This news was first published on Dec. 23 in my weekly Stacey on IoT newsletter.
Hopefully you’re reading this newsletter on your last day at the office or while curled up at home with a warm and festive beverage. Instead of taxing your brain with some deeply technical explainer, I figured I’d share some big trends that I’ll be writing about in the coming year along with some of the big trends that I’ve written about in the last few years that are finally reaching fruition.
So grab that cocoa or tea and let’s predict the future.
1. Matter rolls out and then fades into the background: In the first half of the year we’re going to get a bunch of new Matter products from vendors as well as a few updates to existing products. For those who want to experience the Matter smart home interoperability protocol in all its glory, I suggest buying new gear that comes with Matter already operational, because updating your existing gear will be a bit painful. For buyers of Matter gear who start with Matter and stay there, the road to smart home devices will be so easy that Matter will essentially fade into the background, paving the way for companies in 2024 to launch services on top of the gear making its way into more homes. Anyone like me (and likely most of our readers) should instead wait a bit to update and expect the process of upgrading existing gear to be a pain. Also, be sure to warn loved ones not to buy cheaper, non-Matter gear that will flood third-party markets.
2. RF sensing makes it big: Several services built around Wi-Fi signal disruptions to track motion or falls in the home have launched recently. As have devices for tracking sleep or presence that use radar sensing in place of the traditional passive infrared (PIR) sensors. In 2023, more products will replace PIR with radar and more companies will enable Wi-Fi sensing in their products. For example, at CES a company called Aloe Care will use Origin Systems’ Wi-Fi sensing technology to monitor homes for movement, including falls. Also, as you’ll read about in the news section, NIST has approved an algorithm that uses Wi-Fi signals to monitor breathing. Adding software to track movements in homes using Wi-Fi and radar will lead to more contextual awareness of what’s happening in the home without needing to add a bunch of new devices.
3. Greater context means greater creepiness: In line with the previous two trends, our homes will experience a huge leap in intelligence. With engineers at smart home companies less focused on making sure their products perform basic functions across different ecosystems thanks to Matter, they are free to build more interesting intelligence into their platforms, such as lights that reliably turn on when you enter a room, or security systems that help eliminate false positives. Matter-enabled sensors will share more contextual information, as will new RF sensors that can better detect where a person is within a room and even what they are doing. But as manufacturing companies take advantage of this information, some systems are going to go too far. The first moment a Google hub suggests that a person standing in their kitchen at 2 a.m. staring into their fridge should try a relaxing sleep meditation, or a smart lighting system dims the lights in the middle of a dinner party at 9:30 p.m. because that’s the normal time the user goes to bed, people will be both irate and creeped out by how much their home knows about them. In the coming year, overreaching smart home systems are going to cross this creepy line and show consumers how much information the devices in their homes and the companies that make those devices know about them.
4. The fight for privacy begins in earnest: After more spouses get caught cheating and Alexa’s hunches get increasingly personal, awareness of the number of sensors in our homes — and how little governance there is about the data that gets shared — will prompt a backlash. The result will be that more consumers start to reject smart devices. Others will choose to pay up for devices that protect their privacy by not sharing their data with third-party marketing firms and by explaining how data gets transferred and stored. I don’t think there will be legal action in the U.S., but I do think the clamor for it will only get louder.
5. Hardware security improves: It may not feel like it, but we’ve come a long way since 2016 when the Mirai botnet kicked off a wave of concern and regulations around how safe our connected devices really are. Thanks to legislation, executive orders, and various industry efforts, newer devices are built more securely. Moreover, as Matter rolls out with security as a core feature and more federal regulations dictate how passwords are managed while demanding “reasonable security measures,” next year’s hardware and devices will be more secure. Now we just have to get companies and consumers to implement it.
6. Security regulations harmonize: There are dozens of competing regulations governing cybersecurity internationally, and almost as many in the U.S. in the form of state laws, regulatory orders, and executive orders. Next year, as part of the continued attempts to secure connected devices, there will be a harmonization of rules in the U.S. at the federal level and within the EU, which will start enforcing its Cyber Resilience Act.
7. Over-the-air wireless power hits the market: After years of waiting for wireless power to actually transmit power over the air (as opposed to wirelessly charging something by sticking it on a Qi transmitter) the technology finally gained approval in several countries in 2022. This means we’ll see devices that support over-the-air wireless power transmission in the home and in industrial and retail settings. We’re already seeing retail trials, and I expect to see a few wirelessly powered smart home devices at CES in two weeks.
8. 5G factory rollouts become real: The touting of 5G years before it was ready caused a lot of frustration for companies seeking to evaluate it for their own factory deployments. Thanks to updates made in June of this year to the 5G standard that offer location tracking and better battery management, products designed for factory 5G will become readily available in 2023 through both pilots and scaled-out production. Finally!
9. IoT helps with the energy transition: In 2021 and 2022 I wrote about the big trends that were driving utilities, regulators, and consumer electronics companies to focus on building an internet of electricity. In 2023, those behind-the-scenes efforts will become visible with several products designed to make use of a smarter grid or to bypass the grid entirely and simply use electricity more intelligently within the confines of the home. There will also be a fight among traditional electricity providers, upstarts, and consumer electronics companies to become the brains of this smart home electrical network.
10. M&A will abound: Given the economic uncertainty, there will be a lot of restructurings and deals as smaller companies in the IoT get swallowed by bigger ones. They’ll likely include traditional OT firms bulking up on some available industrial IoT software providers and perhaps IT companies buying into specific industrial verticals. The energy transition and a focus on smart home services will drive deals as well.