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3 Markets that will Dominate the Internet of Things

IoT, short for the Internet of Things, is a hot topic these days, from boardrooms in technology companies down to developers, conferences, and the press. It is the next big thing everybody wants to have a piece of, so strategies and product portfolios are being compiled in order not to miss out. While everybody wants to be in IoT, it is less clear what these Things of the Internet actually are. A Thing does not imply something having a lot of complexity - so here is a simple definition: 

IoT: An endpoint device connected to the internet (able to communicate) with some intelligence (processing power) that is doing something (actively or passively/monitoring)

To become a big market, it must be doing something useful, something which improves our lives, something we need and desperately want. Something that gets our wallets out. The three categories in IoT that are mostly likely to attract buyers are Lighting, mHealth, and Connected Video. In this blog I will look at them in more detail and review opportunities and challenges, in particular to guarantee safety.

Lighting is a market long overdue to get an upgrade. The simple on/off lamps will be replaced with smart lighting, lamps that are environmentally aware and autonomous. Thanks to a lucky coincidence, we are in the biggest transition in the history of lighting as our lamps are being replaced by lower power and longer lasting LEDs (light emitting diodes) over the next five to ten years. As LEDs need electronics to operate, these driver ICs will become more intelligent and connected. Adding sensors will allow lamps to figure out if somebody is in the room and adjust the light accordingly. Moreover, by knowing the time of the day the lamp can adjust its light output as well as its light temperature, mimicking the sun during the day. For example, the bathroom lamp would know that it is 2am, and therefore only a small light output is required - no need to get blinded in the middle of the night by the standard daytime brightness. Furthermore, each lamp could become a wireless access point, providing a femto or atto communication cell. Despite all these new features, the smart lamp must still be controllable through the legacy light switch and dimmer. The fine tuning, however, like adjusting the settings and preferences could be made on a central panel, or even easier using  a smartphone - the device that is becoming the remote control for IoT. 

An even bigger market for IoT, in particular when estimating dollars spent, will be mHealth - mobile health. The wireless medical devices currently developed for patients, be it heart rate, temperature, blood sugar, respiration, or brain wave monitors, will make their way from hospitals to consumers. This is already happening with heart rate monitors and step counters used by runners. These devices will allow us to live healthier and in particular, to live longer. At medical checkups we will be able to show our physician a full record of all these measurements. Even better, if something out of the ordinary happens, like a spike in body temperature or a bad heart rhythm, the monitor can send an alert to your physician, via your smart phone. The first incarnation of mHealth are passive devices, monitoring only, for example, in the form of on skin patches. In a second wave, due to the longer regulatory approval time, these medical devices will become actuators, examples are heart pace makers (already existing), defibrillators, nerve stimulators, drug release pumps. They will also move under the skin - inside the body. All this will shorten the time from when a medical irregularity is detected to when the treatment is administered. A key issue with these mHealth devices is data security to prevent unauthorized access and in particular in active devices actual manipulation.

The third big market for IoT is Connected Video. Cameras are already being placed in public places and public transport systems such as buses, trains, taxis, and limos - we have all seen them. This trend will continue and it will not only include public places but also the workplace and our home. Webcams are already available now that allow us to check on our home from any smartphone. Video surveillance will also expand to smart fences and camera networks that protect restricted areas and borders. Closed circuit surveillance systems will be connected to the internet until every camera is a webcam, accessible throughout the Internet. In health applications cameras will be further miniaturized so that insertion into the body through swallowing (or otherwise) will become easier. The movement of such a camera will be externally controlled to get to a specific location, capture pictures, transmit them and eventually, taking action, like cutting out a tumor. Power will be a key issues for any Connected Video device that is wireless, moreover, all of them will require strong access control to avoid unauthorized usage.

Lighting, mHealth, and Connected Video will be huge applications of IoT. They will improve our quality of live, let us live longer and healthier, and improve our safety. They will also impact our privacy. As a result, in all of these systems, data security and access control will be paramount. Even simple applications as Lighting have to guarantee that the right smartphone connects to the right lamp and that the connection is near impossible to hack. In mHealth and Connected Video only approved and trusted users and systems must be allowed to connect and use these devices. Data security and authentication is a core requirement for all Things of the Internet. End to end security using encryption, trusted authentication, and handling of passwords/keys must therefore be designed in in any IoT device from the beginning.