Expert Predictions for 2020 Part 1: IoT at the Edge

By Perry Cohen

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

December 23, 2019


With 2019 quickly coming to an end, the industry is looking ahead to 2020. At this point, only predictions can be made about the hot topics that surround the technology world.

With 2019 quickly coming to an end, the industry is looking ahead to 2020. At this point, only predictions can be made about the hot topics that surround the technology world. In this blog series, industry experts share their thoughts and predictions heading into the new year. We’ll be covering the key technology categories of edge, cloud, 5G, artificial intelligence, and the evolution of engineering.

In part one of our five-part series, experts from Keysight, Nubix, Western Digital, and MathWorks share in detail their thoughts on the future of the edge.

Predictions from Keysight Technologies Executive Team:

The "Interaction of Things"

The “Internet of Things” will become the “Interaction of Things”. IoT will rapidly move into the mainstream with widening commercial acceptance, increasing public-sector applications, and accelerated industrial deployments

In 2020 we will see an increased level of “smart” experiences when the “Internet of Things”, a collection of devices connected to the internet, becomes the “Interaction of Things”, a collection of things that are communicating and working effectively and efficiently with each other.

There will be powerful devices working with other powerful devices to act quickly and efficiently in the background independent of direct human intervention. Mission-critical applications, such as remote robotic surgery in the area of digital healthcare or autonomous driving in the area of smart mobility, will feel the impact of this shift. 

While these applications will benefit from the “Interaction of Things”, new solutions will be developed to ensure they do not suffer from the “Interference of Things”, especially when communication failure and network disturbances can bring about devastating or life-threatening consequences. The same will be true of Industry 4.0 applications and smart city applications.  Uptime will not be optional. 

Digital Twins Will Move to Mainstream

Digital twins, or the concept of complete replicate simulation, are the nirvana of design engineers. In 2020, we will see digital twins mature and move to the mainstream as a result of their ability to accelerate innovations. To fully realize the technology’s benefits, companies will look for advanced design and test solutions that can seamlessly validate and optimize their virtual models and real-world siblings to ensure that their behaviors are identical.   

System-Level Design, Test, and Monitoring Will Experience A Dramatic Transformation: 

The connected world will force a shift in how performance, reliability, and integrity are evaluated. In 2020, realizing the full potential of sensor systems connected to communication systems connected to mechanical systems will require new ways to test at the system level. 

Today, there are available tests for radar antennas and a radar transceiver module.  However, testing a multi-antenna radar system integrated into a car will require a different testing approach.  The same is true for data centers, mission critical IoT networks, automobiles, and a wide range of new, complex, 5G-enabled applications.

The electronics industry will emphasize system-level testing as the definitive, final step to assure end-to-end performance, integrity and reliability across the increasingly connected world.

Predictions from Tom Yates, the vice president of products at Nubix

One of the difficulties surrounding the concept of the edge is defining the location of where to do the computing. Should it be done in a data center? In the cloud? In the fog on a gateway? Just like in real estate, edge computing all about the location. In 2020, expect to see computing and devices become close neighbors to create the true edge. More organizations will look to process data on the actual devices where the data is generated, overcoming the issues with latency, bandwidth, connectivity, and cost that are associated with other near-edge architectures.

The Edge is Getting Tiny

In 2020, the technology behind edge computing will become truly tiny. As more organizations seek to process data on devices and sensors, the true edge, related technologies will start to shrink. We are already seeing a proliferation of tiny things on the IoT landscape, from tiny circuit boards to tiny power requirements to tiny containers to tiny machine learning.  We are just now seeing the first containers that are small enough to run processes and tiny analytics capabilities on the tiny microcontrollers.

Time Keeps on Slipping

There has been a lot of hype about edge computing. While the definitions of edge computing are all over the place, they all share a common theme—reducing the data transport (amount and distance) and reducing the time to result. In 2020, we will see the demise of the digital twin and "lift-and-shift" architectures, which are a force-fit of the current cloud-based enterprise architecture that fails to address the latency and bandwidth issues as large numbers of edge devices are added to networks. Instead, we will see the emergence of new enterprise architectures built to solve these challenges through the use of on-device computing, 5G technology, and machine learning inferencing.

Yusuf Jamal, Senior Vice President, Western Digital

In 2020, we’ll see growing support for an open, standards-based approach that addresses IoT/IIoT security challenges from edge to the core.

The rise of 5G and IoT is revolutionizing businesses and industries of all shapes and sizes – from oil and gas, agriculture, and manufacturing to autonomous vehicles and smart cities. With this comes billions of connected devices, monitors and sensors all opening up vulnerabilities and security risks to sensitive data, systems and architectures from endpoints to edge to core.

Today’s highly diverse use cases and proprietary IoT security solutions simply cannot reach economies of scale. This will drive the industry to embrace open security standards in software and hardware, new innovations in RISC-V instruction set architectures (ISAs), and standards-based devices and platforms. Solutions that are open, customizable, comprehensive, stronger and easier to use and adopt will lead, and help accelerate new developments and innovations throughout the ecosystem. This will be a shared defense to protect the data the world depends on.

No company is or will be large enough to drive these changes without engaging the ecosystem and harnessing its collective power in the industry.

Philipp H. F. Wallner, Industry Manager, MathWorks

Industry 4.0 holds tremendous promise for manufacturers to be able to customize products, meet changing demands in real time, and operate more efficiently. As factories prepare for 2020 and beyond, having enough data and the right data in place will be critical to realize the promise of predictive maintenance, operations optimization, and performance management technologies – all leading Industry 4.0 use cases.

Data is just one of the variables that drives the Industry 4.0 IoT opportunity. The following outlines five industry trends for 2020 and beyond, which will make the factory of the future a reality:

Virtual Commissioning Becomes a Reality

As software complexity and the number of possible combinations of modularized software components grows, performing comprehensive tests on the physical machine gets harder and more time consuming, eventually becoming impossible. It will be important to perform virtual commissioning of the software to verify the absence of errors and validate if requirements are met based on simulation models before the physical production line is even in place. Innovation leaders like Reishauer AG, a producer of high-precision gear grinding machines, are already using multidomain simulation models for virtual commissioning today.

There will be an Emergence of Industry-Wide Standards for Connected Machines

There will be an emergence of industry-wide standards for connected machines In 2020 and beyond, there will be more of an emphasis on developing unified standards like OPC UA TSN that will help in ensuring interconnectivity between machines and modules in the factory. To meet these standards, a combination of several technologies enabling data to be transmitted across manufacturers and in real-time with a consistent, open standard in industrial production, will play a role in ensuring equipment from different vendors interoperates seamlessly. Inflexible cables will disappear and be replaced with wireless protocols like 5G and its successors. Machines will not only connect with each other but also to cloud systems where flexible calculation power is available for running powerful algorithms on business and engineering data.

There will be more Opportunities for Smart Engineers

There will be more opportunities for smart engineers The biggest Industry 4.0 impact, however, will affect people working in factories. By relying on technology and tools from companies like MathWorks, more engineers and scientists (not just data scientists) will work on AI. These factories will require engineers who can build models, deal with large data sets and handle the respective development tools to best address the trends outlined above. Companies building and operating industrial equipment need to change their job postings and hire skilled engineers with a completely different profile to prepare for a future in which Industry 4.0 reflects just the beginning of factory evolution.

Predictions for 2020 Part 2: The Cloud

In the next part of the series, our featured industry gurus will discuss The Cloud.

Featured Companies

Keysight Technologies, Inc.

1400 Fountaingrove Parkway
Santa Rosa, CA 95403-1738

Western Digital Corporation

5601 Great Oaks Parkway
San Jose, CA 95119

Perry Cohen, associate editor for Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for web content editing and creation, podcast production, and social media efforts. Perry has been published on both local and national news platforms including (Phoenix), (Phoenix),, Cronkite News, and MLB/MiLB among others. Perry received a BA in Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State university.

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