Companies across various verticals are aware of the potential benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT). Yet, most are still in the early stages of thinking about how, when and where to deploy IoT.

Consumers, too, are joining the bandwagon due to the availability of smart-home devices and platforms like Amazon’s Alexa. The smart-home market is therefore predicted to grow to more than 1.4 billion units by 2021, up from a mere 224 million in 2016.

Here are the 5 key trends you, as an engineer, need to track this year to stay abreast of what's happening in the IoT market.

LPWA goes mainstream: Licensed spectrum low-power wireless access (LPWA) technologies are coming into the market in earnest in 2017. LPWA is opening the door to low-cost, long-battery life devices for a variety of applications that can also be reliably and securely integrated with and tracked by mobile network operators.

This year we will see service providers deploy their first commercial NB-IoT and LTE Cat M1 networks. These LPWA technologies will become a core thread of service providers’ IoT plans.

Carriers tap developers: Developer outreach will be a greater focus as operators try to drive usage of their IoT platforms and infrastructure. Carriers want a greater understanding of potential new IoT use cases across a broader range of industries. One side benefit is such programs will bring some start-up spirit into operators’ businesses.

Security becomes a priority: Data, network and device security are becoming a focus as the vulnerability of a broad, distributed and heterogeneous network of connected devices becomes apparent. This year we’ll see more instances of hacked IoT devices and networks exposing points of weakness, both via lower-end consumer devices and more sophisticated IoT products.

Vendors and leading service provides are already partnering to address issues and breaches. Security is likely to become a more prominent selling point, especially for those purporting to offer end-to-end IoT solutions.

Learn about machine learning: The value of IoT data will start to be realized in 2017 in more ways than one. We are seeing a shift to enabling processing and analytics at the IoT network edge, minimizing the need to transport large amounts of data back to the network core before triggering an action or alert. Integration of IoT data streams and machine-learning engines will span uses from elevator maintenance to smart homes starting this year.

IoT drives service business models: Early adopters are exploring how best to use IoT data and analytics to support new, transformational business models. This will have an impact across all verticals, particularly where heavy upfront capital investment is needed for infrastructure and where ongoing maintenance and operation of that infrastructure is required.

Enterprises are starting to use IoT capabilities to enable customers to purchase anything from lighting to elevators via long-term managed service models, rather than taking on the costs of owning infrastructure.

Alexandra Rehak is practice leader for the Internet of Things at Ovum. Gavin Whitechurch is the founder of Internet of Things World.