IoT Communications Technology Trends

The Internet of Things facilitates access to more vertical applications, which forces hardware and accessory companies to innovate.
By Dave George
Jul 02, 2017

The Internet of Things has been the impetus behind most wireless innovations and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. In the communications world, new mobile applications are introduced daily to fulfill sector-specific needs, which are easily accessible via internet (Wi-Fi) or broadband networks, as well as cellular, allowing for extended reach and consistent connectivity.

Mobile app technologies are making communications and business management more affordable and efficient—Wi-Fi or hot spots versus land mobile networks, and smartphones or tablets versus radio system infrastructure, are two of the biggest reasons. Consequently, software advancements have inspired end users to search out new hardware and accessories designed to optimize these technologies. Thus, the demand for specialized mobile applications is driving device augmentation and evolution in the race to capitalize on this trend.

We've all witnessed how push-to-talk over cellular (PoC) applications have impacted wireless communications and hardware development, such as Bluetooth-equipped two-way radios, transitional gateways for hybrid systems, smartphone adoption in heretofore non-cellular based fields, iPod Touches or tablets running large facilities, field personnel or transportation fleets—and, of course, a plethora of PTT accessories that enhance convenience and audio clarity, which in turn helps companies to sell more devices.

As the mobile app trend matures, every job will have dedicated applications. However, today's hardware may not always fit the bill for every environment, so we are already seeing major manufacturers coming up with app-specific devices in some categories, and expect many more.

Software capabilities and network availability have been defining the communications industry much like it has in the computer world, just as devices and CPUs have progressively become smaller and more portable. It seems no matter the industry, end users are continually pushing to do more and more with less… and on faster networks.

Merging Devices
Doing more with less is an ongoing trend. Hardware devices that control multiple communication outlets at once, yet are smaller than ever before, will soon emerge. Pryme is already working on a ring-sized Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) button that controls everything, including PTT (App activation), phone calling, channel selection (app groups and channels) and even music programs.

Wi-Fi beacons and near-field technologies that communicate with smartphones or other devices at strategic access points are increasingly deployed in a variety of settings to target individualized messages. Similar sensors also exist in Bluetooth technologies, so it's not inconceivable that both government and enterprise entities will find ways to incorporate this kind of location information into communications and marketing, as well as to establish deeper customer relationships and more personalized service. Of course, this will mean more apps and new hardware to support it.

The trend toward replacing two-way radios with smartphones has been on the rise. Still, some remain reluctant to convert. Consequently, manufacturers are creating devices that look exactly like radios on the outside, but are really 4G phones on the inside. It won't be long before this transition becomes commonplace. Pryme has recently been in development on its own versions—speaker microphones with internal 4G boards and radios with a plug-in SIM cards that allow users to talk to anyone in the world. In effect, it's all just repackaging.

Staying Relevant
Lately, new software technologies are acquired as fast as they're launched. The consolidation trend will continue, as demonstrated by Motorola's recent purchase of Kodiak's PTT platform. Thus, it's extremely important for manufacturers to be nimble and react quickly to stay relevant.

Another way in which manufacturers can stay relevant is to develop joint solutions with other companies to meet end-user mandates. LMR radio and smartphone makers are already working with PTT app firms and network providers to keep up with PoC demand. Synergistic partnerships to share the load, or systems-integration alliances to compete for new business, will continue to spread among hardware companies.

Ultimately, it's end users that drive technological advancements, and it's the IoT that facilitates access to more vertical applications—which, in turn, forces hardware and accessory companies to innovate. I call this the circle of technology.

Dave George, the president and head engineer at Pryme Radio, holds more than 35 patents and has invented multiple award-winning products. Dave is considered an industry thought leader for his keen insight and years of experience in the communications and technology industry. In his spare time, he coaches a local Southern California high school robotics team.

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