Enterprise, Industry May Power IoT Demand in the Short Term

Will the “Internet of Things” (IoT) become more than a buzzword in 2019?

That’s an important question for all those companies (and tech pros) who have invested time, money, and resources into IoT over the past several years. Although the industry hype surrounding IoT remains (somewhat) strong, everyday appliances that connect to the Web aren’t exactly ubiquitous, and consumer demand remains relatively muted for everything except “smart speakers” (more on that in a moment).

But in a new report, research firm Forrester suggests that a market for IoT will grow—thanks in large part to enterprise and industrial interest. Consumers might not prove willing to buy a dozen “smart” appliances and wire them into a home network, but businesses are interested in the idea of seeding their supply chains and manufacturing pipelines with sensors that feed delicious data to analysts.

“The reality of connecting many different devices and environments, for many consumers that’s just not happening yet. So the initial momentum is certainly still coming from the enterprise,” Michele Pelino, a Forrester analyst, told TechRepublic.

That business interest could spark a demand for “managed IoT services,” led by tech pros capable of blending web-connected products and data-analytics platforms into a cohesive whole. The need for such professionals may only increase as businesses seek out IoT solutions tailored to industry-specific needs. For example, General Electric has spent the past several years advocating what it calls the “Industrial Internet,” in which sensors in jet engines and factory machines share data and updates with managers; while that kind of platform can make processes more efficient, it demands specialized knowledge in order to keep running smoothly.

For tech pros interested in IoT, pursuing opportunities in an enterprise and industrial context might ultimately yield better results than sticking to the consumer realm, at least in the short term. Although “smart speakers” such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home are popular (one in five U.S. adults uses one, according to a Voicebot.ai report from earlier this year), it may take Americans a few more years to enthusiastically embrace “smart” light bulbs and refrigerators (to name just two consumer IoT examples); in a report from late 2017, Forrester estimated that one in five households would have at least one smart home device (excluding “smart speakers”) by 2022.

While companies such as Nest (which was acquired by Google in 2014) have yet to introduce the IoT equivalent of the iPhone—sleek, chic hardware that everyone rushes to install—tech giants such as Apple have laid the foundation for future IoT adoption with platforms such as HomeKit, which allow consumers to control in-home devices via an app. The foundations for the future are here, even if tens of millions of consumers aren’t networking all their home hardware quite yet.

Best of all, as IoT evolves, it should create more demand for security experts, QA testers, artificial-intelligence researchers, and lots of other tech professions. Even if consumers aren’t rushing to smarten their homes, this is clearly a sub-industry with a lot of room to run—especially in an enterprise context.