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How will IoT technology be applied in 2021 and beyond? IoT trends to watch

The Internet of Things (IoT) is booming. With tens of billions of internet-connected devices around the world, from everyday household items like Google Home or smartwatches to industrial applications, the opportunities within the IoT space will continue apace as we head into 2021 and beyond.

The Internet of Things will continue to grow in 2021

According to Statista, the global IoT market is predicted to reach USD $520 billion next year and demand for IoT connected products shows no sign of slowing.

It’s not just the size of the market that continues to grow. Research from Cisco states there will be 27.1 billion networked devices in 2021, up from 17.1 billion in 2016. Globally, that’s 3.5 connected devices per person. Of those 27.1 billion networked devices, 43% will be mobile-connected in 2021. This represents a huge shift in the way people carry out their day to day tasks, whether at home or at work.

Research from Cisco

The global COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the development of IoT technology. Enforced working from home has led to the development of IoT products that can monitor systems remotely, allowing for safer pandemic work practices while allowing production to continue.

With many countries still in varying degrees of lockdown, there is still much uncertainty around the world and this continues to drive the development of IoT connected products and devices to solve a range of problems, to ensure that people can continue to work in a safe environment.

How will IoT technology be applied in 2021 and beyond?

Cloud service providers are the most prominent vendors within the IoT space. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are two companies already well established.

2021 will also see the rise in IoT development partnerships. Brands, who not only require cloud services transformation will need a hardware partner to ensure IoT devices perform to both consumer and business needs.

One of the biggest concerns regarding the roll-out of large numbers of IoT connected products is the threat to security. With the rush to produce solutions to meet demand, security is often overlooked, creating points of weakness, particular in business networks but also within the home. Every device connected to a network is a potential network gateway and with the potential for large numbers of devices connecting to business networks, possibly without the knowledge of network managers, maintaining cybersecurity protocols is become increasingly problematic.

In addition to security, there are a number of other areas that are shaping the application of IoT technology including:

  • Integration
  • Usability
  • Interoperability
  • User safety
  • Return on investment (ROI)
  • Security

The integration of IoT technology into our day to day lives is inevitable. However, there is still work to be done to ensure new solutions are brought to market in a way that is safe, secure and that adds value to a business, with positive ROI.

As we move into 2021, the areas we expect to see the biggest investment in IoT technology include:

7 IoT growth sectors in 2021

1.      IoT security

As we have just outlined, security remains a potential barrier for IoT technologies. It will be important for developers, engineers and designers to prioritise security to build consumer and business trust.

2.      Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth in IIoT, with investment in the sector set to grow to USD $123.9 billion in 2021. Businesses that had already adopted IIoT technologies reaped the benefits during the pandemic, which saw the lockdown of many businesses or, at the very least, a change in working practices to allow for remote working and social distancing in the workplace.

Among the biggest benefactors are the areas of manufacturing, supply chain management, and logistics where IIoT applications can help with the following:

  • Allow inventory to be tracked in real-time
  • Tracking yields
  • Monitoring downtime

Being able to monitor inventory, check on machinery and predict maintenance issues before they happen has enabled remote working to become a reality, with people only required to be on-premise when issues occur.

Predictive maintenance analysis, as well as helping businesses to identify potential issues before they occur can also be useful to homeowners, providing information about damages and leaks. This can help homeowners to avoid expensive repairs by identifying and addressing issues before they develop.

3.      IoT in healthcare

The global pandemic has led to a rapid increase in IoT automation within the healthcare sector with heavy investment in IoT technology. As we head into 2021, when the repercussions of the pandemic are likely to continue, we expect to see further heavy investment in the industry.

From telemedicine to automated home help for the elderly and disabled, smart wearables, sensors and connected devices will continue to change the way healthcare is delivered. It will also be used to minimise unnecessary contact in situations where the risk of viral contamination is particularly high; for example, care homes and infectious disease wards within hospitals.

Strong growth has also been seen in the market for devices that will allow the elderly to remain independent in their own homes for longer. This will include tools utilising AI to detect falls or changes to regular daily routines that could alert relatives or healthcare providers that intervention may be required.

IoT will make healthcare facilities smart buildings, drive revenue, and help healthcare providers save on costs.

4.      IoT in retail

One of the sectors hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic has been brick and mortar retail. Many retailers have been forced to close their doors for periods of time and for some, this has been devastating. Those that have coped the best are those with a strong online presence.

As we head into 2021, we can expect to see an increase in models such as Amazon’s fully automated supermarkets, that cut down on the need for non-essential human contact. Automation via IoT-enabled devices is also expected to grow in the massive fulfilment centres that dispatch inventory to stores.

Other development in the retail space is the expected move closer to a cashless society with an increase in contactless payment options including the wider roll-out of pay-by-face. This will bring its own challenges; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the move towards a cashless society due to fears around the handling of coins and notes and sharing of keypads and the like.

5.      IoT in transportation

IoT for transportation is the networking of objects via embedded sensors, actuators and other devices that gather and transmit data about real-world activities. The use of IoT enabled technology is changing the way that the transportation sector operates.

IoT in Transportation is already a big business. Allied Market Research reported that the market was valued at $135 billion USD in 2016 and was expected to grow to $328 billion USD by 2023.

IoT devices are deployed in a number of areas within the transportation sector, notably in traffic congestion systems, telematics systems within vehicles, tools and ticketing, and security to name but a few.

We wish to take a closer look at some of the areas within the transportation sector that are utilising IoT to transform how transportation systems gather and make use of data.

Read more about IoT in transportation.

6.      IoT and smart cities

The “smart city” concept has been growing in popularity over recent years, with IoT technology used to monitor traffic on road networks, use of public transport, footfall around pedestrian areas and usage of civic amenities such as recycling centres and rubbish collection.

Smart cities not only focus on making life comfortable for people. These cities improve the social, environmental, and financial aspects of urban living. And as city populations grow, smart cities will become a key ingredient in improving sustainability and quality of living.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the timeframe for the development of smart cities. With safety concerns around public transport, city-centre offices, and recreational facilities such as leisure centres and parks, IoT technology will allow authorities and businesses to better understand patterns of usage as well as more efficiently plan safety measures and emergency response strategies.

7.      IoT in smart homes

IoT applications within smart home devices enable homeowners to adjust or even automate the lighting, heating and cooling systems at their homes, based on usage patterns and energy prices.

Temperature and light fluctuations mean that smart homes can adjust the thermostat, air conditioning, or switch lights on and off depending on the time of day.

On top of this, smart homes are also leveraging IoT technology for entertainment, through smart assistants, connected TVs, and smartphones.

The global pandemic with its governmental lockdowns has also seen an increase in personal IoT devices as a form of wellbeing and entertainment, as visits to typical retail places like malls and entertainment venues, have reduced.


The growth in IoT technologies is providing many exciting opportunities, both for businesses and consumers. With developers placing a much greater emphasis on security, we are now starting to see increasing levels on trust in IoT applications which is fuelling the growth.


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