With the Internet of Things now upon us, it has the potential to dramatically change our lives at a dizzying pace.
Gartner believes that the IoT market will grow from 0.9 billion units today to 26 billion units by 2020, an almost 30-fold increase resulting in a nearly $1.9 trillion global market value.
Beyond the “things” themselves — everything from wearable technology to fully connected homes and vehicles the heart of the IoT lies in the data connections and communications services that deliver information and content on-demand.
Today, it is common for consumers to watch TV while simultaneously using smartphones, tablets and computers to download media and stream content. The general growth and technological advancements in the device market have fostered a competitive environment that provides consumers with more options than ever before.
As a result, consumers are expected to be nudged into a lifestyle of effortless and constant interactivity. But for the IoT to truly reach its promise and for fully connected homes to become a reality, an investment in infrastructure development will be crucial.
Legacy networks have only a fixed amount of capacity and current infrastructure, whether fiber or copper, has fundamental limitations.
Fiber Takes Flight
As access to content has grown, fiber has emerged as a key technological innovation to accommodate the demand for greater bandwidth.
Whereas fiber was once seen as simply a vehicle for delivering bandwidth over large distances, it is now entering its second phase and is bringing the connections, quite literally, to the consumers’ fingertips.
According to the FTTH Council, fiber to the home is available to approximately 15 percent of homes, and more than 9 million households across North America are connected directly into these high-speed, high-bandwidth networks.
Fiber’s bandwidth coupled with its long reach makes it a “future-proof” medium that users can anticipate will be in place for quite some time. In many applications, fiber, on average, lasts approximately 20 to 25 years, which may make it an attractive option for network providers who are concerned about the rapid pace of innovation.
Technology is changing so quickly that many are installing an infrastructure that they know will be completely gone in just a few short years or will need significant future upgrades.
The growing prevalence of all fiber connections and the expected continued growth make it an ideal solution to fulfill today’s data demands while keeping in mind tomorrow’s technological innovation.
Making it Happen
The challenge, however, is that the closer the connection gets to the end-user, the less expensive it has to be.
For example, a connector component for a mobile phone only serves one consumer while the video distribution hub for a large Internet Service Provider may serve thousands and thus tolerate a higher cost that is divided among many users.
Additionally, as fiber moves farther into cities, municipalities and even homes themselves, environmental factors must be considered — fiber risks a greater exposure to the elements and demands a certain level of durability.
While consumers are nearing a tipping point in how they choose to access content, they don’t yet feel fully comfortable absorbing some of the costs associated with the increased speed and enhanced service that fiber technology can provide.
In recent years, network providers and other Internet giants have been setting up huge data centers around the world and shifting their focus to delivering faster and more efficient solutions for their customers.
While this move has certainly had a significant impact on both their purchasing power and technological capabilities, it does not necessarily mean they are solely driving the innovation necessary to set a fiber standard.
Rather, manufacturers have their finger on the pulse of the broader marketplace and are also well suited to anticipate overall demand and what that means from a product standpoint, keeping in mind the need for both functional and low cost solutions.
The goal must be for both parties to work in tandem to build and install the equipment that enables these valuable data connections.
It is the combined power of technically innovative manufacturers and attentive service providers that will enable delivery of efficient and robust fiber connectivity solutions for the next wave of connections and services.
As fiber connectivity becomes omnipresent and consumer demands shift, the industry should be prepared to adapt and innovate accordingly.
Just as the evolution from dial-up Internet to DSL and cable modem brought in a variety of innovations and applications, the shift to fiber has the potential to inspire new products and services that radically impact the way consumers live.
It is no longer just about connecting things to the internet. The focus now is bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before.
Technology infrastructure plays a key role in turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity on both a large scale and individual level.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)