The future of IoT devices - Mobile Ecosystem Forum

Nassia Skoulikariti, director of IoT Programmes at the Mobile Ecosystem Forum, explains the road ahead
Nassia Skoulikariti

The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t new. Decades ago, people were talking about the concept of smart devices linking and forming something more powerful and useful than each individual piece of kit on its own. Some expected a revolution, but IoT doesn’t come in tsunami form. It’s a gentle lapping tide that’s currently merely tickling our toes. Eventually, it will be all around us, lifting us up and away from our current existence, and when that happens, every business owner needs to make sure they know how to stay afloat.

Digital Transformation

In a world moved by data-driven decisions, IoT, AI and 5G are more than mere tools. Their combined influence isn't confined to optimising operational efficiencies or incrementally improving business processes. It extends far beyond, altering the very DNA of industries. From the healthcare and manufacturing sectors to retail and logistics industries, no industry will remain untouched by the transformation that is to come.

Already IoT devices are used in manufacturing for predictive maintenance, quality control, and supply chain optimisation. In the retail sector, AI enhances customer experiences through personalised recommendations and chatbots, while IoT enables smart stores and inventory management. In logistics, IoT devices are used for real-time tracking, while AI is used for route optimisation and demand forecasting. And 5G and IoT technologies enable remote patient monitoring, telemedicine, and AI-driven diagnostics in the healthcare sector.

But (cue Bachman Turner Overdrive), you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Boosting business

The ongoing global deployment of 5G networks sets the stage for a new era of connectivity – one marked by unprecedented speed, ultra-low latency, and the ability to support a massive influx of connected devices. With 5G delivering high-speed connectivity and IoT orchestrating seamless sensor-based interactions, businesses gain invaluable insights into consumer behaviour, market trends, and operational efficiencies.

We are moving towards an era where industries seamlessly coalesce into intricate ecosystems of interconnectivity, blurring the line between physical and digital realms.

The transformative force of mobile isn't confined to communication – it shapes economies. According to Goldman Sachs, integrating AI and 5G could potentially drive a $7 trillion increase in global GDP, lifting productivity growth by 1.5% over ten years. This massive opportunity is not lost on the telco industry, which eagerly embraces these technologies to stay at the forefront of this digital revolution. The global IoT market is projected to reach a value of over $900bn per year by 2025, experiencing a significant surge from its $348bn value in 2019.

The Asia Pacific region (APAC) stands as the largest IoT market worldwide in terms of its potential for economic growth and expansion of connections. According to the latest GSMA report, by 2030, APAC is set to have 1.4 billion 5G connections, mainly driven by the drop in 5G device cost, the expanding 5G network deployments and the concerted efforts of governments pushing mobile technologies to the very fabric of society. Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea lead the way to 5G innovation.

The mobile sector contributed a staggering $810 billion to APAC's economy in 2022 (approximately 5% of GDP) – forecast to be near $1 trillion ($990 billion) by the decade's close. 5G's contribution is poised to surpass $133 billion, spotlighting its role as an economic catalyst.

Key drivers

Several key factors—including customer demand for high-speed internet services, the proliferation of smart devices, and the need for efficient network management—are driving change.

The impacts of this transformation are profound, affecting not only the telecom industry but also other sectors. But it is the telecom industry that provides the infrastructure allowing new devices and technology to weave themselves in our modern existence: from wearables monitoring our health to smart home systems seamlessly managing our environments.

For an increasing number of consumers, connectivity isn't a luxury but a necessity. The rise of IoT devices and smart homes has further escalated this demand. The importance of customer demand for high-speed internet services as a driving force of change can't be overlooked. And with the advent of 5G, consumers expect faster download and upload speeds, lower latency, and uninterrupted connectivity.

Beneath the surface of seamless internet experiences lies network management. It is an intricate art. As data traffic grows, telecom operators need to ensure efficient data management, seamless connectivity, and robust security. AI can play a crucial role in meeting these requirements with its predictive analytics and automation capabilities.

The future

Telecom operators are poised to transcend traditional roles, becoming envoys of a new, interconnected world. The spotlight shines on ubiquitous connectivity, where smart cities, efficient industries, and seamless customer experiences weave a fabric of convenience for all.

IoT is at the core of this interconnectivity, paving the way for unheard-of opportunities. Smart devices will flood the market, giving rise to a new era where machines are sentient, data flows freely, and everything is interconnected. As operators leverage IoT to interconnect devices, they'll orchestrate a world where networks facilitate conversations and sensors weave stories. The future will undoubtedly be much more interesting than your fridge ordering more orange juice when you run out.


Nassia Skoulikariti is Director of IoT Programmes at the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) a global trade body established in 2000 and headquartered in the UK with members across the world. As the voice of the mobile ecosystem, it focuses on cross-industry best practices, anti-fraud and monetisation. The Forum provides its members with global and cross-sector platforms for networking, collaboration and advancing industry solutions.  

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Nassia Skoulikariti
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September 25, 2023