Looking Back at 2018: the Year in IoT Developments

A year is a long time when it comes to the IoT. Looking back, January feels like a lifetime ago. As the year draws to a close we wanted to take this opportunity to look back and reflect on the developments that we’ve seen this year.

You can look back at our post from January 2018 to read our predictions for this year:

small paper boats1. A Mushrooming in the Number of Connected Devices

In 2017 Gartner predicted that there would be 8.4 billion connected “things”. Today, Statista puts that number at more than double the prediction, with as many as 20 billion IoT devices around the world. That number is set to grow exponentially over the next few years and will change our lives in ways we haven’t yet conceptualized.

2. 5G Trials Start in Earnest

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It feels like we’ve been waiting for and reading about the development of 5G for eons. The hype has, so far, certainly outstripped the progress but it really does seem like we might be poised to see 5G implemented in the real world before too long.

Many cities are actively running 5G trials, from Bristol to Barcelona. Phone companies from Vodafone to Verizon are beginning to make 5G available in select locations. The first stages of real-world implementation of 5G started in earnest in 2018 and, fingers crossed, the real deal could be here next year.

3. Privacy and the Law Start to get Serious

man protecting his privacy by hiding his face with a balloon2018 saw the world-first IoT cybersecurity law enacted in California and the introduction of the fearfully awaited GDPR legislation in the EU.

From January 2020 the law in California will require a manufacturer of a connected device to, ‘Equip the device with a reasonable security feature or features that are appropriate to the nature and function of the device, appropriate to the information it may collect, contain, or transmit.’

The EU has a population of over 500 million and if California were a country it would be the fifth largest economy in the world and has a population of over 39 million. These laws will affect a significant swathe of people and are already changing how companies collect and store their data.

4. Autonomous Cars Make Progress but Suffer Fall Out from Several High-Profile Accidents

autonomous vehicle

In 2018 pretty much every major car manufacturer announced that it would have self-driving cars on the road within the next few years.
However, there are still a number of roadblocks before autonomous cars become a common sight on our streets. From the classic ethical dilemma of the “trolley problem” (who do you choose to kill if a crash is inevitable) to issues around driver inattention in semi-autonomous cars there are still major questions to be resolved.

The technology is progressing rapidly but 2018 saw the first person killed by a self-driving car. A car in Arizona hit and killed a pedestrian. This tragic event has led many people to question whether having autonomous vehicles being tested on public roads, without public consent, is advisable or ethical. Proponents of the self-driving car revolution insist that autonomous vehicles will be safer than human drivers. Robots don’t get tired or drive drunk. However, there will be a learning curve. Whether we’re willing to pay the price of the testing required to get to a situation where self-driving cars are safer is in doubt.

Currently, there is no consensus on the legality of autonomous vehicles. The regulatory environment varies between countries and states. After the accident in March politicians are likely to be less relaxed about allowing self-driving cars to be tested on their roads. The Governor of Arizona (one of the states with the most relaxed rules around the testing of self-driving cars) banned Uber’s self-driving cars from the state’s roads after the accident.

5. LPWAN Progress is Slow but Steady

At the LPWA London conference in May 2018 the mood was more subdued than in the past. Progress had been made but not as quickly or as spectacularly as people had been expecting. While LPWAN technologies are being developed the business case and monetization of the network, which will be the crucial next steps, are currently lagging behind.

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“The LPWAN market is currently going through an “early adoption phase” characterized by a high degree of technological fragmentation … IoT Analytics counts at least 16 LPWAN technologies currently on the market, all of them with a relatively limited degree of adoption and geographical footprint,” said Eugenio Pasqua, connectivity expert at IoT Analytics.

 

There are a number of competing technologies which are battling for supremacy. We should see within the next few years which is successful but, for now, many companies are cautious about investing in one before they know which horse to bet on.

In 2018 there has been a steady development of technologies and a growing awareness of terms like “smart cities” and “connected homes” outside of tech circles. However, progress has still been slow in several key areas. There are a lot of interesting ideas and big talk but real-world progress is not quite as impressive.

Read our predictions for what to watch out for in 2019.

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