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Five trends shaping the future of IoT

Global Trends
9 Mins.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming how businesses, organizations, and governments operate by enabling smarter, more efficient processes and data-driven insights. From reducing road congestion and measuring air quality, to optimizing crop yields and reducing industrial carbon emissions, the potential of IoT is limitless. And it’s an industry growing at an exponential rate. Spotlight takes a look at the some of the biggest trends driving IoT adoption for 2024.

IoT is the biggest machine ever built by mankind – and it’s getting even bigger. Connected devices have become part of our everyday lives, and the number of devices worldwide is set to exceed 26 billion by 2026, up from 12 billion in 2019.1

This growth will be driven by the expansion of massive IoT and the proliferation of 5G networks, as well as eSIM and iSIM technology, which provide the underlying infrastructure while simplifying device connectivity and remote SIM management (RSM).

As more and more organizations look to scale their IoT deployments and these networks continue to expand, new complexities and challenges will emerge. Finding ways to overcome them will define industry priorities and trends in the coming years.

In this article, Spotlight examines some of the key trends to keep an eye on in the next 12 months, and how they address common challenges to scalability, interoperability, global coverage, and managing global IoT deployments. 

Universal connectivity on the horizon

We live in an increasingly digital world. However, according to the United Nations (UN), there are still 2.9 billion people – a third of the global population – without access to the internet.2 Bridging the digital divide and ensuring safe, affordable access to the internet for these people, most of whom live in remote and impoverished regions, has been identified as a priority by 2030, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The advent of satellite-based connectivity will help make that goal possible. Until now, mobile and IoT devices have primarily relied on terrestrial networks for connectivity, constrained by the reach and limitations of ground-based infrastructure. However, thanks to non-terrestrial networks (NTN) – wireless communication networks that use low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites within the 5G architecture – devices will soon be able to switch between terrestrial and satellite networks as required, meaning that even the most remote corners of the globe will have access to the internet.

While the benefits on a social level cannot be overstated, NTN can also be a major driver in the expansion of massive IoT.

“Satellite-based connectivity will be one of the biggest topics in IoT in the next year and beyond. True global coverage is not far away, and this is an exciting prospect for all stakeholders and industries, but especially agriculture and logistics.“
Amy Garcia-Rendle
Head of Marketing, IoT, and Connectivity, G+D

The convergence of 5G capabilities with NTN’s wide coverage marks a significant leap forward for IoT, bridging even the most remote parts of the globe to create a truly interconnected digital world.

Universal connectivity will also help streamline IoT integration across a wide range of industries. For example, in logistics, it will be possible to provide customers with real-time tracking of goods around the world, even from the middle of the ocean or a desert; relief efforts in areas affected by natural disasters will no longer be hindered by damaged or non-existent communications infrastructure; the benefits of crop and livestock monitoring will be extended to farmers in rural areas; and it will be much easier to monitor and maintain infrastructure in isolated regions, such as offshore oil rigs.

Although the timeline for mass NTN connectivity is still unknown, widespread adoption is expected within the next 12 to 24 months. In the meantime, the spotlight shifts to another timely development that will have an immediate impact on global IoT expansion in the new year: SGP.32 eSIM specification.

A factory worker uses an augmented reality interface on a tablet to manage inventory in a warehouse.

Setting new standards to promote IoT growth

As the IoT ecosystem expands, companies and organizations face the same challenge: the fragmentation between devices, mobile networks, and IoT management platforms is too often a barrier to deploying and scaling large IoT deployments. 

The new GSMA SGP.32 eSIM IoT specification – which was published in May 2023 – will change that. SGP.32 is a new remote SIM provisioning standard that, like satellite-based connectivity, can act as a catalyst for massive IoT by reducing the complexities associated with scaling deployments.

“In recent years, eSIM has taken off in the consumer market, but it hasn’t yet had the desired impact in the IoT industry. SGP.32 addresses some of the key obstacles to scalability by simplifying device deployment and remote SIM management. This will stimulate growth and drive the transition towards widespread IoT adoption.“
Sönke Schröder
Director Global Go-to-Market Strategy & Innovations, G+D

The specification makes it easier to remotely provision SIM profiles in IoT devices – especially “headless” devices such as water-quality sensors – without having to physically access them. This has far-reaching benefits:

  • Scalability: SGP.32 facilitates seamless global deployment and management of IoT devices by enabling easy switching of network providers across different regions – essential for cross-border IoT applications such as logistics.
  • Efficiency: By reducing the need for on-site maintenance and physical SIM updates, SGP.32 streamlines the management of massive IoT device networks, leading to operational efficiencies and cost savings.
  • Interoperability: As a unified standard for eSIM and iSIM integration, SGP.32 ensures seamless communication and functionality across various devices and networks. This interoperability is essential for the coherent operation of diverse IoT systems and applications.
  • Future-proofing: The flexibility enabled by remote SIM provisioning ensures IoT ecosystems can be adaptable to future network changes and technological advancements without requiring physical hardware modifications.

In addition to enhancing scalability and interoperability, SGP.32, eSIM and iSIM can also play a key role in enhancing the security and integrity of data in IoT networks.

Keeping data safe in a connected world

With billions of devices in circulation, and many more set to be deployed in the coming years as organizations scale their deployments, it’s crucial that the security of the IoT ecosystem does not become overwhelmed. The potential consequences of a security breach could be catastrophic.

For example, imagine the disruption caused if criminals gained access to a smart city surveillance system or a smart energy grid – the damage would be more than just financial and reputational, it would be a threat to public safety and trust. At a consumer level, there is also an obligation to guarantee the safety of personal data collected – for example, by smart wearables.

So, what steps can be taken to ensure data security? The challenge is as much about protecting physical devices from security breaches as it is about safeguarding the platforms and networks to which they connect. Multi-layer security is therefore a must for any IoT strategy.

A female engineer monitors a robotic arm within a modern factory setting while holding a digital tablet.

With remote SIM provisioning, devices can receive updates and security patches remotely, ensuring that they remain secure against evolving threats throughout their life cycle – an important consideration given the environmental need to maximize device longevity as much as possible.

Network security is also more secure. Each IoT device equipped with an eSIM or iSIM has a distinct, secure identity, considerably lowering the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches, especially when compared with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections. Furthermore, the physical integration of an eSIM or iSIM onto a device’s circuit board makes them less susceptible to tampering and theft, adding an extra layer of security to the IoT ecosystem.

“Security is a major hurdle because of the sheer number of devices in the field,” says Amy Garcia-Rendle. “For the IoT industry, eSIM has been a game changer. But to truly safeguard IoT deployments, we recommend a layered approach to security, whereby each element of the application, from the sensor or device to the network, is secured. This can be managed via a centralized connectivity platform, and helps ensure the highest standards across your entire ecosystem, no matter how many suppliers or devices interact with it.”

Where data is involved, security will always be an important topic for any business organization. Equally critical is a topic that will be on every boardroom’s agenda in the next 12 months: sustainability.

Going green with IoT

Sustainability and the urgency of climate change are the dominant issues of our time. They touch all industries and areas of society – and the IoT industry is no exception. However, when it comes to sustainability, the industry is facing its own unique challenges that require a nuanced approach.

On the one hand, many IoT devices are designed to optimize emissions on an industrial scale that will have a genuine tangible impact – and businesses are increasingly turning to IoT to do just that. In 2023, 80% of companies planned to use IoT to better measure and understand the impact of their sustainability initiatives, while 72% had already seen an ROI by doing so.3 Expect this trend to continue in the year ahead.

Considering the vast array of applications, it’s no surprise that many businesses are leveraging IoT to support sustainability goals. For instance:

  • Smart grids: IoT devices in energy grids enable real-time monitoring and management of electricity usage, reducing wastage and optimizing energy distribution, leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Precision agriculture: IoT sensors in farming monitor soil moisture and crop health, allowing for precise irrigation and fertilization, reducing water usage and the overuse of fertilizers that can produce harmful emissions.
  • Smart buildings: IoT devices optimize heating and ventilation systems in buildings to reduce energy consumption and associated emissions.
  • Transport and fleet management: IoT devices optimize routes for delivery vehicles, reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Meanwhile, IoT-enabled traffic management systems decrease road congestion, leading to lower traffic emissions.

However, this overwhelmingly positive impact is not without cost. The growth of massive IoT poses legitimate questions regarding harmful CO2 emissions caused by the production, operation, and eventual disposal of billions of devices. To mitigate this, industry is adopting several sustainable practices, such as using resource-saving materials, prolonging the service life of devices, and developing innovative technology such as printed batteries on smart shipping labels that reduce waste and reduce the use of lithium batteries. Beyond the environmental impact, these measures also lower operating costs, further incentivizing businesses to pursue eco-conscious practices. 

Remote SIM management can also contribute to emission reductions. An “independent study by Fraunhofer IZM for G+D” revealed that eSIMs produce 46% less CO2 compared with their pluggable counterparts over their lifespan. With more than 5 billion eSIM-equipped devices expected on the consumer and IoT market by 2027, the cumulative impact on emissions will be significant.

And this is before we consider the impact of iSIM, which is even smaller and more energy-efficient than eSIM. As the IoT industry grows, both will play vital roles in helping businesses across all industries reduce their carbon footprint and achieve their sustainability goals.

Having identified some of the major challenges and opportunities affecting the IoT landscape, the final question remains: how do companies and organizations make the most of them?

Putting all the pieces together

If the IoT ecosystem is a body, then a centralized connectivity management platform is the brain. Companies and organizations are increasingly turning to platforms such as “G+D’s AirOn360® IoT Suite to manage all existing and new devices in a single platform” to overcome the complexities associated with scaling and managing a global fleet of IoT devices.

As massive IoT continues to expand, such platforms will play critical roles in helping organizations stay in control of their deployments and efficiently manage devices, data usage, and cellular connectivity across multiple carriers internationally. This streamlined scalability is a must-have for businesses and organizations looking to fully leverage the potential of IoT and scale in the coming years.

Looking ahead in 2024

In the broader context of connectivity, it is still very early in the life of IoT. But it is often at this stage where the most growth occurs. 2024 promises to be another year of rapid evolution in the industry, and organizations that proactively adapt to emerging challenges and opportunities will be best positioned to thrive in the increasingly interconnected world of the future.

Key takeaways

  1. Satellite connectivity will enable universal internet access and eliminate barriers to global IoT deployments in remote areas. 
  2. Remote SIM management and new remote provisioning standards will help organizations scale IoT deployments by enhancing interoperability, improving security, and supporting environmental efforts.
  3. Centralized management platforms will help organizations streamline and scale IoT operations.
  1. GSMA Study, 2022

  2. Achieving universal and meaningful digital connectivity, UN, 2022

  3. Accelerating Sustainable Action Through the Internet of Things (IoT), Inmarsat, 2023

Published: 13/02/2024

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