We’ve finally caught our breath after the annual CES® in Las Vegas last week (and this weekend) and we’re more convinced than ever the future will be lit by fiber. Early in the show was a fiber-focused panel featuring a group of our members sharing their thoughts on connectivity and on how fiber empowers this future of innovation.
But we also spent some time on the show floor and here are our thoughts on the emerging tech trends that will dominate 2017 and how fiber will be crucial to their performance and widespread consumer adoption.
The cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT)
The biggest overall trend we saw this year? The sheer number of things expected to connect to networks. Companies like Under Armor, Lowe’s and even Carnival Cruise Lines were in the technology playground, showing off the items they expect to connect in the months to come. As the technologies that connect to the internet become smaller and require less power, we expect next year will also bring more devices in buildings, more smart sensors throughout our cities, and even more IoT devices in rural areas addressing concerns such as precision agriculture.These devices are expected to produce small amounts of data — at a massive scale. Gartner estimates that the average family home will have more than 500 smart devices by 2022, and Ericsson believes that there will be 50 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020 — that’s ten devices for every person online. We will need fiber deep within and throughout our networks to ensure these devices work they way they are intended and that they stay reliably connected.
If you ask many people, the real winners of this year’s CES were the wide range of “personal assistants” and other artificial intelligence “chatbots” like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Home. In 2017, we’re told to expect even bigger changes in software that can learn on its own — and where we’ll find AI. Fiber networks will be crucial to handling the coming data deluge: according to IDC, annual data generation is expected to reach 44 zettabytes by 2020.
Consumer Technology Association’s Julie Kearney, VP for Regulatory Affairs, called 2017 CES 5G’s “coming out party.” And indeed, several keynotes, panels and displays focused on this ultra-fast, cutting-edge wireless technology. While fiber is not usually people’s first thought when thinking about wireless, it should be. The performance goals touted for 5G networks — high capacity, low latency, extremely reliable — are dependent on having lots of fiber, in lots of places.Here’s to a big year!