IoT Trends Report
We reached out to our global customer base with an IoT survey between September 2020 and December 2020. We got 2,095 completed questionnaires, primarily from engineers of IoT solutions, in 60 countries.
Scroll down to see the results per question below.
Participation by region
Below are respondents per region, a total of 2,095 submissions received.
Out of the 2,031 participants who disclosed their gender, 95% were male and 5% were female.
What is the most important aspect to consider when developing IoT solutions?
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a transformative technology, providing businesses with greater efficiency, flexibility and opportunities for growth over the last decade.
However, as systems become ever more complex, their vulnerabilities have increased. This year, 29% of respondents cited securing the IoT as a very high priority. Even though this metric is down from 52% in 2018, securing IoT continues to be the top concern for organisations, as well as for vendors who need to respond to this increased demand for ultra-secure IoT solutions.
The second and third most important aspects among survey participants were communication reliability and the IoT ecosystem.
What is your key concern regarding IoT implementation?
As systems become ever more complex, their vulnerabilities have increased and security continues to be the biggest concern in IoT implementation. Concerns are related to trust, security and privacy.
36% of the respondents in 2020 said that they faced challenges related to security while adopting connected technology for IoT. This was 40% in 2018, and while a drop of 4 percentage points, this continues to be a barrier to implementation for many.
What will be the top IoT Industry in 5 years?
The hardware market for IoT has been growing exponentially, especially in industries such as industrial gateways, smart sensors & actuators and programmable logic controllers. But which industries are leading the way in embracing IoT? Research revealed the three industries leading the way in IoT implementation as Industrial Automation and Control (25%), Home Automation (18%), and Artificial Intelligence (12%).
In Home Automation and Industrial Automation and Control, machine to machine (M2M) communication and remote monitoring are projected to be the fastest growing implementations. Examples include remote monitoring of equipment, optimisation of industrial processes & facilities and connecting consumer electronics and intelligent devices.
Which application will grow the future as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on IoT?
COVID-19 has affected the world significantly. It has increased the flexibility many people enjoy at work yet severly impacted freedom in our day-to-day lives. In the IoT world, we have seen how the pandemic has accelerated the pace of IoT implementation in the medical industry; changing the way patients are diagnosed & monitored, assisting with vaccine tracking, inventory management and more. With such a burst in demand for improved connected medical equipment, 25% of survey participants voted healthcare to be the next big industry to take advantage of innovation in IoT to benefit humankind’s health and wellbeing.
What is the reason for the slow growth of Industry 4.0 despite advancement in IIOT technologies?
Industry 4.0 is still in the developing stage, and the slow growth of Industry 4.0 and IIoT in the manufacturing industry is attributed to several factors, including reliance on legacy systems, complex integration processes, skills shortages and lack of a business driven approach.
According to the latest survey results, the two biggest reasons for slow growth are concerns over data security (32%) and a lack of business strategy (30%); hindering the adoption and integration of smart manufacturing solutions. The modern manufacturing process is more interconnected than ever, with more machines, equipment and employees supported by internet-connected sensors that stream data throughout a plant. Issues arise when organisations don’t have a grasp on the information that’s being shared across their own networks or how to use it to inform and improve their business strategy.
The third biggest reason (29%) for slow Industry 4.0 growth is the difficulty and technology limitations of retro-fitting within existing complex legacy systems.
Do you use a third party for any part of your IoT systems design?
Survey results suggest 50% of participants do not use any third-party IoT system design and prefer to use in-house design for any IoT system development work. This enables them to better control the timeline and speed to market, cost and quality of any IoT application development. Half of the participants, however, use a third-party vendor for IoT system design, either exclusively for all parts of the design or in combination with in-house design.
Who should own the data gathered by edge devices?
The world is changing. Data is collected, shared and used in ways that users may not desire. Users can't fully control their personal information and/or own the data that has been collected by edge devices and this makes the ownership of collected data a critical factor in the success of IoT applications.
70% of participants voted that ownership of collected data should remain with the users who’s data is gathered. IoT data ownership is preferred, especially when privacy cannot be guaranteed, and the network identity and entity's activity will be easily exposed to any third parties. Users are hesitant to share data with companies because they fear it might lead to identity theft or cyber security risks.
What one factor would accelerate the benefits of the IoT?
As we enter a new era of IoT, the challenges hindering the growth of this market include interoperability of devices between different manufacturers and ease of development for new user applications. Here research provided mixed responses in regards to what participants thought would accelerate the adoption of IoT, including; Interoperability (19%), Ease of Development (19%), Need for Open Standards (19%), Connectivity Standards (16%).
One of the reasons IoT adoption is slow, is that there are no global standards for the different devices to communicate with each other; each set of devices adhere to different protocols. The pace of innovation in the IoT is rapid and capturing this tremendous market opportunity requires interoperability among all industries, connecting customers, businesses, products and the Internet of Things. However, standards should be open which will allow anyone under these standards to design and build technology with ease.
How likely is your company to take on the lead role of building IoT solutions?
Innovative solutions for smart home, industry, marketplace and government, are paving the way to build the future of IoT. Research showed that IoT continued to be hot on the agenda for both customers and partners, however, no one is in a position to claim that they are leading the pack just yet. 49% of the participants have only 0-25% confidence that their company will take a lead role in shaping IoT. It's still far too early in the game!
Only 11% expect to be ahead of the IoT curve and have a clear vision about its future.
IoT has great potential, and companies that embrace it early will be the ones that reap the rewards. A few leading companies are already making moves; for example Google, Apple and Amazon have recently embraced home automation. But what does this mean for other businesses? How should enterprises begin to prepare for an increasingly IoT-enabled world?
What is the main reason for your company developing an IoT solution?
The IoT is still a new and upcoming technology in the market, and the major driving factor for growth over the past few years. 30% of participants in the Farnel Global IoT Survey perceived their businesses as innovators in IoT, who want to explore the business opportunity and gain competitive advantages by building IoT solutions. 27% of survey participants just wanted to benfit from the opportunities the market presented.
Although the IoT solutions market is growing fast, developing an IoT solution in an organisation is a highly strategic decision. It involves serious commitment and takes a long time to mature. As more and more businesses get on-board, the IoT development ecosystem also continues to mature.
It is therefore, more important than ever for companies to innovate an IoT solution rather than just following the industry trends as this provides the greatest opportunity for success.
Where would businesses gain the greatest value from the IoT Data?
IoT applications are all around us; from smart cities and smart factories to smart homes, which enables things to connect and exchange data. Data collected to enable improvements or cost reductions across several business functions, deliver improved quality, increased efficiency, compliance and predictive maintenance benefits, as well as increased product life and performance predictability.
But sometimes it's difficult to understand the potential of IoT and which part(s) of the business will benefit the most. When this was asked in the survey, 48% of the participants responded that productivity and manufacturing enhancements were their main targets. This was a new entry as the option was introduced for the 2020 survey and took first place in 'Operations applications', which was considered the area where IoT contributed the most value in 2018 and 2019.
IoT provides a lot of benefits across business areas, however it's' evident from the survey that productivity and smart manufacturing benefits the most from IoT.
What programming language do you use for your IoT development?
C/C++ offers advanced capability for IO, code management, data structures and file storage. Python offers excellent support for the IoT with its powerful libraries and ability to support micro-controller based platforms.
What is your preferred communication type between edge devices and the gateway & cloud?
IoT edge devices communicate over standard wired and wireless channels, whereas IoT wireless communication uses short-range radio transmissions from transmitters to receivers without using a wired connection. Communication includes receiving sensor measurements, remote control by a remote human operator, or controlling a remote device. Both wired and wireless connected devices have a place in the Internet of Things.
So, which type of connectivity should you choose for your IoT solution and why? Results suggest that wireless communication dominates at 77%, whereas wired communication was the preferred approach for 23% of respondents. In IoT, information that flows wirelessly between edge devices, gateways and cloud platforms requires different types of solutions to fit different requirements. Wireless applications make use of one or more of the following short range to long range wireless protocols; WiFi, Bluetooth Low Energy BLE, Cellular (4G/LTE/5G) LoRa, SigFox and proprietary protocols to provide solutions to problems, saving time and money.
Among wireless connectivity options, WiFi is the most preferred wireless protocol (66%) due to its long-range connectivity, security and more throughput. Thanks to the latest low-power MCUs with WiFi connectivity, integrated on the chip and easy-to-integrate WiFi modules that allow hassle free retro-fit IoT enablement.
It is no surprise that Cellular (40%) and Bluetooth (BLE) (39%) are the most preferred wireless protocols. Bluetooth popularity has jumped 12 percentage points over the last three years, from 27% in 2018 to 39% in 2020; supported by new Low-Energy profiling and the rapid adoption of Bluetooth 5.0. Cellular popularity has also grown, albeit at a slower pace, increasing by nine percent in the last three years, from 31% in 2018 (38% in 2019) to 40% in 2020. Let’s not forget the new buzz word, 5G, which enhances connectivity and makes every concept possible, pushing the envelope in terms of capability and bringing them to life. 5G has the potential to increase cellular bandwidth by huge amounts, making it even easier for the Internet of Things to network large numbers of devices together – and this will be one to watch in 2021.
23% of participants still prefer wired IoT connectivity. Of this number, 83% utilise Ethernet wired connectivity combining the power of 802.3af PoE, connection reliability and security. PoE offers an optimal solution for high speed streaming devices IP cameras or VoIP phones with support for 10/100 Mb/s Ethernet. Ethernet also overcomes many of the ‘cons’ of wireless connectivity such as “no more WiFi dead spots”, “no more conflicting WiFi networks”, faster streaming and better reliability.
Preferred type of wireless connectivity:
Preferred type of wired connectivity:
Do you use Artificial Intelligence in your IoT design?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a field with a wide range of definitions, but in the context of the IoT, the definition most relevant is the theory of building intelligent machines and information representation and reasoning.
Artificial Intelligence presents a set of techniques used to make machines behave in ways that appear intelligent. As hardware costs decrease and processing speeds increase, AI is becoming more ubiquitous and used in more widespread applications.
From self-driving cars to facial recognition software, AI is changing the way we interact with technology around the world.
Survey participants were asked whether they used Artificial Intelligence in their IoT designs: 39% of participants advised that they were already using AI in their IoT designs and applications. No matter the application, they are integrating AI for Machine Learning, Robotics, Neural Networks, image classification, business analytics, speech recognition and virtual/augmented reality. Out of the remaining 61% of participants who don’t use AI for their IoT design, 47% are willing to implement AI in their next IoT design or application.
The current generation of IoT devices are not using Artificial Intelligence and machine learning significantly, but it’s evident from the survey that future generations will. With new devices, services and applications being created daily, developers are constantly evolving with new ways of applying AI to their implementations to build smarter things every day. Artificial Intelligence is the next step for IoT.
Reasons survey participants do not use AI in IoT
Popular types of AI in IoT designs
What hardware platforms do you use to design your IoT solution?
There are many challenges in hardware development, and creating an IoT development solution is no exception. Having the right design in place is essential, and requires an understanding of all the requirements. When it comes to hardware development, there is a lot that can go wrong… that’s why its called “HARD”. In the world of IoT, or connected devices, hardware platforms play an important role in providing cost-effective solutions and reducing time to market. It’s crucial to make an accurate decision when deciding to go either with in-house design or off-the-shelf ready to use solutions.
Interestingly single board computers (SBCs) have been winning the race for the last three years and did it again this year as 48% confirmed that they were using them to speed up or simplfy their deisgn process. Personal in-house designs (32%) continued to maintain the second spot. Single board computers are very attractive to engineers for IoT hardware development - from IoT edge devices to edge gateways. SBCs play an important role in providing cost-effective solutions, effortlessness and enormous community support. These boards are small, have on-board connectivity (Ethernet, WiFi, BLE), USB and other functionality (I2C, SPI, UART) and can run Linux out of the box. Small embedded Linux distributions further reduce the footprint in memory and storage – which are crucial resources on an embedded system. There are many different SBCs, each catering to a specific hardware need. The qualities and needs of a developer greatly determine which SBC is best for them.
Among SBCs, it was an easy victory for Raspberry Pi (59% of all respondents) with Arduino (24%) and BeagleBoard (7%) following. The Raspberry Pi is still the first choice in SBC, dominating the whole market and is a strong candidate for IoT developers with its open-source GPIO interface, smart interface capabilities, and connectivity solutions.
What hardware platforms do you use to design your IoT solution?
Preferred Single Board Computers for IoT design
What is your preferred development platform and MCU/MPU vendor for IoT design?
Contrary to the above, the obvious option for 32% of participants is to start with a blank slate and then let the system specifications decide what goes where. It offers an opportunity to determine the ideal set of specifications that will provide excellent performance at the lowest possible cost with robust reliability. The 'build vs buy' dilemma has always been a tricky one for businesses. On the one hand, building your own solution costs money and time, but there’s nothing like ownership and full control.
Depending on what the project is, IoT hardware solutions need a certain amount of computing power. The processing power & functionality is determined by the MCU/MPU. The next question in front of the developer, after the build vs buy dilemma, is “Which microprocessor (MPU) or microcontroller (MCU)/development board is right for my design?” 39% of the participants voted for STMicroelectronics development platforms and MCUs (36%), followed by 21% in favour of Microchip development boards and 28% for Microchip MCUs.
Preferred development platform vendor for IoT design:
Preferred MCU/MPU vendor for personal design:
What cloud service provider would you prefer for your IoT solution?
The core component of enterprise IoT implementations today is the cloud platform. The cloud platform plays a key role to build a secure, large-scale IoT infrastructure, and drive sustainable business outcomes by enabling enterprises to collect, analyse and act on IoT data coming from sensors, devices and applications. In this era data is the new gold, so you’d better have control over it!
So your business needs cloud solutions. Which ones should you implement? Survey respondents are clear in showing a preference for the personal cloud (34%). The adoption of the personal cloud has increased from 30% to 34% in the past three years. In contrast, the business cloud, which is managed by the company, personal cloud popularity is justified by the fact that the use of personal cloud is considerably more difficult for hackers to breach, costs nothing every month, and data is accessible locally.
Amazon AWS dominates and has the highest market share amongst respondants (22%) among business cloud providers, followed by Google Cloud (20%) and Microsoft Azure (18%). IBM Watson finds it difficult to get IoT developers to follow it.
With a growing number of cloud providers and the availability of larger datasets, it’s easier than ever to store data in the cloud. Cloud storage can be more economical and flexible than traditional data storage options. Some users prefer an enterprise-level personal cloud service while others choose a business-class cloud solution, but it all comes down to the user’s need.
What type of sensor technology do you use in your IoT design?
Sensor technology is at the heart of every connected device. From locating and identifying people to monitoring and securing critical infrastructure, sensors are the eyes and ears of an IoT solution, capturing critical information from the physical world and converting them into signals that can be measured electronically. They collect information and transmit it wirelessly to a gateway, which is then connected to a cloud service for further processing.
Effectively managing and deploying sensors is an important part of the IoT process. For example, if you are looking for a temperature sensor, consider thermal resistance as well as density. The more your sensor is capable of doing, the better it will be for the design. What makes a great sensor for your application? It depends on many factors including usage, accuracy, and battery life.
But, with so many types of sensors available, let’s see which ones are most common in IoT applications. By analysing survey results, environmental sensors remain the most common type utilised in an IoT solution (40% in 2020, 45% in 2019) – used to measure temperature, humidity, pressure, gas and more. Motion sensors are the second most commonly used type of sensors in IoT (21%).