What is Shaping Tomorrow’s World of Connectivity?

Comba Telecom

09 October 2017

Earlier this year, a major airline carrier made headlines due to a flight outage that grounded at least 75,000 passengers and costed the carrier a whopping US$112 million over three days[1]. The cause? A simple oversight by an IT engineer who had disconnected a power supply at a data center near London’s Heathrow airport while performing maintenance.  


Such incidents could have been easily avoided simply by leveraging technology. For instance, having a secondary system in place for the data center can help mitigate the situation and minimize the losses incurred. Some organizations even looked towards process automation so their teams can shift their focus from a reactive maintenance cycle to projects that deliver greater business value.


Technology is so ingrained in businesses that I foresee every one of them becoming a technology company tomorrow. However, no conversation today is complete without the mention of connectivity, especially in the coming age of the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), where sensors and devices are connecting and automating everything, be it cars or refrigerators.


Let us look at how the connectivity landscape will continue to evolve with new technologies and trends.


The changing role of telecom operators

Did you know that connectivity stemmed from the need for business connections? As old telegraphs evolved into chat apps, so too did the demand. Today, consumers are also expecting the convenience of being able to connect with others instantly. And with mobile being at the forefront of the connectivity chain, every organization with a consumer touchpoint is now exploring ways to integrate mobile and augment the end-user experience.


This stood out to me when I was in Washington DC and saw how property owners are assuming responsibility over connectivity of their property and the services they can deliver to tenants. This raises the question: what then is the role of today’s telecom operators? There are two ways to go about it. Firstly, they can step back as a pipeline builder, laying the necessary infrastructure and have other non-traditional players—building owners, enterprises, and municipalities—deliver the services consumers demand. The other is to move at the speed of technology, offering quadruple play and services such as cloud computing, network function virtualization, and mobile app computing.


The growing tide of IoT

While the rise of 4G has been attributed to the proliferation of mobile devices and dynamic information access, the next generation network 5G is expected to be driven largely by IoT applications[2].


IoT is exploding in popularity for obvious reasons. We have seen the immense benefits it offers, from boosting manufacturing productivity to slashing operational costs. The smart home, for instance, has helped many achieve new levels of convenience while delivering energy savings. One instance that caught my eye is one of the NASCAR teams, which implemented IoT technology within the racecar, on the track, and at the workshop—enabling the team to improve race performance and even predict when a failure will occur. I also recalled ski clothing outfitted with sensors, so skiers can analyze their form, speed, and performance, and use that knowledge to improve their technique.


This emphasizes the importance of wireless networks to support multiple IoT use cases that can greatly benefit us in the future, whether it is to deliver the low latency and high throughput connectivity for race days or reliable wide-range networks that drive the next breed of smart homes.


The rapid rise of smart cities

The impact of connectivity goes beyond just empowering individuals or businesses. On a macro level, it plays an instrumental role in the rise of smart cities, where governments adopt IoT technology to improve citizens’ quality of life in the face of urbanization. We see this trend gaining rapid traction in Asia Pacific, home to some of the world’s largest megacities.


For smart cities to be truly successful, government agencies need to work closely with the private sector to build a robust infrastructure that such cities can thrive. I experienced for myself how the segregation between private and public sectors can limit a smart city’s potential. Did you hear how Hong Kong has to remove the calendar integration from all Tesla vehicles? The calendar not only gives me a bird’s eye view of all my appointments on the in-car display, it also automatically navigates me to my destination if I peg locations to my schedule. It sources real-time traffic updates to ensure that I am always on the fastest route. I applaud Tesla’s innovative use of the calendar. I see it as the great first step towards the eventual self-driving car, where the calendar function integrates with traffic based navigation to anticipate and schedule trips more efficiently than ever before.


Let us think out of the box; imagine if both parties work together to utilize the app further into a key source for data collection. This can give the government valuable insight into where citizens are going and will go a long way to managing traffic flow during peak hours. Today, we are already seeing traditional Internet companies playing a bigger role in laying the foundations for connectivity—think of Google X’s Project Loon, and how it seeks to bring connectivity remote and rural areas through the balloon-powered Internet.


As connectivity evolves, it promises to disrupt industries and roles of traditional players and opens up massive opportunities to much more—delivering significant benefits to everyone. Telecom operators alone do not have the power to transform the connectivity landscape, and it is important for us to recognize that the responsibility of laying tomorrow’s connectivity lies in the hands of every organization today.


[1] Source: British Airways Flight Outage: Engineer Pulled Wrong Plug – Bloomberg, Jun 2017

2 Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2016-2021 White Paper – Cisco, Mar 2017

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