The COVID-19 pandemic drove businesses and employees to became more reliant on technology for both professional and personal purposes. In 2021, demand for new internet-of-things (IoT) applications, technologies, and solutions will be driven by connected healthcare, smart offices, remote asset monitoring, and location services, all powered by a growing diversity of networking technologies.
In 2021, we predict that:
- Network connectivity chaos will reign. Technology leaders will be inundated by an array of wireless connectivity options. Forrester expects that implementation of 5G and Wi-Fi technologies will decline from 2020 levels as organizations sort through market chaos. For long-distance connectivity, low-earth-orbit satellites now provide a complementary option, with more than 400 Starlink satellites delivering satellite connectivity today. We expect interest in satellite and other lower-power networking technologies to increase by 20% in the coming year.
- Connected device makers will double down on healthcare use cases. Many people stayed at home in 2020, leaving chronic conditions unmanaged, cancers undetected, and preventable conditions unnoticed. In 2021, proactive engagement using wearables and sensors to detect patients’ health at home will surge. Consumer interest in digital health devices will accelerate as individuals appreciate the convenience of at-home monitoring, insight into their health, and the reduced cost of connected health devices.
- Smart office initiatives will drive employee-experience transformation. In 2021, some firms will ditch expensive corporate real estate driven by the COVID-19 crisis. However, we expect at least 80% of firms to develop comprehensive on-premises return-to-work office strategies that include IoT applications to enhance employee safety and improve resource efficiency such as smart lighting, energy and environmental monitoring, or sensor-enabled space utilization and activity monitoring in high traffic areas.*
- The near ubiquity of connected machines will finally disrupt traditional business. Manufacturers, distributors, utilities, and pharma firms switched to remote operations in 2020 and began connecting previously disconnected assets. This connected-asset approach increased reliance on remote experts to address repairs without protracted downtime and expensive travel. In 2021, field service firms and industrial OEMs will rush to keep up with customer demand for more connected assets and machines.
- Consumer and employee location data will be core to convenience. The COVID-19 pandemic elevated the importance location plays in delivering convenient customer and employee experiences. In 2021, brands must utilize location to generate convenience for consumers or employees with virtual queues, curbside pickup, and checking in for reservations. They will depend on technology partners to help use location data, as well as a third-party source of location trusted and controlled by consumers.
* Proactive firms, including Atea, have extended IoT investments to enhance employee experience and productivity by enabling employees to access a mobile app that uses data collected from light-fixture sensors to locate open desks and conference rooms. Employees can modify light and temperature settings according to personal preferences, and the system adjusts light color and intensity to better align with employees’ circadian rhythms to aid in concentration and energy levels. See the Forrester report “Rethink Your Smart Office Strategy.”