If you keep up to date with the latest innovations in communications technology, ITEXPO has always been one of the places to learn, meet key vendors, and network. With a regular winter event in southern Florida every year, it’s hard to say “no” to attending. This year did not disappoint, especially with the addition of a co-located Internet of Things (IoT) event and even more to see and experience during your trip to Florida. A few key observations:
IoT and Real-Time Communications
The real star of the event was seeing combinations of IoT and Real-time Communications applications working together. Video cameras and video communications were everywhere. From front door entry systems, mobile transportation, to video-enabled kiosks, the blending of video at remote locations and communications applications was the hot ticket of the event. It’s not just a technology solution, users are becoming more accustomed to video interactions between personal contacts and contact center applications. It also seemed there were plenty of IoT and M2M connectivity solutions, bringing Internet access to remote and mobile locations. Device and network management were popular solutions too. That said, we still have a long way to go with video adoption and IoT, but the pieces and parts are there. Let the innovation begin!
WebRTC Applications Panel
Interesting new applications leveraging WebRTC was explored by a panel titled “Expanding WebRTC Capabilities Beyond the Typical Use Cases”, moderated by Bernard Aboba from Microsoft, joined by Lantre Barr from Blacc Spot Media, Alex Goloshubin from Bit6, Chip Wilcox from Temasys and Communications and myself. During the discussion we kicked around some of our favorite new applications - many that utilized video experiences in education, public safety, health care, and financial services. Remote control robots, health care kiosks, and augmented reality (AR) applications were most intriguing to me. A point of agreement is that for developers working on new video-based applications, WebRTC is the go-to technology that facilitates multi-party video experiences between mobile and non-mobile users. I plan to catch each of the panelists and hope to have them join me on my podcast later this month.
Keynote Notes: Mobile Is About to Hit A Wall
A keynote delivered by Jonathan Adelstein, President and CEO, The Wireless Infrastructure Association warned that individuals, in-car connectivity and IoT have pushed the limits of the wireless deployment models. New approaches to squeeze more out of the allocated spectrum, tower sites, antenna arrays, and indoor installations have required wireless technologist to “turn their efforts up to 11” (a reference to a famous line in the movie This is Spinal Tap). My take from the discussion is that while the much anticipated deployment of 5G will alleviate some of the wireless congestion, the wave of new IoT devices and connected cars will saturate the existing infrastructure and airwaves are about to get very crowded. This may hamper some of the practical applications for near-term IoT and mobile communications, limiting the reliability and bandwidth available to truly mobile use cases that today will depend on 4G networks. I suspect this session was a call to hasten the deployment of 5G and reduce some of the regulatory oversight of antenna placements. No arguments here.
The Impact of Net Neutrality
One of many points of debate taken up during a panel discussion led by Rich Tehrani with Curtis Peterson, SVP of Cloud Operations at RingCentral, Matt McGinnis, VP, Product Marketing, 8x8 and Mark C. Straton, VP, Product Marketing & Media Relations, Broadsoft, questioning whether buyers of business communications applications should look to their incumbent service provider for business applications. As you can imagine, a significant difference of opinion emerged from the members of the panel, with Mark pointing out that the incumbent service providers offer a channel for applications, delivering “one stop shopping” for businesses looking for connectivity and services like Unified Communications and Collaboration. As pure cloud providers, both Matt and Curtis pointed out that applications services “over the top” gives the greatest latitude and flexibility to deploy anywhere and on any network.
However, much of this thinking depends on the standing Net Neutrality rules. As the panel noted, this is about to change based on promises made by the Trump Administration and his selection of Mark Jamison and Jeffrey Eisenach to his FCC transition team. It’s easy to envision that the incumbent carrier could limit the bandwidth available to over-the-top applications, extracting extra fees for these services, essentially cutting off their air supply. I’d suggest that buyers give the issue some consideration when making long-term commitments.
The Future of Messaging
A final treat for me was crossing paths with my good friend and industry promoter Jeff Pulver. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, Jeff is working on an initiative to re-define messaging applications through a series of events titled “Monage” (short for Messaging On the Net Age). He envisions a shift to primarily chat messaging and heavy use of “chat bots” to deal with the mundane tasks of everyday life. Envision that life will be a application-enhanced world with bots telling you what you need to know, when you need to know the information. Imagine walking toward the door to leave your house and a bot reminds you with a voice message “rain is in the near-term forecast, better wear a rain coat”. Jeff’s next Monage conference is March 21-23rd in San Jose.