Contrarians At The Gate: Let’s Get Real on 2020 IIoT Trends & Terms by Aaron Allsbrook

January 14, 2020

It wouldn’t be a new year without piles of articles predict the top disruptive trends followed by a CES full of whiz-bang devices.  Now that the marketing has come at us, I thought I’d share 5 trends that are overhyped, and 5 trends that are already getting traction – and why.


Five Trends & Terms That Are Overhyped

Fog – this has been more of a term than a trend and was a bad idea to start. While in the world of magical thinking we could use rented computers to run the edge for us, in truth, someone must organize and permission devices. This term is on its way out – the fog is finally lifting.

Digital Twin – this was a silly idea to start with; the idea that we could so closely simulate a physical world object such that we don’t need to test or check it in the real world makes no sense. There’s a reason why NASA builds two Mars Rovers and leaves one on earth to test against; there are too many variables in the real world and no JSON file that describes a Mars Rover.

5G – after endless tv commercials, political rhetoric, boundless analyst reports, several networks have actually been deployed around the world.  This is pretty great if you have a 5G phone.  Of course – to leverage that kind of speed we need the demand.  In the future, we may have augmented reality where we play games with others around the world, but in the meantime, it is most likely to solve the challenge of downloading the entire last season of GoT before your plane takes off.   Where 5G really has a chance to change the real world is more cord-cutting. Not that these executives are right all that often, still though they are correct it takes more than a few quarters to roll out such an infrastructure. The use cases that really leverage a 5G network are industrial, with machines streaming data off boring old sensors.  These use cases want to make sure the machine operates safely and stays operational, but to really change the world they need to use AI algorithms to do that which require big cloud computing facilities.  Sadly, these use cases also demand high reliability, fault tolerance, and well-proven trust paths of security.  While 5G will eventually grow, many use cases in 2020 won’t be viable due to those basic requirements.

AI – In 2020, it will still be a “#nothotdog” world when it comes to Artificial Intelligence.  While AI algorithms are good at voice transcription and facial recognition, these are but two challenges in a much, much larger world.   Take that same object recognition algorithm to Home Depot and let it differentiate between a 5/8” self-tapping screw and a 5/8” wood screw.  Take that same voice recognition algorithm into the hospital and see if “gangliocytoma” and “gang cycle tomatoes” result in the same treatment plans.  Implementing algorithms takes time.  Identifying the necessary data to drive the algorithms takes a strong understanding of context.  While AI will stay a hot technology – its true benefit will sit behind the need to contextualize and create value.

Blockchain – the technology is starting to be understood, but the use cases are still few.  While it might make sense for the shared ledger to ensure data integrity and secure sharing in enterprise applications, how Distributed Ledger Technology will be leveraged in substantial projects at scale, for example, supply chain management, we’re still a good year away.


Five Trends & Terms That Will Be Turning It Up in 2020

Asset Monitoring – why? Because it is a simple idea.  You’ve got something valuable in your home or in your business, and you want to know is it working and how much it is working. Asset Monitoring brought into a business provides a huge amount of value.  Thanks to falling sensor prices and better out of the box software experiences this will be a year that true asset monitoring becomes viable for many businesses.  At its heart Asset Monitoring comes down to configuring

  • Asset data connection
  • Asset data normalization
  • Asset data storage
  • Rule configuration
  • Event configuration
  • Action configuration

Asset Tracking – why? Because the same thing you wanted to monitor, now you want to track if it moves from place to place. Where is it? Where has it been? Who is using it? Asset tracking is often a simple building ontop of asset monitoring where we have already put together the asset schema and a historical record of its behavior.  To complete the story with tracking we simply need to additionally configure

  • Asset location types (GPS, indoor)
  • Areas of interest
  • Enhanced location-based rules

Edge – it’s been talked about a lot, but in the real world has been limited in terms of who could practically use it and scale.  Thanks to the above asset solutions, the edge will finally have its place in 2020.  It most likely won’t even be sold as an edge-based solution, but for IoT Architects who build it in, it will reap the promised dividends.

Automation Over Apps – Apps are no longer the path to automation and workflow efficiency.  Rather than building another interface that requires people field to review and make decisions, systems instead will instead push to scrape apps out of the process and just feed data directly into the systems of record.  Work orders automatically open, driver records automatically completed.  In 2020, we will start to see fewer apps in our ecosystem.

Narrow Band Technologies – LoRaWAN, NB-IoT, and other networking protocols and approaches will finally have deployment models that make sense and are ready to scale.  Additionally, the sensors necessary to take advantage of hardened environments are on the market.  They will work wonders for both heavy and remote industries where the connectivity is a challenge and low-cost wide-area deployments are key.  The key difference to some of the 5G stories here is that these networks are often private and can quickly be deployed by owners who are positioned to build and receive ROI.

Drain the Data Swamp – enterprises and entire industries are swamped with data.  They have tons of data that generate very little knowledge and therefore value. In 2020 this will slow down, instead of just shipping data to cloud providers, IoT architects will get a handle on this stream and make conscious decisions about what matters and what doesn’t and will use data selectively.


One final trend we believe will define disruption and development in 2020: Context.

What does all the data we can now collect and analyze mean? In 2020 we will take data and understand it at the edge or in the cloud to get a meaningful view.  We will understand the car in the context of its passengers, its speed on the highway, the weather outside, the surrounding emergency vehicles, and more, and that car’s data will contribute to a meaningful collective set of contextual data for traffic and emergency management.

With a grasp of context, creative, practical and valuable IoT and Industrial IoT systems and solutions will really take off as “real world” problems are solved, real-world savings are recognized, and real people in the real world simply live safer, healthier and more convenient lives. Here’s to keeping it real as we start the third decade of the 21st Century!

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