What was the last device you used, other than your computer or smartphone, that was connected to the internet or could be? How many such devices do you have in your home? Are you planning on getting some more soon? You wouldn’t be alone if you were, as billion, if not more, Internet of Things (IoT) are currently out in the world, with billions more to follow in the coming years. There is no turning back for the trend, yet we are still figuring out how much we want and where we want it. The IoT will be a bigger part of your life than you might think, and it will be important to understand where it is going in the coming years. To that end, we did some research and found some of the common threads.
There is plenty to talk about regarding the Internet of Things, far more than we can talk about in one article, but here are some of the major trends to keep out watch for in 2022.
What is the Internet of Things?
You might have heard the term thrown around before, but are uncertain as to the exact definition. The Internet of Things is effectively the catch-all term for the wide array of devices that can connect to the internet. From shoes to printers to toasters, more devices and household items have some connectivity than ever before, and that means that there are more IoT devices than ever before. It is a broad definition (and concept) by design, and it is a broad subject.
As for where it began, that is a difficult thing to determine, although it would likely be with some of the first wireless devices in labs or that came onto the market. The IoT is simply an extension of the simpler functions and obvious devices of the past, so technically we could trace it back to the first devices outside of computers (or even including them) to connect to the internet, especially wireless ones. The first network devices became widely available around 2004, so we can reasonably say it started outside of labs and experimental technology around then.
As our definition expands and more devices get added, we might narrow or redefine the term as needed. Yet for now, just think of examples like your printer, smartphone, and smart appliance, and you get the idea.
1. IoT as the Standard
The smart home is a normal thing now, even if we don’t realize it. Most homes might not be decked out to the brim with devices that are connected to the internet and cameras everywhere, but there is likely a device or two that qualifies. Homes of the future are always out of reach. A new device or appliance is not. And when a replacement appliance is bought, the likelihood grows every year that the new item will connect to the internet or have an app in some form, bringing it into the fold of the Internet of Things.
If one follows this trend, it only makes sense that the IoT will become the mainstream and standard for many household appliances or devices, or at least a potential norm for people to choose from. It will be a common feature to be used or ignored, and producing such units will be cheap enough that it may not create too much of a price difference. While the cheapest devices possible will still be “dumb” for a long time, mid-range products won’t look that much different from the advanced products of previous years. And they will only become more normalized unless innovation strikes and we reconsider what we need in the home and how we should interact with it.
There can be some negative implications from such a widespread adoption if we aren’t careful. Some basic errors in the underlying networks and technologies could be catastrophic. Devices should also ideally work without network input if people want or need to do so. And as we’ll talk about later, cybersecurity concerns are abundant for some devices.
It does also make us wonder if there will be simpler “connection-free” options for those who do not want to opt into the IoT, or how many more products will come with explicit instructions on how to turn off IoT devices. For good and bad reasons, there will always be those who are suspicious of new technological developments. How correct they are remains to be seen, though their concerns are likely exaggerations.
2. Large Companies Are Going to Start Using IoT Devices en Masse
Using IoT devices can revolutionize some businesses and even entire industries. While it can be a heavy expense, upgrading to devices that have connectivity can make as much difference as installing computers into the workplace, to begin with. Some companies, especially in the tech sector, are making these changes more aggressively than others. Offices are modernized to an absolute degree. They do so perhaps even more than necessary. Smartphones are the norm or given out by companies. Creating the best workplace possible requires standardization in some regards. That will soon mean more modern offices (or work-from-home setups, given how the nature of the office is changing).
We will see this in some industries more than others. This will partially depend on the average culture and partially depend on necessity. Construction crews and industrial work that can use the IoT to make sites safer and more productive will be more likely to adopt new and helpful devices, cost permitting. Some offices that are getting along just fine and are more conservative in their operations will likely stay the same until there is a killer app, so to speak. However, devices requiring replacement will probably be replaced by an IoT devices. It will be so if only because it’s the default of today. Imagine a new office printer that requires a wired connection, for example.
We may also start to see creative uses for some devices in an office or corporate setting, but whether this comes from users who try out new uses and reconfigure devices to have new use cases (even if it is not always perfect). However, it will likely be some combination of the two, with developers catching onto new uses and creating something more official when the time comes.
Finally, keep in mind that IoT devices and products will not just be used in the standard corporate white-collar environment. Everything from farming equipment to industrial uses can be affected by the IoT. Think about the drones currently used for farming, or equipment used for communication and life support in more dangerous industries. They all might be able to connect to networks and be IoT devices as a result. If you want to research further, look into other industries you hardly think about and see what is or could be connected.
3. Cybersecurity Continues to Be a Concern
Wherever the money goes, crime goes. And the money is going towards the Internet of Things. And even if it technically wasn’t it is all connected to the internet, which will be the case in closed networks and places such as hospitals (though this can easily change), the amount of information traveling through these devices can be surprising and concerning for anyone, from experts to the average user. People have reasonable privacy and security concerns, and many companies are not up to the task.
To truly drive it home, think about the information you put into your smartphone. Your bank information, many passwords, access to your email, and a whole host of personal information and pictures are on there. Your smartphone is safer than most devices, especially if you are careful. Yet can you say the same for the other devices you use? While you probably aren’t putting in financial information on your toaster, your smart tv might have a fair amount of information on it.
It will only be a matter of time before another huge cybersecurity incident hits the news, and more efforts go toward prevention. Then some companies will get lax and cut corners, and the cycle will continue. It’s a pessimistic prediction, but it is a trend that has occurred for some time. Many companies learn their lesson from others’ mistakes, but there are enough companies that store people’s information that one of them will eventually make a mistake. And many IoT devices collect information on their users, some of it personal or sensitive.
However, dealing with all of these potential issues is not as simple as throwing money at the problem and saying it is important. Cybersecurity is as much about having the right plan and following it as having the right equipment or programs. Furthermore, there is a shortage of cybersecurity professionals, and you cannot simply train them in a month. It will be an ongoing issue for some time. Current professionals and users will simply have to try their best in the interim. This is the case whether it comes to the IoT or technology in general. The companies that are unwilling or unable to spend the money on infrastructure and personnel related to cybersecurity will be at risk. They put their customers at risk for it. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in 2022.
4. 5G Will Change Everything
In some cases, the limitations on the implementation of the Internet of Things have had to do with wireless download speeds. Not all IoT devices are meant to be or can be constantly connected to WiFi. Much like our smartphones, some devices need a backup connection, and 4G LTE and 5G wireless connections have to be it. Yet 4G can only do so much.
5G, however, can get the job done. Proper 5G connections allow for speeds that are multiple times as fast as what came before, often beating out local WiFi connections in certain areas. And while it might not be cheap to implement (at least at first), it might bring about a revolution in how we think about the IoT and what is possible with it. Cars will be able to do much more, smartphones will be able to do so much more, and as we’ll discuss we might see more wearable technology enabled by these developments.
5G might be waiting for further implementation in many areas, but by this point, we will start to see greater advertisements of what 5G can do, how it can change cities and communities, and potential use cases on the latest devices. Some of this will be an exaggeration, of course, but there is a new wave of innovation coming on the heels of the 5G implementation. Much of that will be
One of the best examples of this is the concept of “smart cities”, most of which have not really gotten off the ground due to common logistical errors. Can our current infrastructure, even at our best efforts, support an entire city infrastructure worth of devices? Could we consistently connect to sidewalks, traffic lights, and power lines while we maintain the systems we already have? Do we have a failsafe if the network goes down? There are questions about how far the IoT can go, and many of them relate to these larger-scale concepts.
Note that 5G is a bit of an umbrella term. There’s the 5G which implements millimeter wave technology, which vastly improves internet speeds but is harder to implement and has a shorter range. There is also the 5G that is a step above 4G LTE that most people are used to, but will probably not be as revolutionary as people hope, and not change too much as far as the IoT is concerned. Which 5G technology people and companies are talking about will determine a lot, however, we will see a lot more of the less impactful
Related to 5G technology are concepts related to satellite internet and projects such as Starlink. We will likely not see full implementation of such things in 2022 (though perhaps some experimental options), and we will be looking more towards the stars as far as access is concerned. There are problems with implementations, space debris, and potential costs. However, should these things be sorted out, the IoT will no longer be so limited by known network limitations. Wherever a person goes on Earth, the IoT may be able to join them. That level of reliability may be the key to further growth.
5. More Wearable Technology
Smartwatches have been one of the major devices to take the world by storm after their introduction. And while some people have found them not to be as useful, others have made them part of their daily life and a great part of their fitness routine. They can allow people to check messages without taking out their phones, get quick notifications, and even check the time on occasion. There are still innovations to come with smartwatches, especially as technology gets smaller over time. There’s not much room in a smartwatch before it gets too large or heavy, and yet companies are getting better at doing more with less space without sacrificing efficiency or functionality. This is true both in terms of sheer processing power and UI.
Some of the more popular options already have been variations of the Apple Watch, a smartphone that pairs nicely with the extremely popular iPhone, and a variety of FitBits, which are a popular line of fitness-based smartwatches and devices. These devices are getting much more sophisticated, with their own apps and additional functions. They may get closer and closer to smartphones. While we don’t anticipate them taking over smartphones completely, they are becoming an amazing compliment for those who just need quick notifications or information.
Smartwatches aren’t the only wearables, of course. Think of smart glasses, for the most obvious example. Creators sought to provide a constant stream of information to users. And while smart glasses never took off due to privacy (and in some cases fashion) concerns, there is no doubt we will see similar attempts to bring wearables back into the limelight in a big way in 2022. There may be jackets or other clothing that have sensors that can provide other devices with information. There may be wearables that can automatically adjust settings to make the users more comfortable.
And while smartwatch improvements will likely be the main driver of wearables in 2022, we shouldn’t ignore other options this year. Shoes with sensors and connectivity can be a much more accurate piece of fitness gear, and jackets and other pieces of clothing could act as small charging stations or have some additional purpose. Some uses are easier to implement than others, and some items of clothing or accessories are more fit to become IoT devices than others. Think about what someone could put in an earring, for example. The imagination (and pricing) is currently the limit, and we are excited to see what comes.
6. IoT in Healthcare and Emergency Services
The IoT has shown its uses in all sorts of industries, but 2022 might show us that there are truly lifesaving potential uses for IoT devices. Communication and efficiency are key in many dire situations, and if the IoT can make that easier for professionals, there’s no doubt we’ll see adoption by at least some departments.
It is no secret that there is a serious shortage of medical personnel, ranging from aides to nurses to specialists. And while technology is no substitute for such essential personnel and the health care system (among other institutions) will need to find a solution for the issue, it can help. IoT devices, when available, can provide some patient data at a glance, and give staff a better idea about who needs more and immediate attention.
Even things such as the remote monitoring of patients can be extremely helpful, and there are many more options than hospitals might be able to use. Even a hospital bed getting more smart features can improve the quality of care and quality of life for patients.
Of course, if technology is going to be used in emergency and health situations, it needs to be unquestionably reliable for professionals to use, as easy to use as possible (or at least non-inhibiting to those using it), and provide tangible benefits over the technology currently in use. Otherwise, it simply isn’t worth it to put people’s health at risk for the sake of false progress. It can be tested in other industries first and then trialed depending on the circumstances. While this will take time, in 2022 we will see some of this.
Once the proper testing has been done, however, health care may be a lot easier for nurses, aides, doctors, and all health care professionals. Patients will also realize the benefits, and start to support more use cases. We are already seeing more home monitoring allowed via IoT devices and a solid internet connection (pacemaker data can be automatically sent to doctors each day, along with similar efforts).
Unfortunately, in 2022 the progress of such technology, or at least its implementation in hospitals across the country and the world, might be limited by the chip shortages and general supply shortages caused by the recent pandemic, manufacturing issues, and shipping crises. It is unknown how long these problems will last or how much of a total delay this will cause, but eventually, we will see a return to normalcy. And when that happens, the IoT will catch up and allow for better medical care.
7. More Specialized Jobs, Apps, and Skills
The Internet of Things is interesting in just how broad a scope it has. It is at once concerned with consumer products that everyone can have in their home as well as specific industry gadgets that won’t be used by more than a few thousand professionals (or even less). The technology is often the same, but the use cases are vast. This means that there will be more devices and apps being created in 2022 for specific uses. If there is a need, eventually there will be an IoT device that helps solve it.
Yet developers and manufacturers also must consider the economic reality of that situation. Enough products or apps must sell for a return on the investment. This might affect the prices and market for more specialist apps. After all, if an app is effectively the only one on the market for a specific purpose, it can still make a strong profit compared to development costs even if the number of users is down. It can charge more, or simply market itself well. There will not be as much competition here as in the gaming or household products spaces, for example. There will have to be a balance.
There are some devices (such as smartphones) that have come to take on the roles of many devices, and we will see some of that. But that isn’t feasible or worthwhile in specialized industries, leading to a greater variety of products. Until we get IoT multi-tools as you might see in science fiction, we’ll see this trend continue in 2022 and beyond.
And there will need to be people to support the apps and these new products. While the truly specialized jobs will naturally be few, the economy based on the Internet of Things is an interesting development, filled with products that will quickly fall by the wayside. Some consumerism may be required to find out what people resonate with the most, but that is unlikely to stop things. It will be interesting to see just how far things go this year, depending on whether some of the shortages plaguing the tech industry persist.
The Internet of Things is one of those concepts that has so much under it that it can be hard to keep track of. However, understanding it is vital to understand the future of technology in the home, the workplace, and beyond. It is here to stay, and we need to learn how we will adjust to it and how these devices will change to better fit our lives. We hope that you have a better understanding of what the IoT is and where it might be headed. Whether in your personal life, your home, or your career, it is going to make great changes. Make the most of them and stay ahead of the curve.