Internet of Things (IoT) growth predictions have been bullish for a number of years, and new data from Juniper Research predicts the number of connected devices will triple in the next five – but that rosy forecast comes with some caveats.

The recently released The Internet of Things: Consumer, Industrial & Public Services 2016-2021 predicts the number of connected IoT devices, sensors and actuators will hit more than 46 billion in 2021, which is a 200 per cent increase from 2016. The growth will be driven in large part by a reduction in the unit costs of hardware, the organization found, forecasting that industrial and public services will post the highest growth over the next five years, averaging more than 24 per cent annually.

That exponential growth carries more than a few challenges, however, including cybersecurity. Not surprisingly, Juniper noted that IoT distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) “botnet” attacks have become “infamous” in 2016, although in the medium term its researchers believe that personal data theft, corporate data theft and physical asset damage will be the primary goals for IoT hackers.

In general, Juniper’s research cautions that both providers of IoT services and end users will have to deal with the complexity that comes with scale. While the platform landscape is “flourishing,” the research firm warned that analytics and database systems are generally not designed to handle what it calls the “Big Data 2.0 era” that IoT brings.

For example, the majority of connected IoT units will be machines communicating with each other, rather than with humans. In the past, the volume and velocity of online data was low enough that humans were able to review the data and gauge the importance of location data on a per-case basis, but IoT data is both produced at higher volumes, and more transient, so its value disappears quickly as time elapses.

The good news is that enterprise and industry are aware of these challenges and investing heavily in IoT security. The bad news is that the consumer market landscape is woeful – for example, U.K.-based Juniper describes British Internet service provider TalkTalk’s recent “do nothing” advice to consumers regarding the Mirai Worm as “astounding.” Juniper argues that regulatory, corporate and media collaboration is necessary to improve the overall threat landscape.

Aside from the perennial shadow of security threats, Juniper said that service providers need to change their attitudes when it comes to IoT, otherwise getting an IoT-related project into gear will become too difficult for non-tech-savvy customers. Initiatives such as Exosite’s IoT Alliance and Rubicon Labs’ flexible business models, which determine pricing based on the value of the data in question, will be fundamental in driving market traction forward, the organization said.

Juniper also singled out machine learning as one of the emerging markets that has been driving IoT forward since 2015, describing it as a modernisation of the Big Data paradigm, where large-scale analytics were performed retrospectively against complex, usually unstructured, data.

The research firm noted that large-scale investment has been made by Google, Microsoft, NVIDIA and Amazon, with each looking to transform the market from a situation where machine learning is sold as a product, to one where it can be delivered as a service.

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