Since the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), connectivity, supported by the Internet of Things (IoT) has become key to achieving competitive value and product differentiation. However, the roll out of 5G networks hold the potential to revolutionise the IoT and its ability to link all elements of operations and production together. In doing so, 5G could be the key to a new level of understanding efficiency potential, quality improvement and the reduction of risk.

IDC estimates that worldwide, the installation of IoT endpoints will grow from 12.1 billion in 2015 to over 30 billion by 2020, partly driven by 5G. In addition, McKinsey estimates that the economic value generated by IoT globally will reach $3.9–11.1 trillion per year by 2025.

Analysis shows that 84% of IoT deployments are currently addressing, or have the potential to address, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The research supports the idea that IoT has development benefits that can be maximised without compromising commercial viability. As such, the IoT could become a game-changer for sustainability. At its core, the IoT is about measuring and remotely controlling previously unconnected “things”, reaching people and objects that technology could previously not reach whilst supporting sustainable development elements.

Here are five IoT trends that experts expect to drive sustainable growth globally.

1. Global Connectivity

Inclusive growth relies on the ability of technology, products and services to be deployed across the world meaning that devices must remain connected to a network no matter where the device is located.

In order to ensure that no one is left behind in the 4IR, there is a need for full global connectivity of the IoT that allows all communities to access government or medical services, finance or manufacturing products no matter where they are. 5G will help support this endeavour, making networks smarter and more efficient and better supporting the devices connected to it.

For instance, Brighter, a Swedish health tech company, developed a connected insulin dispenser that samples blood, measures glucose and injects medicine to optimise and improve treatments. The device remains continuously connected, ensuring that it is able to travel across borders and telecom networks without pause. Working with Ericsson, Brighter launched Actiste® in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and across five other GCC countries, to help the nearly 480,000 insulin-dependent patients in the UAE monitor their health effectively.

2. The Rise and Rise of Customisation

The mass production of the past hundred years is giving way to demand for unique and tailored products. 5G and IoT breakthroughs allows production to change mid-stream without any disruption, facilitating hyper-customisation.

5G also improves the efficiency of additive manufacturing processes such as 3D printing, opening up the potential to bring this technology to communities with limited manufacturing potential. In doing so, those without access to certain products or medications, could soon be able to print them locally at far lower cost than importing.

5G and the IoT are driving a shift that will have a major impact across many manufacturing verticals, allowing previously underserved markets to join the technology revolution and drive sustainable, inclusive growth.

3. Stepping Close to The Edge

 As manufacturers install more complex networks of connected devices, sensors and solutions, enterprises will need computing power done near the ‘Edge’.

‘Edge computing’ is the practice of processing data closer to where the data is generated. Its open IT architecture features decentralised processing power, where data is processed by the device itself or by a local computer or server, rather than being transmitted to a data centre.

Edge computing, supported by the high capacity, speeds and density of 5G networks and connections, combined with cutting edge technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), will enable manufacturers and their networks to learn, adapt and change processes instantly to yield a greater ROI. It also has the potential to improve connectivity among communities currently reliant on processing centres miles away from their location. By ensuring that communities around the world have access to technology, inclusive growth will flourish. Over the next 12 months, it’s likely that more telecom operators will partner with cloud providers to deploy IoT platforms.

4. Sustainability Becomes A Critical Business Value

 As sustainability efforts have become a key business priority, digital technologies are being used to accelerate the reduction of global emissions by up to 15% by 2030. In turn, IoT networks are only responsible for 1.4% of global emissions. To help the world meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement, the 2019 Exponential Roadmap was developed by leading companies showcasing how scaling 36 solutions underpinned by technology innovations and 5G networks, could halve emissions by 2030.

Manufacturing is a significant user of power and therefore holds major potential to address emission levels. For instance, partnerships such as that between Landis+Gyr, Ericson and Telia, have led to the deployment of 2 million electric meters across Sweden with cellular connectivity on behalf of utility companies E.ON, Ellevio and Kraftringen, all to capture greater energy efficiencies.

5. IoT and the Development of Sustainable Cities

Urban environments are being redefined by technology. Since cities are the engines of global economic growth—the 600 largest cities in the world are expected to generate 65% of global GDP growth through 2025—the impact of IoT technologies could be substantial.

The IoT and improved connectivity underpinned by 5G could transform urban infrastructure, energy usage and controls, traffic management and travel solutions as well as enable improved resource management. If a city runs efficiently, the population is able to work smarter, opening up new industries and job opportunities, and driving prosperity.

McKinsey, for instance, expects factories and other production environments such as hospitals and farms, often located in or close to cities, to reap the greatest benefits from the adoption of IoT systems in the coming years—as much as $3.7 trillion by 2025. This is because production lends itself to improvements in energy efficiency, labour productivity, equipment maintenance, inventory optimisation and worker health and safety.


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