The Internet of Things has already had a pervasive impact on the way we engage with technology as consumers, and on the way many businesses operate. But as we move into 2016, Gartner predicts that the already powerful technology is set to get even stronger—and play a bigger role in our organizations and lives

2015 was a big year for the Internet of Things (IoT). Consumers have grown accustomed to it, businesses have found powerful new ways to use it, and CIOs have started to realize just how broad its applications can be.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the IoT features heavily in Gartner’s Top Strategic Tech trends for 2016. The technology relates to a large number of the analyst’s predictions, but here are the main changes we should expect to see in the IoT over the course of the next year.

Devices will become even smarter

As IoT technology has matured, the number of sensors in devices has steadily increased—and that’s set to continue over the course of the next 12 months.

The result? Devices will become even smarter than they already are, capturing and analyzing more data to reveal more about the patterns in our daily lives, or the processes in our businesses.

And there won’t just be more sensors around—they’re also going to find new ways of working in concert, enabling them to better contextualize data and give it more meaning.

For businesses, this means better visibility of processes, and an even clearer picture of what needs to improve, and where.

IoT is about to become even more self-sufficient

Another major change fueled by devices working better in concert with each other is that far less human intervention will be required to keep IoT projects running successfully.

With more contextualized data comes opportunities for greater machine learning, taking many IoT projects to the next level. By the end of next year we shouldn’t just expect IoT to give us the information we need to make process improvements, we could realistically see it drive those actions itself, without having us directly intervene.

For the business it’s another big step towards constant data-driven process improvement. A couple of years ago we couldn’t even see most of the moving parts that the IoT has enabled us to track and monitor, but soon enough it could help us improve them without even lifting a finger.

A move towards unified IoT platforms

One of the main barriers to effective IoT use in the modern business is platform fragmentation. While devices may be great at communicating with each other, it doesn’t mean much if they’re not connected to the same platform and able to work in unison.

IT leaders are ready for a better ecosystem—one which enables data to be shared more broadly, across a greater number of devices, analytical tools, and touchpoints.

It may be some time before complete platform unification is a reality, and in the meantime IT functions are likely to continue procuring more one-off solutions. But, as demand grows, more and more vendors will start offering integrated IoT solutions that tomorrow’s businesses will demand.

No end in sight for data growth

According to Gartner, by 2025, 25 billion devices will be generating data on just about every single topic across the globe.

With the Internet of Things finding more applications in more industries, and playing a bigger role in our lives, it’s going to be a long time before data volumes stop increasing.

The data deluge is certainly not a new phenomenon, and the challenges in 2016 will largely be the same as they have been for years. There’s more data available, so it’s up to businesses to make the best use of it, and those that are best at unlocking its potential will rise to the top of their respective markets.

Got some thoughts of your own on the Future of the Internet of Things? Perhaps you’re ahead of the curve and you’re already seeing some of these changes? Let us know what you think in the comments below.