How Five Industries Will Evolve in the Next Decade

The Intelligence of Things® is only just beginning. Today’s 10 billion connected devices will grow fivefold to 50 billion by 2020. As consumers turn to their devices for simple, action-based recommendations on what to listen to, watch, feel, or do without requiring much user analysis, companies must adapt. According to a 2014 Accenture report titled, “Driving Unconventional Growth Through the Industrial Internet of Things,” executives will need to formulate new business models and go-to-market strategies at the macro level, rethink their core business and operations, and introduce intelligence into products, services, processes and more. Take a look at what’s happening in five industries ripe for disruption by smart and connected innovations, according to the woman on the front lines of such technological developments, Flex President of Innovation and New Ventures Jeannine Sargent.

Health becomes lifestyle

Thanks to the abundance of wearable devices—think Fitbit, Jawbone—that enable humans to track and monitor physical activity and certain vitals, the line between health and wellness and lifestyle has never been blurrier. Sargent sees the digital health market alone growing to $100 billion by 2025. As more companies look at ways mobile sensors could be used to reduce the cost of managing chronic diseases such as diabetes by 10 to 20%, the economic impact could grow to $2 trillion by 2025.

Approximated digital health market by 2025

Approximated digital health market by 2025

“We’re starting to see intelligence in our clothing; you’ll start to see wearable patches that take into account different types of flexible technologies, biocompatible sensors, fused sensors. And you’ll continue to see the consumer experience change,” Sargent says.

Smart & connected comes standard in cars

Today, luxury automakers such as BMW and Audi are the ones driving intelligent connectivity—just 15% of cars sold this year will have it. By 2020, this number will grow to 90%, creating a potential $200 billion economic impact by 2025. “In a connected car, we think about having sensors that allow us to be able to communicate hands-free, for example, or have an ability to get a weather report or traffic directions,” Sargent explains. As the automotive industry continues to innovate, smart and connected features will reduce costs resulting from vehicle damage—by almost 25% in Sargent’s estimation.

Intelligently connected cars by 2020

Intelligently connected cars by 2020

Intelligent agriculture feeds a hungrier planet

The world’s farmers face a looming crisis: By 2050, they will need to feed more than 10 billion people, ultimately increasing global food production by 70%. “The current path we’re on is not sustainable, and we do not have identified pathways in order to be able to feed the planet,” Sargent says. In smart agriculture today, companies are exploring innovative ways to increase yield by as much as 20% over the next 10 years. This will be an explosive industry in the era of the Intelligence of Things®, and Flex’s Farm2050 initiative, a new AgTech ecosystem bringing together small and large players to develop innovative solutions, was born precisely out of this need to feed the planet.

People who will need to be fed by 2050

People who will need to be fed by 2050

Global energy gets personal

While many industries are still determining where they should play in the Internet of Things, the energy sector is off and running. Today’s 300 million smart meters that track grid performance will grow to more than a billion by 2020. The economic impact is estimated at $500 billion by 2025, saving companies as much as 5% in operational costs, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

Smart meters that track grid performance today

Smart meters that track grid performance today

And as smaller companies like Nest spring up that empower consumers with user-friendly data about how they’re using energy, the potential for a more sustainable future becomes real—and real personal.

Wearables go beyond the wrist

The next wave of wearables won’t stop at watches. While the world awaits the Apple Watch this year, many companies are looking beyond the wrist to create an always-on ecosystem of things we carry with us every day. McKinsey predicts a $1 trillion economic impact by 2025 as the total number of connected devices is expected to grow by 100% from today.

Growth of connected devices by 2025

Growth of connected devices by 2025

Empowerment is driving the future of consumer technologies in the Intelligence Era. “We want it to be transparent to any user, whether or not the technology is there,” Sargent says.