It’s safe to say COVID-19 changed some predictions. For me, it was a case of the rate of change in our industry switching from evolutionary to revolutionary, with the pandemic forcing many of us to modify our plans completely, both on a personal and corporate level. Many trends accelerated in the digital world, and I believe the new normal is here to stay.
On the IoT and in-home connectivity side, these times have allowed us to take a fresh look at this domain that otherwise we might not have had. I believe this will make for an exciting year to come, and here are some of my predictions for 2021.
Select industries will embrace the use of IoT to battle COVID-19
While 2020 didn’t quite bring the IoT revolution expected, there is no denying COVID-19 dramatically accelerated its adoption in several industries. While constrained budgets may cause a continued delay in IoT implementation in areas like hospitality and brick-and-mortar stores during 2021, others like healthcare and manufacturing will digitize their physical environments due to necessity. Examples include employing 5G-enabled robots to greet guests in hospitals or to check product lines in factories safely.
I believe 2021 will see AI play a critical role in this “digical” shift, transforming information gathered via IoT sensor signals in physical environments into insights, which will help us inch closer to a connectivity revolution. This data will give us better predictions of what might happen in the future and optimize experiences depending on the proposed outcome. This is where I expect the real value of IoT will begin changing our society.
This physical-to-digital transformation rests on the shoulders of communications service providers (CSPs). Unlike "pure digital" plays or data centers where servers are deployed physically or remotely in one location, IoT requires the actual physical implementation of sensors across vast and often challenging areas. CSPs can play a critical role in deploying sensors and taking these solutions to market with enterprises that are ready to make the shift.
A required change to the broadband and IoT experiences
In my estimation, COVID-19 has propelled our in-home expectations forward by five years. With that, 2021 will advance how broadband, and in turn, IoT devices in the home, are managed in this new environment. We’ll see broadband demands rise even further as heavy usage of high-bandwidth activities all battle for the home network’s attention, and our “regular” and “work” lives continue to blend.
Our research found that 37% of consumers experienced remote work early on in the pandemic, 18% tried online gaming, and 25% used eLearning solutions. I expect these numbers have further skyrocketed with schools offering hybrid schedules, cloud gaming becoming a console staple, and many offices worldwide remaining closed.
Beyond this, I believe we’ll also see enterprises investigate new areas, such as connected devices that guarantee the bandwidth, security and functionality employees need to work effectively. As consumers use more connected devices for longer periods, IoT developers and connectivity providers will seize the implications and opportunities.
Broadband connectivity will evolve to manage connected hardware and related mobile software applications more efficiently. This will be accompanied by better intelligent monitoring, leading to an improved understanding of the quality of experience. IoT developers have a role to play here, ensuring service providers can integrate their software within this experience.
COVID-19 may have thrown off a year that could have been IoT’s big breakthrough. While some industries have slowed their implementation of IoT, other sectors and the in-home connectivity explosion will provide clear opportunities over the coming 12 months. It’ll be interesting to see whether CSPs and IoT developers get a jump on the competition by realizing this sooner rather than later.