#3 – The ‘things’ that will make IoT grow are the things in our hands and on our bodies
Summary: IoT is a very promising market with significant growth potential. However, Northstream believes that the sizing forecasts in general are too aggressive and optimistic, but at the same time too conservative when it comes to the total number of devices in the licensed spectrum. This is due to the growing consumer market for wearables, home devices and innovative modular solutions, combined with the global LTE uptake, which will pave way for new and innovative applications. In this consumer market, Northstream sees an opportunity for operators to profit, not only as communications providers, but also as service providers – enabling the complex, multi-vendor ecosystem of devices.
Different vendors and research firms forecast different growth rates for IoT. Some projections are quite optimistic, with a general span from 20 Billion up to 50 Billion or even more by 2020. The common denominator is that these forecasts are mainly thought to be driven by industry and B2B implementations, and that the vast majority of these devices are believed to be in the unlicensed spectrum. By comparison, the amount of M2M devices in the licensed spectrum is in general forecasted to somewhere between 500 Million to 1 Billion devices.
While the full IoT market size forecasts seem aggressive, Northstream also finds that the predicted number of licensed spectrum M2M devices is too conservative. First, we see that the main driver for mass IoT will be the consumer sector, with wearables and connected home devices. Second, we see many out-of-the-box innovative solutions (driven by start-ups) that lower entry barriers to the IoT ecosystem. For instance a little box with a standard set of sensor functions delivered along with a developer kit and a user interface ready to support and unleash infinite use cases. Moreover, this upsurge of IoT use cases will be spearheaded by the substantial global growth of LTE, which will enable new and innovative applications. Northstream´s analysis has shown that the M2M market could very well be twice as big in 2020 as what forecasts state in general.
Regarding 2015, Northstream expects that, due to the unprecedented global LTE expansion rate together with more designer wearables and good value-adding applications hitting the market, this will be the year of IoT consumer market segment mass uptake.
The IoT consumer segment will be a huge market with multiple vendors and a complex ecosystem. Both fixed and mobile operators will be able to find business, first but not limited to, by providing connectivity for devices connected via the licensed spectrum, but even by offering customer support services related to the connected home and connected consumer. Operators can leverage on their command of network hardware, software, configuration and their contact to the device manufacturers.