past few years have laid the groundwork for widespread IoT adoption, 2017 revealed the multitude of outstanding issues that must be resolved for the vision to become a reality. 2018 will see the industry investing significant efforts to address these challenges, paving the way for widespread global implementation. Here are the key areas, framed as predictions for 2018:

Security Concerns Will Remain

Despite excitement over new applications and speculation regarding network deployments, it was IoT security that dominated 2017. The data breaches and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks highlighted the threat cybercriminals pose to our physical world, such as remotely sabotaging smart cars, hacking medical devices and infiltrating “smart” security systems. Security will remain the primary concern for IoT deployments and, while not preventing implementations, it will continue to be a real issue in IoT deployments in 2018 and beyond.

One of the major security issues, particularly with low-powered IoT applications, has been a misalignment between legacy security protocols and the capabilities of devices – an issue that security companies have already begun to recognize and address. 2018 will see increasingly more ecosystem players reaching this realization and cooperating to adapt security protocols and methods to the changing market capabilities. This movement will increase throughout the year, developing new security methodologies adapted to the required security level and capabilities for IoT devices.

CAT-M1 and NB-IoT

The momentum following the introduction of the new generation of IoT networks in late 2016 carried on into 2017, full of speculation over which markets and industries would deploy CAT-M1 or NB-IoT systems. While large operators in the U.S. and Australia initiated the speedy rollout of CAT-M1 networks, China and Europe chose NB-IoT.

While there is still fragmentation between different markets and operators, 2018 will see increasingly more operators adopting both technologies. This ability to support both CAT-M1 and NB-IoT will provide a key advantage to operators, OEMs and device manufacturers addressing the global market, ensuring their products can be distributed in high volumes and operate in any locale, regardless of the prevalent technology.

The Relegation of Proprietary LPWA Networks

2017 was the year of trials and early CAT-M1/NB-IoT network availability. In 2018, this network availability will be provided by global carriers, driving the acceptance of cellular-based, rather than proprietary Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN), solutions.

As CAT-M1 and NB-IoT deployments increase with more carriers enabling both technologies, applications that previously relied on non-cellular LPWA networks – such as LoRa and SigFox – will move increasingly to more standardized cellular modules, motivated by the availability of cheaper and low-powered modules and the mature mobile network operator ecosystem.

There will still be specific use cases that can justify operating on non-cellular LPWA networks, such as remote farming sites looking to avoid paying for cellular operators. However, even in these scenarios, non-cellular LPWA will gradually lose out to emerging (LTE-based) technologies, such as MulteFire, which offer the use of unlicensed bands, but with the technological and business advantages of LTE.

As the new cellular technologies mature, the likes of LoRa and SigFox will see their market share gradually decline. We can expect this to drop from the current level of around 80 to 90 percent of the market to approximately 60 percent by the end of 2018. By 2019, market share could drop even further to around 40 percent.

Industrial Applications Will Continue to Dominate

Until now, industrial IoT projects have been the most prominent, with large companies possessing the resources and capabilities necessary to define projects from all sides and bring them to fruition. Conversely, smaller players, lacking the resources and skills to put together all the complex pieces of the IoT “puzzle,” have been less successful.

This trend will continue and 2018 will not be the year that these smaller IoT projects really take off. This will only begin to happen in 2019-20, as IoT projects become more accessible to the general public, thus encouraging the long-tail of mass-market IoT adoption.

Through 2018, the majority of IoT applications will remain B2B use cases. These will include utilities and energy providers, general industrial segments, transport and asset tracking. The 450 Mhz spectrum, in particular, will be considered for utilities and PPDR (Public Protection and Disaster Relief) applications, due to the possibility of migrating the retiring CDMA (2G) spectrum to LTE in certain countries.

Integration Will Increase

As applications increase, highly integrated IoT modules and chipsets will be essential for successful deployments. IoT solutions require a variety of components including application processing, security platforms, sensor interfaces and positioning. The ability to integrate all these components within a single module, while maintaining low power consumption, small size and reduced cost, will be key to successful widespread deployments.

This will be particularly true for multimode solutions that include both communication and positioning capabilities, based on GNSS or other location technologies. With positioning integral to almost all IoT deployments – be it one-time positioning for smart meters, or continuous positioning for wearable devices – 2018 will see increasingly more integration.

In summary, 2018 will be a pivotal year for IoT. While market fragmentation will continue, security concerns will be reduced by improved design and the development of more appropriate security processes. Concurrently, increased standardization and integration will support the continued growth of IoT connections, laying the foundation for new and diverse products and services.


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