The Internet of Things – Are We Ready for 50 Billion Things?

Posted on January 17, 2018
Your Fitbit, TV remote, microwave, and other wireless devices that use a network to communicate are part of the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Their use is growing fast—some experts forecast that 25-50 billion devices will be in use by 2025. But the IoT depends on the availability of a finite resource—the radio frequency spectrum. Today’s WatchBlog highlights our recent report exploring options for maximizing the spectrum and keeping our IoT devices humming. Spectrum Apocalypse? Could a day of reckoning—when IoT devices completely overwhelm networks—soon be upon us?  Take a look at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s 2016 Frequency Allocations: The Radio Spectrum Chart to see how much of the spectrum is in use and how little of it is left to be allocated. To keep our devices running smoothly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which manages the spectrum in the United States, is going to have to make more spectrum available, use it more efficiently, or expand spectrum sharing. Check out our interactive graphic to see some examples of how the IoT and other communication services currently use the already-crowded spectrum. interactive gif Getting a Jump on Things Identifying and reallocating spectrum can take years.  FCC must identify new bands, address the needs of existing users, and assign the spectrum, among other tasks. We recommended that FCC get a jump on things and start tracking the growth of IoT devices that require a lot of bandwidth—for example, devices that stream video.  FCC said they didn’t think that was necessary right now, and that its spectrum planning accounts for IoT growth, unless these high-bandwidth devices become more prevalent.  FCC’s own Technical Advisory Council also recommended more monitoring. FCC agreed to ask the council to periodically review and report on the IoT’s growth. Check out our report to learn more about spectrum and IoT.