Top Internet of Things trends for 2016

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General Manager, Internet of Things, IBM

2015 proved to be a year of tremendous growth for the Internet of Things (IoT), and we saw many IoT opportunities become reality in 2015. Because businesses are realizing that IoT capabilities are a must, I expect 2016 to be the year the IoT becomes expansive and in which many businesses move from interest in it to implementation of its solutions.

Implementing automated processes

The Internet of Things is going to help connect enterprises to capabilities they can rely on without having to manage processes manually. IoT implementations in 2016 will provide transactional integrity, make it easy to construct services, bring more data together and make sense out of that data. Several technologies are expected to drive these expectations forward.


Why is everyone so interested in a blockchain, and what does that interest mean for the Internet of Things? A blockchain is beginning to play a major part in the Internet of Things by enhancing security, enabling inclusion of low-value devices to be increasingly viable and making managing a device easier for decades to come.

The current model stores a repository of the deployed device population along with a constant update process as devices download new firmware, upgrade their operating systems and deliver patches. It requires recording regional location as part of the device registration process because variables tied to region—language, power supply, regulation—affect how and what you deploy to the device as part of its ongoing support. A blockchain makes this process substantially easier. The records can be stored on the block, and the upgrades and updates can be stored, validated and executed using the information stored on the block. This decentralized approach is expected to save the manufacturing industry a tremendous amount of money over the long term.

A blockchain can also greatly impact network traffic. For every transaction, a push-and-pull update must take place that is recorded in the cloud. No matter how trivial, the only repository in which transactions are recorded is in a centralized, cloud-based data center. If you scale that repository to 50 billion devices, all doing what they do every day, you produce an unprecedented amount of network chatter. The network wasn’t designed for this amount of chatter. A blockchain may be a way to quiet this chatter and optimize the Internet of Things.

Application programming interfaces

The Internet of Things is the killer app for cloud, especially for hybrid clouds that are emerging as the primary model for the Internet of Things. As a result, application programming interfaces (APIs) and a sound strategy around them is becoming increasingly important to enterprises. APIs serve as a bridge to connect useful information and plentiful data to the Internet of Things, making the Internet of Things useful by connecting many disparate things into a powerful network that offers astounding possibilities.

APIs are the market enabler, and Internet of Things devices would be useless without them. By exposing data that enables multiple devices to be connected, APIs provide an interface between the Internet and the things to reveal previously unseen possibilities. In the year to come, the power and importance of APIs will be at the forefront of the conversation around enabling—and more important—monetizing the Internet of Things.

Cognitive Internet of Things

Data from outside the device is the way enterprises can differentiate themselves. Think language, social data and weather data. Capturing and analyzing this type of data in context can unlock new possibilities for businesses.

In 2015, clearly a new approach was required for making use of the plethora of unstructured Internet of Things data. The cognitive Internet of Things is just such an approach—a way of deciphering IoT data that can effectively handle increasingly large inputs while generating meaningful output. To bring ambitious IoT applications into being, we need powerful, sophisticated ways of processing an increasingly large and varied flow of IoT data.

In short, we need the Internet of Things to be smarter than it is now, and we need to get ever more value from the data it produces. Using cognitive computing systems that learn at scale, reason purposefully and interact with humans naturally allows us to exploit Internet of Things data to an unprecedented degree.

Focusing on the intelligence behind the data

2016 will be a year in which enterprises focus on making the best use of big data from connected devices, and I expect cognitive computing to emerge as the most practical way to do so. Without question, the year ahead should be exciting. Let me know your thoughts on these trends, or what other areas for the IoT you think will be hot in 2016. I look forward to seeing what unfolds and working with industry leaders to drive the Internet of Things forward.