As 2016 crawls to a close, we look back on a tumultuous and historic year, and look forward trying to determine what the future holds. In any given year, much changes. Our politics change, our businesses change and our lives take new paths. While anything can happen (the Cubs won the World Series!), at least one thing is certain – technology marches on. The Internet of Things – or IoT – has been a hot-button tech topic for some time. But after years of development and refinement, IoT has made huge inroads and looks likely to make game-changing breakthroughs in the years to come, and mobile technology will be crucial to its development. As 2017 approaches, we look into our crystal ball to see what the future holds for IoT and mobile.
Mobile Will be on the Front Lines of the IoT Revolution
IoT is exploding. Every day, more data about more things are coming online, allowing us to make critical decisions in real time to drive efficiency and improve the customer experience – and that’s just scratching the surface of the potential of IoT. As more and more industries and enterprises roll out IoT programs, mobile devices and technology will take greater roles in enabling these programs. Mobile devices, already in the hands of just about every American, will help ease the transition into IoT frameworks, as end-users are already familiar with mobile-based software platforms. Soon, those that aren’t utilizing mobile for IoT will find themselves at a major disadvantage, as their access will be limited to times when they are sitting in front of a desktop. Mobile phones aren’t simply a hub for incoming data – they’re the joysticks (to use an antiquated term) and the main point of access to the world of IoT.
Major industries like healthcare, transportation and home automation are already utilizing IoT, putting intelligence and communication into machines and processes to make them more efficient and productive. For many of those programs and applications, mobile devices serve as the human-interface terminals. From nurse practitioners collecting health data to dispatchers directing trucking operations, mobile devices are being deployed on a wide scale to execute, manage and control IoT functionality.
The Demand for Rugged Will Continue to Rise
Many IoT platforms will rely on mobile devices, and applications in environments not hospitable to typical electronic devices are driving the demand for rugged devices to previously unseen levels. When the success of a business depends on uninterrupted functionality – especially in harsh, wet or dirty settings – rugged mobile devices are imperative. Devices like Kyocera DuraForce PRO will become commonplace in the market, especially for enterprise users. And because a majority of workers still use their personal devices at work, consumer demand will also grow for devices that balance the ability to work and play. Manufactures will work to develop more and more devices that meet IP68 and military standards for water, dust and temperature-proofing. IoT programs can be rolled out in a variety of atmospheres, from construction sites to kitchens, but they’re only as reliable as the hardware capturing and controlling the data. Rugged technology must keep pace with the expanding implementation of IoT into the workplace.
Mobile Functionality Will Evolve
High-quality cameras with special post-processing, coupled with sensors that provide position information, accelerometer data and movement direction, are nice value-add features for today’s smartphones, but before long, they will become necessary functions for business applications of IoT. The future of business – and the driving force behind IoT – is data. Increasingly, data includes images and video, as well as analytics and other monitored conditions. Successful monitoring of an oil rig, for instance, requires both traditional data (output, electricity usage, etc.) and visual data, like a live feed of a well, or images of damage. Real-time imaging – including 3D imaging – is an extremely useful benefit for a variety of businesses and will create new efficiencies that will help businesses run effectively. In some cases, users may need to use their existing rugged handsets to execute these specialized IoT functions. Device manufacturers will need to integrate rugged cameras capable of capturing and transmitting images from nearly any environment at any time.
PTT, once primarily the domain of construction workers, will become more widespread, especially with PTT available over LTE networks, making it more immediate and reliable. For most businesses – especially those in the health and safety industries – real-time, mission-critical data transmitted through imaging or voice communication with PTT can be a true game-changer, as it will allow business to react to changes or emergencies in real-time. Mobile-device manufacturers must offer these features to meet the needs of businesses and individuals who rely on IoT.
Look a little further into the future, and mobile devices may take new forms. Contemporary smartphones are limited in screen size. There’s only so much wiggle room for larger screens with devices built to be handheld. For some IoT applications, screens may not be needed. Future mobile devices will solve this riddle with detachable screens, portable screens – and even bendable screens.
Networks Will Evolve Too
As mobile broadband moves to its next iteration – 5G – it will allow for larger data transfers at increased speeds, including streaming video. This means no more “buffering,” no more dropped calls and more reliable communication in general. Device functionality will keep pace with advanced networks, offering more ruggedization, security and bells and whistles – including multiple cameras and additional sensors which will be capable of capturing and sharing a significant amount of information in real time.
And it’s not just the network. While most IoT data is routed through the cloud, it’s not the only option for transferring IoT information. Peer-to-peer (P2P) communication between devices bypasses the network and cloud, sharing information via Bluetooth and WiFi mesh networks, to help make device connectivity ubiquitous. Carefully architected P2P networks offer stronger security and privacy, lower latency and advanced scalability.
Mobile Will Develop in Concert with IoT
As IoT becomes more ingrained into everyday business and life, mobile manufactures and IoT software developers will work together to create solutions that push IoT to new boundaries. In order for IoT’s benefits to be fully realized, raw data must be aggregated and parsed over time. Mobile will allow for the easy flow of this data by acting as a conduit, as well as offering analytics functionality. IoT data lives in the cloud. Mobile can both upload and download this data anywhere, anytime, enabling users to make real-time business decisions.
Marshall McLuhan, a father of modern communication, once famously said that the “medium is the message.” When it comes to IoT, smartphones will become the data hub or the data generation end points. One needs the other to work. If IoT devices – like sensors and thermostats – are a bicycle, mobile devices are a 12-cylinder engine. While individual IoT devices may have low data output, the sum of hundreds of devices will feed reams of data through cyberspace, clogging data capacity. Better, stronger and faster mobile devices will be needed as the hubs to perform intermediated analytics and to help with the capacity crunch. And as IoT grows, with millions and even billions of machines connecting to each other, mobile will evolve in its capacity to offer solutions to different challenges in the future.
The Future is Connected
IoT has arrived, but the technology is in its infancy. In the coming years, it will grow, change, adapt and improve – and it will do so quickly. IoT will have a greater impact on the way we work, live and process information than virtually any technology since the advent of the smartphone. It is only appropriate that the smartphone is intrinsically tied to the progression of IoT. Mobile technology and IoT will grow together in the coming years, each developing its technology to benefit the other.
Kyocera’s rugged devices are at the vanguard of the IoT revolution. With advanced connectivity, PTT and P2P capabilities, and enhanced security, as well as the cool features that consumers want and love – like multiple cameras, fingerprint authentication and protection against water, dust, drops and hazardous conditions – Kyocera delivers next-generation mobile devices. We are constantly innovating affordable, dependable and rugged mobile solutions that move the needle towards a more connected future.
Dr. Muzibul Khan joined Kyocera Communications, Inc. in 2013. He is responsible for Corporate and Technology Planning functions, charting the evolution of the business plan and technology portfolio for KCI, which finished 2013 as the fourth-ranked cell-phone manufacturer in the U.S. market. Before joining Kyocera, Dr. Khan served in senior leadership roles in the global telecommunications industry, including Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Huawei Devices USA, head of Research & Development for Nokia CDMA terminals, Vice President of Product Management & Engineering for the wireless terminals division of Samsung Telecommunications America, and Technical Manager for Systems Engineering, Standards & Regulatory Compliance at Lucent Technologies.