Devices will roam seamlessly between different network technologies, and those technologies will be deployed by a surprising diversity of network operators. Moreover, devices will begin to use multiple networks simultaneously, shifting data traffic seamlessly as network connectivity changes due to capacity, resource connectivity, and mobility.
In parallel, a new generation of wireless networks will begin to adapt to user demand by shifting capacity to where it is needed. The new status quo for wireless connectivity, which will begin to emerge in 2017, will be a nearly-invisible unification of different wireless networks behind the scenes of an always-on, high-capacity wireless user experience.
As more and more things are connected to the network, a new normal will begin to emerge for networked cars. Opportunities to improve vehicle maintenance and driver convenience are already being explored by car makers, but the real opportunities are only just beginning to become apparent.
In the coming year, users will begin to realise the promise of being able to connect their cars and homes, to share telemetry and driving conditions with nearby vehicles, and integrate more fully with the driver's IT experience - safely integrating personal calendars, messaging apps and more into the driving experience.
Normalisation of Things
In 2016 the "Internet of Things" (IoT) achieved significant mindshare, with many people now aware of the promise of a connected home. Thanks to a productive blend of start-ups and well established vendors, our homes can be monitored, climate controlled, and secured with network-connected things. Our smart TVs can now collaborate with our lighting. Our smartphones can tell our home to wake us up and start brewing coffee so we don't miss that important online meeting, scheduled for the convenience of an earlier time-zone.
But unfortunately, some of the early adopters in 2016 also learned a painful lesson about the need for standardisation and open platforms. As some vendors with proprietary cloud-based platforms went out of business or changed business models, users were left stranded. In 2017 we should expect the IoT market to begin to develop standards that make their platforms more secure, as well as more open and sustainable. In addition to easing consumers' minds, these standards will enable an IoT ecosystem that increasingly appeals to enterprises, allows service providers to create innovative services, and enables advanced use cases that we can only imagine today.
The Blurring of Endpoints, Networks, and Clouds
As the network becomes more flexible and software-defined, with a greater variety of endpoints (e.g., "things") attached, cloud computing architectures will evolve beyond anything we've seen in 2016.
Applications on mobile devices will continue to collaborate with centralised cloud-based services, of course. But nascent technologies like mobile edge computing (MEC) will open up a world of new possibilities, such as low-powered devices taking advantage of local compute resources in the network to preserve battery, or mobile devices being pursued by self-migrating instances of low-latency network services. In 2017 we will begin to see the foundations of this hyper-distributed architecture emerge, with massive implications for the future of both network and application architectures.
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