The Future of IoT: More “Connected” Than “Devices”

October 26, 2020

  • The World Economic Forum’s “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is upon us, and it builds on multiple technologies with the power to vastly disrupt the status quo.
  • While each of these technologies will bring drastic change, it’s the interconnection and convergence of them that we must consider.
  • Here’s the so what: it’s all hackable. Let’s wrap Cybersecurity Awareness Month by stressing the importance of the big picture and the long view.


It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future. – Yogi Berra


It’s been said, perhaps tongue in cheek, that the future is uncharted territory. While this is true, it’s still largely cobbled together from the familiar, even if some elements are newer and shinier than others.


The world in which we now live is heavily dependent upon the fabric of technology – for better or for worse. The future promises some very interesting and wide-reaching technological developments, many of which will be significant game-changers.


Sit back, relax … take a deep breath. Comfy? Good.


Consider these technologies and ponder all they affect and can affect:


  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Robotics
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Materials science/nanotechnology
  • 3D printing
  • Biotechnology
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Energy storage
  • Quantum computing


It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it? Perhaps a contextual umbrella will help.


Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, coined the term “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR) back in 2015. The aforementioned technologies, he explained, will serve as key elements and enablers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.


Indeed … and how will these technologies participate in said “fusion”?


By interconnecting, of course.


Each of the technologies comprising 4IR are colossally complex, powerful and poised to change our world in myriad ways once they are widely deployed and implemented. We’re talking change at every level of life: government, business and personal.


The fact that many of them will be interconnected raises the stakes dramatically.


One 4IR technology we should consider closely is the Internet of Things. It’s especially important to drill into IoT because it encompasses other 4IR technologies.


Per Leftronic, 75 billion IoT devices will be connected to the Internet by 2025. How many of those devices will be the listed technologies that comprise the Fourth Industrial Revolution? More than a handful.


In thinking about the future of IoT, the linchpin notion is less about “devices” and “technologies” and more about “connected.” In a June post we discussed artificial intelligence and a variety of emerging technologies, with the conclusion being that convergence is really the key. AI isn’t a standalone thing, but is rather the engine driving 5G, Big Data and advanced analytics.


The same dynamic is at work when we talk about IoT. Connected devices are the means by which we tap into the accumulating mass of information shaping our worlds. Hopefully what emerges looks and operates more like a shining city on the hill than it does, say, Jurassic Park.


Let’s face it, IoT is already so ubiquitous that in some places it’s basically invisible, but we can push the boat out from the shore a bit and perform a thought experiment. Consider: how might IoT work with another of the more esoteric 4IR technologies … say, biotechnology? (Last time you were in the hospital or visited someone there how many connected devices did you see? Did you count 10-15 per bed? Yep … and that number is only going to increase.)


If you read last week’s post on IoT and healthcare, think about the many, many implanted medical devices in the world – pacemakers, defibrillators, insulin pumps, etc. Further, there are development efforts under way that might very well make you a node on the IoT. Elon Musk’s Neuralink is a brain-implantable device intended to help those with neurological disorders, with the additional declared intention of allowing humans to compete with/link to AI. Couple that with Musk’s proposed global satellite-based Internet service, and you’ve got The Ultimate IoT: universal connectivity everywhere, all the time – even in the Sahara or Antarctica.


At some point we’re talking about most people, devices, information sources and institutions being fused into one huge, thrumming Borg network.


Now the million-dollar-question: so what?


Well, here’s what: all of it is hackable.


Luckily, security is our game … and we’re an all-star team.


And being an all-star team in cybersecurity means being very mindful not only of the present threat landscape, but of the big picture and the long view. Which is to say we’re keeping a weather eye on the technologies, players, possibilities and threats that comprise 4IR.


The future is fast and vast … so are we.


And so are you.

Evans Mehew
Director of Content Strategy | Optiv
Evans Mehew is the Director of Content Strategy for Optiv. Evans has over 25 years’ experience in information technology, information security, competitive intelligence and global business in industries including finance, healthcare, travel, telecommunications and software development. Evans is an inventor with six granted patents to date (with an additional three pending). Additionally, he served as an adjunct professor in graduate and undergraduate programs for over 16 years, teaching 40 unique classes over that time across a variety of disciplines including security, leadership, technology management and science.
Sam Smith, PhD | Contributor
Sam has worked in technology and communications marketing for more than 20 years and during that time has served a host of Fortune, enterprise and mid-market leaders. He earned his doctorate from the University of Colorado, where he focused on the development and adoption of emerging digital communication technologies.