John Cunliffe from Ericsson is widely credited for making the statement 50 Billion connected devices by 2020. Recently he spoke in the Cambridge Wireless and defended his forecast on the connected devices. He also provided us with the traffic exploration tool to see how the devices market would look up till 2018. Here is one of the pictures using the tool:
In terms of Cellular connectivity, we are looking at 9 Billion devices by 2018. The interesting thing to notice is that in 2017, there are still some 4 Billion feature phones. While in the developed world our focus is completely on Smartphones, its interesting to see new and existing SMS/USSD based services are still popular in the developing world. Some months back I heard about Facebook developing SMS/USSD based experience for Feature phones, I am sure that would attract a lot of users from the developing world.
One thing missing from the above is non-cellular connections which will make bulk of connectivity. Wi-Fi for example is a major connectivity medium for tablets. In fact 90% of the tablets have only WiFi connectivity. Bluetooth is another popular method of connectivity. While its mostly used in conjunction with phones, it is going to be a popular way of connecting devices in the Personal Area Network's (PAN's). So its no surprise that we will see 50 Billion connected devices but maybe not by 2020. My guess would be around 2022-23.