The Road to a Trillion IoT Devices

In a quick 20 years, we’re likely to see one trillion connected devices.

Imagine one trillion connected devices. That’s a thousand billion. The prediction that we’ll see a trillion IoT devices in the next 20 years came from Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank (which in 2016 acquired ARM) at last year’s ARM TechCon conference.

His crystal ball shows that by next year, the number of IoT devices will surpass the number of mobile devices. By 2021, he expects 1.8 billion PCs, 8.6 billion mobile devices, and 15.7 billion IoT devices. All of this comes with a lot of data. He further predicted that by 2035, the amount of data will grow more than 2,400 times, from 1 exabyte to 2.3 zettabytes. A lot of bits.


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One of the issues prompted by this rapid growth is whether we will have the physical ability to create that many devices. “Is there enough material to support that ramping up in the coming years?” Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief at ARM, told Design News. “We’re going to try to get some sense of how this will grow during the next few years.”

There is already growth in IoT devices across a wide range of industries, but there are three areas that have seen especially eager adoption. “Right now, there are three big areas in IoT. They’re industrial, automotive, and consumer,” said Fuller. “With consumer, the fast growth is in wearable devices. Industry is a ripe place for IoT because of the cost benefits it brings in both the short and long term. People talk about home automation, and that’s ramping up, but we’ll see a faster ramp with wearables, cars, and industrial devices.”

Brian Fuller will cover IoT growth during the panel, The Road to One Trillion Devices, at the ARM TechCon conference in Santa Clara October 24 – 26.

The IoT Boom in Automotive

While automotive connectivity won’t deliver the instant payback that we’re seeing in factories and plants, vehicle connectivity will eventually deliver measurable benefits. “In automotive, IoT in an investment. That investment will pay off in the future,” said Fuller. “The benefits in automotive are slightly indirect, but people will try to quantify it. It will get to some point where you’re buying a car based on projected efficiencies.”

Those efficiencies will come in a number of areas for car owners. “We all envision a connected car that is tied into traffic patterns and weather,” said Fuller. “The connected data will make your travel time more efficient. As well as the time saved in travel, there will be fuel efficiency and there will be improved maintenance.”

Coming Advances in Medical and Agriculture

In other industries, IoT is just getting started. While it’s not boom-time yet, the ramping up will come nonetheless. “In agriculture, the IoT is a no-brainer. You can configure irrigation that will water crops or not water them depending on rain,” said Fuller. “The sensors will tell the system when to irrigate. WaterBit is already doing this in the Central Velley of California.”

Medical is lagging somewhat, but that’s due to issues in that medical industry that intentionally modulate change. “I haven’t see a lot of rapid growth of IoT in medical, but it’s certainly an area that’s ripe for opportunity,” said Fuller. “Medical has been working at its own pace in the digital revolution over the past 20 years. Regulatory issues and patient privacy slow down adoption as the IoT advances.”



Fuller doesn’t expect to see any intrinsic barriers to the quick development and deployment of connected devices. While various standards and communication protocols are popping up across the industry, Fuller expects they will settle into coherency soon enough to encourage further growth. “I don’t think there are any bottlenecks for IoT,” said Fuller. “When technology goes into new technological areas, there is broad innovation. That innovation the settles into standards. You’ll probably see the same in IoT.”


 ARM Technology Drives the Future. Join 4,000+ embedded systems specialists for three days of ARM® ecosystem immersion you can’t find anywhere else.  ARM TechCon  . Oct. 24-26, 2017 in Santa Clara, CA. Register here  for the event, hosted by  Design News  ’ parent company UBM.


Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Image courtesy of ARM.

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