Telecom, Networks & Smart Devices: Creating smart and connected future towards thriving global villages

Network boundaries continue to blur as employees and their many devices connect from home, work or their favorite coffee shop to cloud-based, data-intensive applications that have become essential to conducting business and research. While the consumers’ need for speed and connectivity is increasingly on the rise, the ‘network operator’ has an imperative to transform to ‘enabler of connectivity’.

The number of devices connected to the internet reached 22 billion worldwide at the end of 2018 and is predicted to grow to 38.6 billion by 2025.*

Global Connected and IoT Device Forecast Update, Report Strategy Analytics
Because networks operate behind the scenes in our homes and businesses, we usually don’t think about them unless something goes wrong. Yet, enhanced connectedness is a thriving global phenomenon which could be attributed to a surge in the growth of IOT, telecom, mobile phone and network technologies across the world.

While 2/3 of companies are currently utilizing IoT global business spending on the Internet of Things is predicted to reach $1.29 trillion in 2020.

*Worldwide Semiannual Internet of Things Spending Guide, IDC GET IN TOUCH
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It makes sense, then, for as computer network technologies mature, their demand is going to increase in this hyperconnected world. A world looking for new collaborations, reducing distances in terms of sharing knowledge, ideas, products and services and establishing relations is coming together, utilizing the power of we. However, despite being in a space of enormous investment and widespread adoption, there also exist some growing pains—in terms of “fragmentation frustration,” potential data breaches, and a galore of new security issues for the telecommunications and networks industry.

How future organizations adapt in this ecosystem and change to leverage the best of the technologies, will determine our future of a connected, learning and global world.

Challenges as impediments: To a gateway towards a connected future

The telecom and networks industry will become more stable and self-sufficient while incorporating technology into every facet of its inner-workings. While issues in its quest to become smarter in the upcoming years would be:

1. Ensuring personalization and need to stay connected all the time

With a growing underlying need of people to stay connected at all times, whether via a home network, at the workplace, via public Wi-Fi hotspots or smartphones, organizations would need to re-strategize products and services in a way which garner this need of connectivity and personalized offerings. As we say, the number of connected devices will be many times higher than the world population.

 

2. Catering the need for coverage everywhere

White spots, i.e. areas without network coverage, will be provided with first-time and new network infrastructures. An increase in networking means that the reliable transfer of data even to very remote areas, for example via satellite, will become ever more important. The difficulty faced by service providers (including Google) lies in expanding residential fiber optic cable internet service, due to installation costs(also 5g) and increased competition from other broadband providers.

 

3. Addressing greater security concerns

Digitization creates new opportunities for businesses but also dangers. The connection of end devices via the internet will increase the risk of cyber attacks and data theft. Data and applications will, therefore, require effective protection which is permanent and universal. The more complex the network, the more network security challenges. Hence securing all these connected devices in an environment with minimal regulation will become an incumbent goal for organizations to address urgently and effectively.

 

4. Adopting newer business models to revamp traditional business

Many new business models will be enabled as network operation itself becomes less profitable. A slew of new, upcoming and innovative digital devices as well as over-the-top (OTT) software and applications have marginalized core telecom business, causing a digital disruption.

Network operators will, therefore, have to develop new ideas for new services to stay in business. This means they will try to establish services and applications for the future consumer and market needs.

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It is predicted* that there will be nearly 20 billion devices connected to the IoT by 2020 and that IoT product and service suppliers will amount to a business of $300 billion in revenue.

*Leading the IoT, Gartner Insights
How this technology adoption when supplemented with thought through design, can help reinforce and smoothen the transition of organizations to the hyperconnected phenomenon of enhanced connectivity and data usage, will be a question worth exploring and of pertinence.
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Design, the synaptic junction: How can design supplement and aid you in an age of digital/technological disruption?

1. Enable secure usage

With vital data floating about in the cloud, the health of patients and the safety of homes is at risk and networks will have to be more secure than ever. Machine-to-machine authentication will get layered, biometric logins will become the norm and AI, machine learning and big data techniques will be used to identify and thwart data breaches. Designing each of these interfaces with stronger visual cues can allow for seamless user adoption towards compliance while enabling a robust security architecture.

 

2. Gain from user research

Poor connectivity and lax customer services seem to be prominent complaints that customers have against their chosen telecom operators. Offering these in a robust manner, with a focus on customer journeys that are most crucial to user segments among their consumer base can claim better customer loyalty and profits by mapping the customer experience across various channels and devices, which eliminates their biggest pain points.

 

3. Use visualizations and applied analytics to monetize

One of the leading telecom players, Verizon has recently come up with variable data-oriented prepaid plans to cater to the next-gen users. The huge data accessibility can solve major issues faced by the telecom industry today, like giving insight into peak usage hours, which in turn, can help the companies to address network congestion issues. Applied analytics and smarter intuitive visualizations can help to provide value-added services to clients while allowing companies to generate revenues on leveraging from continuous data insights made simple to understand.

 

4. Simplify and add value

UX design aims to add simplicity and clarity of your product and services to the users. UX applicability can streamline internal operations in the telecom sector aimed at removing redundant platforms, automated server deployment etc. Also as the customer journey radically shifts towards digital touch-points, it can add value to all telecom operators to strengthen existing digital assets such as a website, dedicated mobile apps and social media through superior and seamless experience across every interaction.

 

Futuristic Trends: Forays into better networks and smarter devices

1Growth of the Internet Of Things

Where will it grow?

IoT will continue to expand, with retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries likely to see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. But industries like healthcare and supply are not far behind, using the technology to connect with patients via wearable devices, and track products from factory to floor. The internet of medical things could be expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26.2% and reach $72 billion by 2021. In many ways, the full potential of the IoT is still being realized with smarter kitchens, lighting systems, public social applications.

*Internet of Medical things, Report Frost and Sullivan

 

Smart home devices will soar In popularity

Even those who dismissed smart home technology as unrealistic playthings for lazy youngsters are increasingly finding it hard to resist the charms of IoT powered smart home devices. These devices will become hugely popular as they become highly intuitive and innovative, extending to not just home automation comfort but also home security and the safety of your family and catering to smart energy saving. Dryers that warn you when the lint build up goes too high can prevent a fire while smart thermostats and smart lighting will help conserve energy and keep the bills down.

 

Edge computing will take prominence over cloud computing

For a long time now, IoT devices have relied on the cloud for storing their data. However, IoT developers and manufacturers are now beginning to realize the usefulness of storing, computing and analyzing the data on the edge. This means that instead of sending all the data from the IoT device to the cloud, the data is first transferred to a local device situated closer to the IoT device or on the edge of the network. This helps better manage the vast amount of data each device sends out, creating lower dependence on the cloud, allowing applications to perform faster and reduce latency.

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Skeptics claim that few IoT products will enjoy success in the mainstream market expecting that their practical uses are limited. Some fear the privacy risks that accompany IoT, as with inside access to a person's home and their health or other personal data, these devices can provide an attractive target for online attackers. Investments in edge computing and secure design cues will ensure lesser involvement of the cloud, facilitating better security practices and reducing connectivity costs.

Digital fatigue also threatens to dampen interest in IoT. With only so many hours in the day, and people already overwhelmed by the number of amount of data and interfaces they must deal with to keep their existing gear running. New IoT devices interfaces, hence, need to be designed(user-centered design) in a way to help them face an uphill battle for time and attention.

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2Towards newer Business Models and Smarter marketing

A newer marketing strategy

Again—perhaps a little obvious. But the coming years will be ripe with bells and whistles as customers are alerted to incentives, bargains and other news regarding their homes and offices. An increasing number of companies will begin to use the IoT for these more personalized marketing efforts. They’ll also get closer to finding the “how much is too much” balance when it comes to marketing.

 

Integration with content

It has been said more than once, that one or more communication service providers(CSP) will be acquired by content providers by 2020. It is 2018 and it is starting to seem like the CSPs are the ones doing the acquiring. AT&T bought DirecTV in 2014, Verizon has absorbed both AOL and Yahoo!, Comcast bought NBC, and Time Warner bought a 10% stake in one-time arch enemy of the cable company, Hulu. With the Amazons, Netflixes and Rokus and of the world snatching up more and more cable customers by the day, it only makes sense that CSPs get into the content game themselves. The strategy of most CSPs seems to be owning the content, so however it is consumed, they still derive revenue from it (and user data).

 

Recommendations and productization

Focusing on the massive amount of user data that communication providers or telecom players have, it can be leveraged to build smarter visualizations to build user relevant products and services. Verizon is one of the companies is also utilizing the same to leverage an ad network that can be built from it.

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Looking beyond IoT, many telecom carriers are looking to potentially enter the media space through M&A deals, partnerships, alliances, and the like. Mobile content and video are some of the most significant consumer use cases for 5G, so expansion into the content arena is only natural for carriers seeking growth. There exists an excellent opportunity for organizations to also harness the power of the IoT to connect with customers, grow their brands, and improve the customer journey in deeply personal ways. Providing stronger visualizations and relevant recommendations will also enable users to make sense of their data usage and use those insights to harness greater value.

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3Changes making way into the Telecom sector

Improvements in 5g to mobile (cellular) network infrastructure

Both deployments of 4G and also enhancements to older 3G networks have enabled people in developed areas who can afford it, to use their smartphones as mobile televisions and video broadcasting systems. The good news about 5G investments (along with SDN/NFV and other network upgrades) is that they will help minimize service delivery costs and improve time-to-market, intended to boost speeds dramatically.

 

Growth of fiber optic technology

Carriers have a heavy investment demand related to the core fiber network. While most attention on 5G relates to wireless coverage and the potential use cases that 5G will bring, the success of next-generation mobile networks will rely on substantial investment in the core fiber backhaul network to support anticipated growth in data services.

 

Hybrid workforce

Helping clinicians with diagnosis, oncology or deciding precision medicine, an evolving relationship gets established between humans and AI. The rise of medical robotics, drones and autonomous vehicles, is driving the way towards automation and complementing the effort of humans. Drones already delivering medicine, blood and even organs to inaccessible remote areas are opening access of prompt medical around the world.

 

Updation of legacy systems and frameworks

Carriers have the ever-present obligation to continue to update legacy IT systems, particularly as they expand into newer areas. These legacy IT systems are primal but costly assets for any telecommunications provider and are the focus of far-reaching digital transformation efforts designed to improve customer service, streamline processes, consolidate ERP/financial systems, and so on. Newer, more transformative technologies on the horizon for telecoms also include robotics, automation, and blockchain.

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Even while 4G LTE mobile networks don't reach many parts of the world (and won't for years), the telecommunications industry has been hard at work developing the next-generation “5G” cellular communication technology. Some vendors will undoubtedly start to retrofit this tech into their 4G installations as 4.5G or 5G products, hence companies should not be shy about advertising their 5G efforts. Efforts and investments to present users a story of their future, customized data plans envisioned into the futuristic discourse of telecommunications technology and digitization of legacy IT architecture could go a long way in claiming solid ground in the age of digital disruption.

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4Data cognizance unleashing Intelligent devices and Networks

Companies will be pushed to the edge with data

Due to the huge influx of data being created through the IoT, it makes sense that companies find a better, closer, and cheaper way to process it. That’s why edge networking will be less of a trend and more of a necessity, as companies seek to cut costs and reduce network usage. Today companies like Cisco, Dell and HPE are leading the migration of computing infrastructure to the edge. Legacy industrial IoT firms like GE and ABB are also continuing to develop hardened infrastructure to handle challenging environments that are less ideal for hosting compute than traditional data centers.

 

Advanced analytics and machines to help manage data

AI will also become a necessity, as the amount of data created by the IoT will simply be too large for humans to manage. These more advanced technologies will need to find their way to support the rapidly growing IoT space soon, however, in the meantime, we will see a strong growth in analytics software and tools to provide real-time data streaming for IoT devices. Analytics companies like Software Advice, SAS, SAP, and Teradata are a few of the players making noise in this arena apart from new entrants in the IoT analytics, machine learning and AI space.

 

Robust security applications to ensure growth

Out of all smart homes worldwide, 40.8% have at least one vulnerable connected device which puts the entire smart home at risk*.Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report identified weak passwords as the main reason behind IoT malware. Most IoT device manufacturers ship the device with a default password and don’t give the customers an option to change the password. This fuels the highest number of DDoS and other attacks. The future requires both manufacturers as well as consumers to be more aware about their IoT security.

*Avast Smart Home Security Report 2019, Avast

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People tend to underestimate the capabilities of AI today, as the most advanced systems tend to be isolated from the internet and not integrated with the rest of our tech or with each other. With the much faster wireless connections speeds available today, now it is possible to add sensors and network interfaces to AI systems that will enable impressive new applications allowing AI to connect with the outer world. However, with an increase in data volume used in mobile networks, more and more high-definition videos being consumed, new use cases, as well as Big Data and IoT applications that cause massive machine-type communication, have to be made possible.

This necessitates organizations to make sense of this data deluge using sophisticated tools to manage and extract the most valuable insights. Also as of now, not all IoT devices come equipped with the kind of security features laptops and PCs are equipped with. This creates an earnest opportunity for telecommunications ecosystem players to help educate consumers on the benefits of secure network solutions.

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Think Design’s approach and recommendations to deliver ‘smart’ user and customer experiences

1. Segment right

Segmenting users right goes a long way in making our technological initiatives relevant to their users… if we do not get our segments right, chances are that we create many features and functions that potentially frustrate our users. We recommend segmentation using weightage of Qualitative & Quantitative scores. By addressing the two, we open the floodgates for possibilities.

 

2. Design for smart journeys

We are no longer living in a world where users are kicked about any technology. We are living in the world of smart technologies that are anticipatory in nature. In order to create those, mapping user and customer journeys is a good starting point. Those journeys get smarter as we understand users’ usage patterns through data and user research; and include those learnings in incremental outcomes.

 

3. Detail interactions

Without detailing interaction design enough, we could end up providing unresponsive interfaces that will leave our users cold. If we want to create user and service experiences through app interfaces, we better be responsive and interactive. And that would mean ensuring impeccable technological implementations as well as detailing design components that complement.

 

4. Focus on affordances

Continuing the discussion around perceived seriousness in transactional interfaces, affordances is a thing where many of us could go wrong. Affordances define the right size of call to actions, logical spacings, comfortable margins, readable typefaces and hierarchical visual layout. By focusing on these elements, we will be making ourselves credible, trustworthy and usable. Isn’t it exactly what the doctor ordered?

 

5. Always test

Many of us shy away from testing due to the logistics involved… it’s actually not that complicated when we are clear about the methodologies and test cases. We are not talking about formalized methods of user recruitment, focus groups or closed location tests. While all these are also needed, online or one-to-one tests are highly recommended through the process of creation. Whether it is through low fidelity wireframes or visual walkthroughs or interactive prototypes, we align tools and techniques to what our context demands. What is central is the commitment to test before we commit design to our developers!

 

Impactful partnerships across Industry

Over the last decade, Think Design has been at the helm of redefining Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX) across Consumer, Enterprise and B2B landscape. Leading Network operators, Smart solution providers and Industry bodies have trusted Think Design for advancing their initiatives . Drop in a word or call us; and we will be happy to demonstrate why.

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Leadership across Industries

News media & Entertainment

News portals and apps, Media & Entertainment portals and apps, OTT, Mobile TV, Music, Streaming.

Enterprise & IT

ERP, Utilities, HRMS, Planning tools, Data & Analytics, LMS, Enterprise systems, Productivity suites.

Healthcare & Lifesciences

Medical devices, Hospital management systems, Pharma, Wearable tech, Personal healthcare, Fitness, Wellness.

Networks & Smart devices

Telecom, Home automation, Data networks, M2M, IoT, Utilities, Law enforcement, Defense & Border security.

Education & Edtech

Institutions, Portals, Apps, Learning management, Gamified learning, MOOCs, Universities, Learning centers.

Banking & Financial Services

Fintechs, Banks, Insurance, Payments, Wallets, Lending, Trading, Investment, Blockchain, Currencies, Wealth management.

Services & Expertise

Over the last decade, Think Design has been at the helm of redefining Customer Experience and User Experience across Consumer, Enterprise and B2B landscape. Leading Network operators, Smart solution providers and Industry bodies have trusted Think Design for advancing their initiatives . Drop in a word or call us; and we will be happy to demonstrate why.

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