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There is no doubt that the
Internet of Things (IoT) is here. Consumer and business demand for more
connected devices and greater bandwidth is driving an explosion in the networked world. It’s not just new ‘things’ that are being connected, but existing devices that are being combined and re-combined in multiple ways.
Networks are evolving to keep pace with the growth in connected devices and, as more devices connect to each, the mounting number of device clusters sending data back to the network is creating a heavy burden. With end-user demand for mobile at an all-time high and wired communications now showing their limitations, there is a real and urgent need for new distribution and receptor technologies.
Consumers and businesses want to be connected everywhere and anywhere - at home, in the street, in their cars, on transportation and underground. We expect these connections to be fast and as networks deliver this speed, we want it faster still. Once again,
technology is struggling to meet demand.
This insatiable, end-user hunger for network availability and speed means that they are key differentiators in a
Network technologies will ultimately deliver the IoT. How do the current networks measure up? The wired internet, which works fine when you’re in a static location; Wi-Fi communications that connect us to a LAN network; and mobile networks, such as 3G and 4G, which depend entirely on coverage quality; are the most used networks. However, one of the challenges with devices, such as PCs and mobile, is that the connection to these networks tends to be on a binary mode and connected to one type of network or another.
What users want is to be able to move from different networks to ensure a seamless connection.
What we will start seeing is a demand for network bridges and switches in micro-form or a software form that will allow devices to connect to multiple networks.
Next generation networks (NGN) and
software defined networks (SDN) will evolve and deliver this multicarrier ability to send and receive packets across numerous networks and then combine them to form a whole service. This will give end-users the greater speed they need, greatly improving the digital experience.
As well as making the best of current network technologies, we will start to see the emergence of new types of connections. Today’s networks, such as broadband or mobile, rely on heavy physical infrastructure. The cable for fibre requires space, as do masts, repeaters and boosters for mobile networks. This requirement for space and construction makes these networks burdensome and clunky. This has driven a demand for new network paradigms that necessitate much lower physical footprints, such as Li-Fi and laser networks. These emerging networks offer exciting possibilities and could change industries and consumer buying power alike.
With these network capabilities, it’s safe to say that the future includes connected vehicles, connected homes and beyond.
Li-Fi, for example, could change the way we live and work. There could be a time when Li-Fi’s are used in cars by utilising the taillights as transmitters to sense the environment around it and to receive information from and to the road. There are endless possibilities and implications for safety and traffic information. Perhaps we may see a time when all light bulbs have a built-in facility to be a network receiver.
Similarly, smart grids could change the face of the utilities industry and suppliers’ ability to meet user demand. By connecting the whole electricity chain together, from power stations to homes, consumers could enjoy a more reliable and energy efficient power supply. It’s the network capabilities of a smart grid that enables better transmission and distribution of power, through the automated, bidirectional flow of information. This shows how the IoT can disrupt entire industries by delivering never-before-seen insight throughout existing processes.
Whilst industries shift, so too will consumer behaviour and expectation. The content we receive and the way we view it is very much a product of the network frameworks available. Many ecommerce sites are the same, with tiled images and text below each. As a result, consumers have ‘scroll blindness’ – a hypnotic state caused by scrolling through content that looks the same as any other. Consumers begin to struggle to differentiate between ecommerce sites because the brain goes into a trance-like state. With additional bandwidth and multi-network capability, brands can interrupt the search patterns with different types of content and media, such as audio, video and even vibration. This would mean that content would no longer be passive and bland, but more active to better engage consumers.
This active and assertive content will allow users to experience the internet in a completely different way, with brands making better use of the available senses.
The future is all about the network and the devices that connect us to these networks. It will change content, data and human behaviour. Increased network capabilities open up a new world that will benefit both business and consumers.
The demand for connected devices is there, but we won’t get there without the right networks. The 2015 budget included a number of initiatives to support networking technologies, including the IoT and 5G mobile networks. These are interesting times as a few networking technologies come to the fore of the IoT space. Applications and lesser-known protocols may well be swallowed up by a not-yet identified big IoT player.
User demand for new connections and data possibilities have put networks in the spotlight. The connected world has never looked more exciting.