5 growing IoT trends you can expect in 2021

9 Dec 2020

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Forrester’s Glenn O’Donnell examines the demand for new IoT applications and discusses the trends that will emerge in a post-Covid world.

The Covid-19 pandemic drove businesses and employees to became more reliant on technology for both professional and personal purposes.

In 2021, demand for new internet-of-things (IoT) applications, technologies and solutions will be driven by connected healthcare, smart offices, remote asset monitoring and location services, all powered by a growing diversity of networking technologies. So, what can businesses expect from these trends?

1. Network connectivity chaos will reign

Technology leaders will be inundated by an array of wireless connectivity options. The implementation of 5G and Wi-Fi technologies is expected to decline from 2020 levels as organisations sort through market chaos.

For long-distance connectivity, low-earth-orbit satellites now provide a complementary option, with more than 800 Starlink satellites now in orbit. Interest in satellite and other lower-power networking technologies is expected to increase by 20pc in the coming year.

2. Connected device makers will capitalise on healthcare uses

Many people stayed at home in 2020, leaving chronic conditions unmanaged, cancers undetected and preventable conditions unnoticed. In 2021, proactive engagement using wearables and sensors to detect patients’ health at home will surge.

Consumer interest in digital health devices will accelerate as individuals appreciate the convenience of at-home monitoring, insight into their health and the reduced cost of connected health devices.

3. Smart offices will drive employee-experience transformation

In 2021, some firms will ditch expensive corporate real estate, driven by the Covid-19 crisis.

However, we expect at least 80pc of firms to develop comprehensive on-premises return-to-work office strategies that include IoT applications to enhance employee safety and improve resource efficiency such as smart lighting, energy and environmental monitoring, or sensor-enabled space utilisation and activity monitoring in high-traffic areas.

4. Connected machines will disrupt traditional business

Manufacturers, distributors, utilities and pharma firms switched to remote operations in 2020 and began connecting previously disconnected assets. This connected-asset approach increased reliance on remote experts to address repairs without protracted downtime and expensive travel.

In 2021, field service firms and industrial original equipment manufacturers will rush to keep up with customer demand for more connected assets and machines.

5. Location data will be core to convenience

The Covid-19 pandemic elevated the importance location plays in delivering convenient customer and employee experiences.

In 2021, brands must utilise location to generate convenience for consumers or employees with virtual queues, roadside pick-up and checking in for reservations. They will depend on technology partners to help use location data, as well as a third-party source of location trusted and controlled by consumers.

By Glenn O’Donnell

Glenn O’Donnell is a vice-president and research director at Forrester. A version of this article originally appeared on the Forrester blog.