The web of connected devices known as the Internet of Things is set to “explode” this year, reaching almost 5bn items, a new report has found.
The number of connected devices in on track to increase by 30pc in 2015 to 4.9bn things before growing fivefold to 25bn by 2020, according to projections from the technology research firm Gartner.
Cars will be a “major element” of the expanding Internet of Things, with one in five vehicles having some sort of wireless network connection by 2020, accounting for more than a quarter of a billion cars on global roads.
“The connected car is already a reality, and in-vehicle wireless connectivity is rapidly expanding from luxury models and premium brands, to high-volume mid-market models,” said James Hines, research director at Gartner.
The report predicted that the changing landscape of connectivity would build a new set of specifications for the car of the future.
“The increased consumption and creation of digital content within the vehicle will drive the need for more sophisticated infotainment systems,” Mr Hines said, adding that this could create opportunities for app developers, graphics designers and interactive display technologies.
“At the same time, new concepts of mobility and vehicle usage will lead to new business models and expansion of alternatives to car ownership, especially in urban environments.”
While the majority of connected cars, at least in the early stages, will be a car-to-mobile connection, Gartner expects this network to expand eventually to vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connections.
Part of this growth will be fuelled by legislative initiatives. In the EU, for example, all cars will be fitted with an eCall-equipped chip by 2018 that will automatically contact the nearest emergency centre in case of a collision.
A recent report from McKinsey found that the “dramatic increase in vehicle connectivity” that is “transforming the automotive sector” could boost the value of the global market for connectivity components and services to €170bn (£127bn) by 2020, more than five times higher than today’s €30bn.
The study, for which almost 2,000 new car buyers were surveyed, also found that 13pc of people would immediately rule out buying a new car without internet access, while more than a quarter already prioritise connectivity over features such as engine power and fuel efficiency.
A similar study by Telefonica of more than 5,000 people found that half of consumers would consider connected features a key part of their next car purchase, with 70pc of people interested in using or already using connected car services.