Taking its roots from industrial machine-to-machine (M2M) systems, the consumer "Internet of Things" (IoT) market is set to grow to almost 16 billion connectable devices worldwide by 2020, according to Analysys Mason, a telecom, media and IT adviser based in London.
M2M monitoring was historically used in asset-intensive, complex processes that were spread over relatively wide areas. As the prices of M2M communications equipment have fallen, manufacturers have installed the technology in an increasing number of consumer energy meters—also known as smart meters—and have begun installing it in a variety of household equipment, cars and security systems, according to a new report, "Internet 3.0: The Internet of Things."
The projected number of connectable consumer devices may actually be a conservative estimate, according to Jim Morrish, principal analyst at Analysys Mason and author of the report. A realistic range could fall anywhere from 6 billion to 44 billion, he says. "That's a worldwide average of between 0.8 and 5.8 devices for each person alive in 2020."
Although the technologies and tools required to create the IoT are available at sufficiently low price points, they have yet to be pulled together in a cohesive and user-friendly package, according to Morrish's report. Ultimately, an individual consumer's window into the IoT is likely to take the form of a smartphone handset, he says. Behind that handset will sit aggregation and filtering functions, management and control functions, and the actual devices that constitute the consumer IoT.
"The most direct potential consequence of the IoT is the generation of huge quantities of data," Morrish says. "In a hypothetical IoT environment, every physical object (and many virtual objects) may have a virtual twin in 'the cloud,' which could be generating regular updates."