The market of IoT and telematics is emerging and evolving at the same time continuously opening new niches for the companies to enter. With estimated annual revenues of IoT vendors exceeding $470B by 2020, this area becomes one of the hottest destinations that most forward-looking companies start flocking around. New technologies and formats pop up in an attempt to be the first settlers on an untapped market, however, few solutions offer scalable and flexible functionality.
- Requirements. Monitoring the level of fuel in a tank, enabling communication within a smart home or a smart city, streaming audio or video - the applications of IoT are diverse and the performance characteristics required by each of them vary immensely. The needed values for bandwidth, data rates, battery life, the number of devices in the network, etc. are so scattered that supporting them all in a single device or a single transmission protocol is virtually unrealistic.
- Geography. Depending on how spread-out the solution to be wired is, the choice of applicable technologies will differ. Some networks rely on a specific frequency band that may be unavailable in certain countries and requires licensing in others.
- Coverage. This issue stems from the previous one - local regulatory limitations may hinder roll-out or prevent certain network technologies from becoming attractive alternatives forcing them to adapt and, thus, lose flexibility or compatibility. In addition, due to significant upfront investments and unpredictability of demand, coverage is reactive, not proactive.
- Customer buy-in. This is actually a big one! There is a lot of inertia and resistance to change among businesses making the adoption of the latest technologies an unhasting process. This is further pulled back by the inability to test the innovative solutions (see Coverage above) and inconsistent technology offerings across countries (some have already got rid of 2G, others haven’t fully adopted LTE yet).
- Price. It all comes down to money after all. IoT devices supporting several technologies can definitely serve as a workaround to single technology limitations, however, the price tag as well as integration and maintenance overhead may detract potential customers from adopting them.
Despite a number of technologies on the IoT connectivity arena, the choice of options for a particular application is highly limited because of the combination of the factors discussed above. Experts at the Telematics 2017 conference agree that the most plausible direction to overcome the existing restrictions is the development of hybrid devices implementing several network technologies and ensuring seamless interaction between them (Murata has just recently combined Sigfox and LoRa in a single module).
This will definitely affect the price and battery life of end products which may stimulate partnerships between IoT connectivity providers and propel unification and standardization initiatives.