The number of devices that use the internet to communicate with one another is an ever-changing variable. This is why establishing an answer to How many IoT devices are there? boils down to educated guesses rather than exact numbers.
The internet of things includes everyday devices, objects, and sensors that can be monitored and controlled remotely using the internet. In 2009, there were less than a billion IoT devices. By 2015, the number of devices rose to 15.4 billion.
Even though privacy and safety concerns were raised early for these kinds of electronics, the number of connected devices continues to increase at a steady climb. The more humble estimates show that the number of connected devices in 2019 exceeds 25 billion. But before we dive too deeply into the numbers, let’s learn more about the IoT and its uses:
IoT devices are used in consumer, commercial, industrial, and infrastructural spaces. A major portion of IoT devices is designed for consumer use. Vehicles, for example, use IoT technology to report back to the manufacturer, as well as provide us with some modern-day conveniences such as remotely starting, locking, and heating our cars. According to current IoT trends, smart home features, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, are another major part of the IoT’s market growth.
When it comes to commercial applications, the IoT is mostly used in the medical industry. IoT devices are used for remote health monitoring and emergency notifications, which are especially helpful in senior care. Further implementation of IoT devices in the healthcare industry can save the US more than $300 billion per year, as suggested by Goldman Sachs in their early IoT predictions back in 2015.
Industrial applications of IoT technology mostly revolve around the manufacturing industry. This industry utilizes the technology in order to improve the manufacturing process of new products, collect data on product demands, and supply chain network optimization, among others.
The IoT finds its use in infrastructure particularly via wind-farm monitoring and control and in monitoring and controlling railway tracks, as well as similar urban and rural infrastructural elements. The time saved by increasing the number of devices connected to the internet also saves billions of dollars every year while increasing the efficiency of roads, railways, and energy production across the US.
The IoT in the Past
We tend to think of the IoT as a recent technology. However, it first showed up almost 40 years ago. Here are some important dates from the past:
1. The first device was connected to the internet in 1982.
Even though the phrase “internet of things” wasn’t coined until much later, the first-ever device that was a part of this network was a Coca-Cola vending machine from 1982. The number of connected devices is in the billions nowadays, which was unimaginable to the group of students that used micro switches to transfer information about the vending machine’s inventory and the temperature of the drinks in it.
2. The internet of things got its name in 1999.
The term “internet of things” was coined 20 years ago. Kevin Ashton, who worked in supply chain optimization, wanted to attract his senior management’s attention to the new technology called RFID and named his presentation “Internet of Things.”
He knew that the technology would be the next big thing, but the numbers that IoT statistics for 2019 show were not even in his wildest dreams.
3. The first “smart” refrigerator appeared in 2000.
LG Electronics came out with the first ever smart fridge back in 2000. The project was started three years prior, and it took 55 researchers and a budget of nearly $50 million to complete it.
The fridge included a display that showed information such as the temperature and the freshness of the stored goods, as well as nutrition info and recipes. A webcam, an MP3 player, and an icemaker were also included.
Considering how many similar devices are connected to the internet today, one would have expected it to be a huge success. However, the project was a failure, as people deemed it unnecessary. The price tag of $20,000 didn’t help either.
4. The first pacemaker was connected in 2009.
The first-ever pacemaker that used the internet to send data was installed in 2009. The IoT was hailed as the biggest step toward immortality in our lifetime. After the pacemaker, insulin pumps and other medical implants that use the IoT were introduced.
So how many “things” are predicted to be interconnected on the internet by 2020? Perhaps the info that over 160 million healthcare devices are estimated to be installed during that year might help paint the picture.
5. Google launched the first self-driving car in 2010.
Waymo, previously known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project, was started in 2009. The first vehicle was launched in 2010, and it used the internet to communicate with the server and navigate cities and roads across the US.
Waymo drove over 8 million miles on public streets, and the number of these IoT devices reached 600 in 2018. When it comes to other manufacturers, the total number of self-driving cars is expected to reach 100,000 by 2022, according to CNBC.
6. In 2015, just 3% of the useful data provided by the internet of things was tagged and analyzed.
Back in 2015, the use of the IoT really started to take off. However, the companies that adopted the technology barely used it. It’s estimated that just 3% of potentially useful data was ever analyzed and utilized properly.
Even though the question of how many devices are connected to the internet in 2018 or 2019 has different answers depending on the source, they all agree that the data gathered from them is now used efficiently.
The IoT in the Future
Some predictions on where the IoT is headed in the near future are shared by experts. Here are a few of them:
7. “Anything with a battery will have a network connection.”
This quote is attributed to multiple important tech figures, from Luke Ibbetson to Bill Gates. Whoever was the first to utter it appears to had been right. IoT growth is rapid, and the technology is starting to consume every item imaginable.
Manufacturers are turning every possible device into an IoT one. This ranges from devices that can really benefit from this type of connectivity to some, frankly, pointless ones, such as shoes.
8. 5G Networks will prove to be a massive boost to IoT growth.
The 5G network is the latest talk of the town when it comes to technology. With its arrival later in 2019 and its insane data rates of up to 20Gbit/s, the number of IoT connected devices is bound to skyrocket.
However, the arrival of 5G also raises some safety concerns. IoT devices won’t need Wi-Fi routers, which are a safer option due to the presence of firewalls and password protection, and will connect directly to the 5G network, making them more susceptible to hacker attacks.
9. The IoT will require more government regulation.
As user safety becomes more of a concern, governments across the world will need to start introducing new regulations with safety in mind.
There’ll be over 30 billion IoT devices by 2020. Considering this, the European Union implemented the General Data Protection Regulation in 2018, which addresses several safety and privacy concerns. Driven by their example, several US states, including California, have recently passed more strict privacy laws.
Still, a lot more needs to be done, as security remains the main challenge in the IoT’s future.
10. More cities will go smart.
Some of the IoT’s uses in infrastructure were already discussed in this text. Considering how many IoT devices there are in 2019, some are bound be used to improve the traffic and infrastructure of our cities.
Cutting back on manpower and employing more IoT technology for traffic monitoring is expected to increase safety and lower the running costs for big cities. With IoT optimization, traffic jams might soon become a thing of the past.
11. More vehicles will depend on the IoT.
Autonomous vehicles, and those that use IoT technology strictly for data analysis, will become more common on the roads in the next few years. Internet-connected devices have existed for a while in our cars, as they provide us with features such as smart driving assistance, car system monitoring, and automated emergency management.
12. 30.3% of IoT devices will be employed in the health sector by 2025.
Experts predict that almost a third of all IoT devices will be used by the health sector by 2025. They also predict that the worth of the IoT in this sector will exceed $2.5 trillion. Considering that the number of IoT devices by 2025 is expected to reach 75 billion, this sector will be one of the largest users of the technology with over 20 billion devices.
13. Companies are expected to spend more than $5 trillion developing new IoT solutions in the next 5 years.
With this kind of expenditure, we can expect the IoT to be implemented in all parts of our lives; from our health to our clothes. The CISCO IoT forecast predicted that there’ll be 50 billion devices in use by 2020. Even though this forecast isn’t expected to be met and we expect significantly less IoT devices by the time 2020 comes, the amount of money being invested in IoT development remains staggering.