What Does the Near Future Hold for the Internet of Things? (Part 1)

November 6, 2019 - 7 minutes read

What’s in store for the Internet of Things (IoT)? While it’s only been around for a short amount of time, this technology has already bridged the divide between our digital and physical worlds in unprecedented ways. But according to semiconductor and software company Arm, this is just the beginning.

IoT development stole the spotlight at this year’s Arm TechCon in early October. In this special two-part series, we’ll take a look at some of the main highlights at this event and what the near future looks like for IoT.

Giving IoT a More Human Touch

Most predictions for IoT’s future focus on technology. But Charlene Marini, Arm’s IoT Services Group VP of Strategy, is much more interested in the impact IoT will have on our lives. The intersection of “people, process, and things” is what really excites her.

Marini emphasized that it’s important for IoT to adapt to us and our needs instead of the other way around; this ensures we get optimal value from the technology. To illustrate this, Marini discussed a hypothetical example of an IoT device that helps users drive. If this device could learn from our habits, it could offer customized advice that would be much more relevant than standardized advice strictly based on location.

Personalized interactions like this sound like a small factor. But they could end up playing an integral role in the future of industries like hospitality and retail. They could even drastically impact how we work. For instance, DogPatch, an Arm TechCon exhibitor, displayed its use of Arm’s IoT tech to tailor aspects of coworking spaces like climate, lighting, and more.

But how close is this IoT-enabled adaptability to becoming commonplace? Currently, there are roughly 20 billion IoT devices connected around the world. The more connected devices there are, the more we’ll be able to tailor things according to even the most subtle nuances. Mohamed Awad, Arm’s VP of Infrastructure, believes we’re on track to see this in action all over the place soon.

In fact, Arm expects there to be 1 trillion connected IoT devices by 2035!

IoT Innovation Depends on Infrastructure

Of course, to realize the “Internet of Everything” will take more than just connected devices — the infrastructure to support them must be in place. And Arm is certainly doing its part to make this happen.

Approximately a year ago, the organization announced the “Neoverse” platform, an initiative aiming to provide network solutions at every step of implementation. This year, the company announced “Project Cassini”, another new initiative that will support various tools and standards on its platform so that developers can have a consistent work experience.

As far as computing goes, Arm anticipates that more processing will occur through edge computing. By letting devices handle some of the processing loads, more complex algorithms will be able to be utilized faster and more efficiently. But to really make this a reality, we’ll need the help of another disruptive technology coming around the corner: 5G.

If there’s one main takeaway from Arm TechCon, it’s that the future of IoT depends on 5G. There have certainly been some hiccups in rolling out this new cellular technology. And unfortunately, there are a few more to come as 5G gets rolled out and adopted more broadly. Awad thinks that 5G’s infrastructure won’t be as reliable and pervasive as LTE for a while. And this could lead to some spotty connection until it’s resolved.

AI Will Lead to Smarter IoT Devices

Besides infrastructure and faster transfer speeds, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) will also be necessary to improve IoT connectivity. AI was one of Arm TechCon’s main focal points, and for good reason: By applying machine learning, IoT developers will be able to better predict and manage data traffic.

Awad explains: “A lot of people think AI is about what to do with the raw data being transmitted… What’s going to happen next? Is it a cat? Is it a person? We can think of this as the ‘data plane.’ Then you [also] have [the] ‘control plane’ AI: the infrastructure from the edge all the way to the core. Workloads could dynamically move from the gateway to the data center, to optimize resources, compute, latency, etc.”

Keep in mind that this hasn’t even factored in smarter endpoint processors for better edge computing. Arm’s M-series processors now allow original equipment manufacturers to add custom instructions sets. And these processors are so small and affordable that they could fit in a variety of connected devices. Bringing machine learning into this fold could unlock tremendous value.

To highlight this potential, Simon Segars, Arm’s CEO, discussed a device that monitors plumbing blockages in hospitals. With machine learning and edge processing, this device wouldn’t have to rely on a good Internet connection to continue working properly.

More Is in Store for the Future of IoT

We hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment in our series looking at the near future of IoT. Held in San Jose, about an hour out from San Francisco, the Arm TechCon is an event that every IoT developer should consider attending!

This year’s conference was so jampacked that we’ll need to dedicate another blog post to cover all of the insights about IoT’s near future. Stay tuned for this piece! We’ll delve into how advertising and entrepreneurship are being affected by IoT. We’ll also take a look at how security, one of IoT’s longstanding issues, could be solved.

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