According to a January 2014 research report from Raymond James & Associates, there were 12.5 billion devices connected to the Internet in 2011, including nearly every computer in the world and over a billion smartphones. By 2020, that number will grow to 50 billion. To put this into perspective, today 80 "things" – including consumer electronics, machine tools, industrial equipment, cars, and appliances – connect to the Internet for the first time every second. By 2020 this will expand to 250 new devices every second.
Many of those devices will be "invisible" to consumers – sensors in cars, automated factory equipment, and streetlights, for example. But there are also many consumer IoE devices already on the market that are quickly gaining traction. What are the four IoE technologies that will be an integral part of our lives within three years?
Georgios Kyriakopoulos, communications infrastructure analyst at Raymond James, thinks home automation, internet-enabled cars, health care and fitness devices, and connected entertainment consoles will be the most widespread IoE devices in the near future.
"Consumers want increased efficiency, safety, and intelligence," and any device that offers one or more of these attributes will likely see the fastest uptake, says Kyriakopoulos. Some of the devices he sees catching on quickly include thermostats controlled via smartphones, such as those from Nest; sports monitoring and fitness bands from the likes of Nike and Fitbit; home security systems controlled via smartphones, such as those from SmartThings, ADT, and Oplink, and connected TVs.
"We often forget, there are a number of internet-of-things technologies already in mainstream use, such as IP set-top-boxes, video game consoles, IP security cameras, ATM machines, and point of sale terminals," said Peter Middleton, a market research analyst at Gartner Group. "Within three to five years, fitness bands, connected LED light bulbs, connected cars, smart thermostats, parking meters, and a great variety of consumer devices also become mainstream."
Using mobile apps connected to ‘smart' home automation systems, consumers already regularly use their smartphones to remotely check if they locked their front doors, or turn on the lights and thermostat before coming home. Smartphones are a soft ‘gateway' into a wider acceptance of IoE consumer devices, say observers. Because people have seen how useful an internet-connected smartphone can be, they may finally be ready to accept standalone IoE devices as part of their daily lives.
Some IoE applications do have the potential to become mass market products by 2017; here are four product categories that are catching on quickly.
Home security: Small internet-connected motion sensors can let users know if someone has entered their house or a room, or if unusual activity is taking place.
Home automation: Only 2% of American consumers surveyed by Forrester Research in mid-2013 were using at least one of five widely touted home-automation offerings, but some 28% of respondents said they were interested in controlling appliances and home systems with their smartphones.
Fitness/health devices: Internet-connected wristbands that let you track steps taken, miles run, pulse, calories burned and other fitness goals are already the most popular consumer IoE devices. ABI Research forecasts there will be 43 million connected fitness bands in use globally by the end of this year.
Entertainment: Connected entertainment devices, such as connected TVs, DVRs, and internet-enabled gamed devices have made their way quickly into people's homes, and several apps allow users to control all their connected devices from a single smartphone app.