2017 was an interesting year in the mobile communications space, to say the least - both for Carnegie Technologies itself and for the industry as a whole.  At Carnegie, we experienced an exciting growth year, with the openining of a new Austin headquarters, lots of hiring and the acquistion of the advanced SmartSwitch technology from Chemring.  As an industry, among other things, we saw unlimited data plans return to the marketpace and the FCC vote to eliminate net nautrality.  2018 is sure to be another wild ride, and here are a few of our industry predictions to start the year off with a bang:

5G moves into full deployment for fixed applications while mobility 5G trials begin.

Fixed access 5G service completed trials in 2017 and began roll out of the service selectively. 2018 will see a nationwide rollout of the service by AT&T and Verizon. This will be a critical component in competing against the cable companies’ data offerings where the quality and throughput of their old DSL infrastructure just does not meet consumer expectations.

2018 will also see the large-scale trials of 5G mobile services across the world.  The Seoul Olympics will be a showcase of Samsung’s 5G technology. Much like LTE, high-end handsets will be the first to include the technology. There will be the usual confusion amongst consumers of some operators marketing LTE+ as 5G.  And while this year sets the groundwork, 2019 will be the year that the consumer will actually be able to buy and use the technology.

Looking longer term, the next 4-5 years will see all consumer connections to the home evolve to a wireless link as the new wireless technology exceeds capacity of the old DSL and cable modem infrastructure.  With that will come one wireless company and one bill for the consumer. This is why the cable companies and the cellular carriers are increasingly entering each other’s marketplaces. The battle for your single broadband provider is full ON.

The real success in augmented reality is Voice.

Virtual reality (VR) was all the rage two years ago. It seemed like everyone would use it, and it would be the next breakout technology. While it has grown, cost and quality have limited its market and appeal. The VR market will continue to evolve as technology improvements and cost reductions take place over the next few years. This will take the technology primarily from a toy for high-end gamers to a device everyone will enjoy. Along the way, improvements in content quality will also help mainstream adoption.

VR all started with Google glasses. Then Pokemon GO introduced most of us to an accessible version of Augmented Reality (AR) in late 2016 and early 2017.  After the initial mania, its luster faded in the market.  Then Microsoft unveiled its HoloLens augmented reality glasses earlier this year. With costs easily 2x that of VR and having a lack of content and developers, it seems to be just a concept at this point.   It’s still unclear if HoloLens will break out or fade away all together.

The big surprise in the area of augmented reality (and we are defining augmented reality as computer/network interaction gesture, voice, and/or visual overlay) is voice. Leave it to Amazon to add cloud-based voice recognition integrated into a Wi-Fi speaker (Alexa) to open a whole new marketing angle to AR technology. It did not take long for Google to jump into the competition ring with Google Voice and Microsoft to pivot the remarketing on their PC-based Cortana voice system to try and catch up.

It’s an obvious prediction, but very soon we will be talking to the objects we interact with, from our refrigerator to our car. The technology is compelling, the cost is low, and innovation just keeps making it better - that is why people are buying.

Is our use of social media killing us?

Unfortunately, we will all be reading and debating about the ills of social media this year.  We will be spending even more time than that coming to grips with it.   Science and research are showing that, in general, the use of social media is making the majority of people unhappy.  Not only are we less happy, but the time we waste on social media makes us less productive as well. 

The negative effects on impressionable children and teens are even more impactful than on adults. Sadly, hardly a week goes by without news of another youth suicide due to cyber bullying on social media.  To make matters even worse, recent reports have shown that Facebook and other social media had data on these negative effects early on but plowed ahead anyway with no warning. Of course, every one of us who tweeted, posted, or snapped exacerbated the problem.

Social media is not going to go away. But my prediction is there will be a great deal of pressure on the creation and enforcement of cyber manner and decorum.

IoT  continues to progress...but with as many failures as successes.

We can all agree that as we speak, nearly every device that is electrically controlled or can be connected to a sensor is or will be addressed with both connectivity and analytics to improve efficiency, operations and/or convenience. 
All of this networking and sensing fall under the broad moniker of IoT.

We are still early in this massive movement to the connectivity of everything. Like any young industry, there are too many technologies and too many applications and solutions.  There is going to be a shake out with winners and losers both in technology and in implementation. Recent business surveys have shown that the IoT world is strewn with failure, much of which is driven by either a poor match of technology to the problem, poor end-to-end implementation, or unsustainable business models.

For 2018, we will see at least one unlicensed band IoT wireless technology exit the market (i.e. fail). We will see a number of unlicensed band network operators fail for lack of end-to-end solutions and associated customers. Finally, 3GPP NBIoT cellular will gradually dominate any type of sensor in motion or of high value, while unlicensed band IOT connectivity will dominate the low end and static markets.

Bitcoin and Tulips

Not a day goes by that we don’t hear more hype about Bitcoin, Ethereum, or other block chain-based crypto currencies.  While block chain is highly secure, it achieves this security by being extremely inefficient in resource and extremely slow in transaction rates. Transaction confirmations as long as 60 hours have been recorded, and typical confirmations take about 40 minutes. Compare this to poor backing systems that typically run using symmetric key cryptography and can clear millions of transaction per second, and you can see the limitations.

If you are dealing in something illicit or are trying to shield your wealth from confiscation, crypto currency offers the perfect solution to conduct your business and store your wealth.  But for 99.999% of the population and its transactions, it just does not make sense for general use.

My prediction for 2018 is that a number of governments are going to step in to regulate crypto currencies, and the hype-based speculation will also subside.  Read up on the Dutch Tulip crisis of 1637, and you will see history has a bad habit of repeating itself.

War clouds over the Big Four (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) - with governments increasingly concerned about their reach and dominance. 

It’s a running joke in Silicon Valley, Austin, Boston or any other tech center that if you have a mildly successful startup in the retail consumer space, one of the “Big Four” (Google, Apple, Facebook, or Amazon) will either buy you or quickly copy your business model or product and put you out of business.

This is an exaggeration, of course.  However, in Europe and the United States cries of monopoly and anti-competitive practices are starting to be raised. In 2018, you can expect some sort of action to begin to play out to regulate what is quickly becoming (or at least appears to be) a monopoly.

The Big Four should not feel too bad, as it’s the price of success.  Walmart, Microsoft, and Intel have all experienced some level of anticompetitive legal or legislative action. It’s really a sign that the Internet has just reached middle age.

 What are humans to do?

Just because we can do something, should we?  It’s an important question. It will be more important as our ever-accelerating technology revolution “takes the man out of the loop.”

As an example, take the impact of the self-driving car or truck. There are 3.5 Million teamsters in the United States making an average of ~$80k a year and roughly 250,000 taxi cab drivers making ~$25K a year. They will all be gone in 20 years … what will they do to earn a living?  Banking, stock brokering, even the legal profession will also come under assault.

To morally insulate themselves from the damage their efforts are inflicting on their fellow man, the titans of Silicon Valley are calling on the government to provide a universal wage. This really means Welfare for everyone.   It is said that “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”  So as a country we need to make sure we create meaningful work for those that are displaced.  The history of just handing out money for nothing is, at best, a dead end and, at worst, the creation of a permanent lower class.

2017 was a good and interesting year.  2018 should be better, and we can’t wait to see what it brings to all of us!  Here’s to a happy and successful New Year!