Tackling the myths of the IoT

March 05, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
The myth of the IoT
Whatever happened to the predictions of 50bn connected devices in the Internet of Things by 2020, asks Prof William Webb

Back in 2011 there was a lot of hype about the Internet of Things (IoT) and the industry expected to see 50bn connected devices by 2020. Device rollout is less than a quarter of that, as the challenges are not just about the technology but the way a business works, says Prof William Webb.

“It difficult to know how many connected devices there are,” said Webb. “Many are connected via Bluetooth or Wifi, and we can look at chipset sales and build up estimates and we have hit 8.5bn connected devices in 2020, so that’s a long way short of 50bn. Even on the current growth path we are unlikely to hit that 50bn until 2035 or 2040. One of the key reasons was a much too simplistic view of what it takes to connect devices.”

“I believe very strongly in the IoT, it is of vital importance in a world of aging population and climate change. The IoT is the base to gather the data we need,” said Webb, who developed the Weightless communications protocol and was CEO of the Weightless Special Interest Group (SIG) until 2019. He was appointed chief technology officer of millimetre wave technology specialist Cambridge Broadband Networks Group (CBNG) last month.

“That 50bn devices is credible, we can get there, we just need to learn the lessons from the past and apply them to the future,” he said.

He points to the example of a connected rubbish bin (trash can). “To connect the bin is pretty straightforward but its what happens behind that that is the challenge. What you need for that is more like an ‘uber’ of bin collection and that’s a completely different model, different skills in the workforce, different rota systems, the amount of change in the real world is enormous. That was not really understood initially.

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