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Guest Contributor: Rob Betzel, Infinity Network Solutions

For those of you who don’t know me, I confess I’m a techno nerd and lover of all things shiny and new in that world. I was an early adopter of the Palm Pilot and its wired modem that checked my email “on the go,” and I still love my TiVo as I take up more content via Netflix and Amazon. I have replaced my phone every time Apple has come out with a new one, and I always tell my wife that I had to because of work.

As we head into the back end of 2017, now is a perfect time to talk about what is coming that excites and scares me over the next twelve months. I always get myself into trouble with these kinds of lists because like the weatherman, I am only right half of the time at best, but here it goes. These are the five things that excite and scare me in technology right now.

IoT (Internet of Things)

For me, this is #1 with a bullet, as the old radio countdown shows would say. IoT, or Internet of Things, isn’t new as much as it is the inevitable progress that we all should have seen coming as chips got smaller and network speeds got faster. As a quick primer, IoT is what people label devices that historically weren’t connected to the Internet but now are – think Ring doorbells, LG’s Connect refrigerator, and Amazon Dot with Alexa. These devices do those things we have always said would be nice if it was just easy to do.

From being able to ask in natural language what the weather is like today before you get out of bed to finding out if you have eggs at home while you are shopping at the store, it is these devices and the data they gather that are going to create a fully connected world where you will always be plugged in and aware of what is going on.

For me, the biggest improvements are around security and access control. I have fallen in love with my Ring doorbell products at home and now NEED smart locks, which also require me to consider a new home control system, so I have been able to justify Amazon Dots and Echos at my house. Though, I am still holding out hope that Apple can come out strong later this year with their home system. Bottom line is, you are likely to be buying IoT devices going forward and not even know it until you are on a dinner date with your wife and are checking up on the kids instead of listening to what she was saying.

New Apple “Things”

Can you believe it has been ten years since the iPhone first came out? Since Apple just had their annual product launch update, I am not speculating as much as I am reviewing here. Many have been talking about the new iPhone’s features and versions.  While the reveal did produce 3 new iPhones, and they are improvements over the current ones, I am not sure they were more than the normal advancements we have seen from Apple.

To get the really “new” features, you are going to spend at or above $1,000 on the iPhone X. And how much better is unlocking your phone with your face over your fingerprint anyway? Now if you are a video or camera person, then you might be more impressed with the iPhone 8, 8+, and X. For me, the best part will be upgrading to wireless charging. I can’t tell you how many times I just set my phone down on my desk or in my car and forget to plug in the charger.  At least now I just need to be sure to put it down in the right place.

The item the announcement lead with was probably what I am most excited about. The Apple Watch Series 3 now has cellular capability built in. With this you can now make and receive calls without your phone being nearby and can stream music and other data too. While I am sure the battery will not allow for many calls or all day streaming. I can see how this new direction will lead people to build better apps that will do more in real time and probably provide some pretty cool life safety features. With the improved heart rate sensor, you will be able to track AFIB and other heart beat irregularities in the background and in real time. I can see doctors and other medical services really benefitting from this.

Blockchain Technology (and not just Crypto Currency)

So here is where I am probably going to lose a few of you. Blockchain is something I could probably write about as a standalone topic, but when I talk for more than a few minutes on this one most people glaze over or walk away. So here is the short of it. Blockchain is a technology that is a decentralized leger for recording transactions in a way that makes them very hard to manipulate but very easy to trust the validity of.

It came more into mainstream via Bitcoin and other crypto currencies. Imagine being able to pay someone without physical cash or the need for a bank to be the clearinghouse for the transaction. To avoid going too far into the weeds, what I think we will see is software that records transactions, say like your doctor’s EMR system or student grade systems, leveraging the technology to better secure what is added, changed, and deleted from the system and to allow those records to be trusted across systems in a way that allows you, the consumer, to be even more in control and able to trust your digital record. If you want to go down the deep rabbit hole, just Google it and have a few days to read.

5G Wireless

Yep, we are now up to 5 in the G family. We really aren’t quite there but that doesn’t stop AT&T and Verizon from telling you we are. I can also get excited because we are talking about faster wireless speeds from the carriers over the next few years. AT&T and Verizon are really rolling out 1G LTE speeds, which translates to us getting 250 Meg speeds with our phones and other cellular-connected devices.  And since it is still LTE, all of our current devices will be able to take advantage of it.

For the first time, we will likely be able to use those devices just like we are on WIFI when on the move or away from home. Whether that is for streaming videos while camping or working on spreadsheets for work, we will be able to consider doing it without a WIFI hotspot. Not sure what this will eventually mean for our coffee shops and other places we all stop to get things done during the day, but for me it at least means a slightly more secure connection. (Do you really know who’s WIFI you are connecting to when you are out?)  Some of us might even consider going fully wireless at home based on the speed you get.

The real 5G will be a while coming as it requires new antennas, and they must be closer together so therefore more towers. Even when it does start getting deployed, LTE will be the overlay system for those of us that live away from urban centers at least to start.

IoT (Internet of Things)

Yes, I am repeating a topic, and not because I forgot that I covered it already but because with all great, new things come new concerns. IoT devices work to make their setup as simple and straightforward as possible so non-tech people can set them up. But that in many cases means skipping any decisions around security or, even worse, the vendor failing to consider security at all.

Devices like IoT security cameras were hijacked as part of massive attacks over the last year because the vendor didn’t make security a core feature, and those who have time and the skills will always find a way to leverage weak security. Also, when you connect a device to an Internet, have you ever considered who gets to see the data and use it? I have thought a lot about my Tile Trackers and what they could tell someone about me if the service was compromised.

What if someone could tell when you are home via your Nest or whether your TV is worth breaking in to steal based on what it broadcasts? Take the time to explore and find the security settings for all your devices that have any kind of network connection, especially those that connect to the Internet. Then consider what you are allowing it to do and tell others. Lastly, have you heard what Amazon might do with the video from drone deliveries to your house or your Roomba vacuum’s map of your floorplan?

Every day I wake up excited to find out what smarter people than I have come up with to make my life easier, and in some cases more complicated. But either way, it is coming even if you choose to pretend it isn’t. Leverage what you find helpful and interesting but also be sure you understand it. For me, I will always stand on the bleeding edge, which at home makes my kids happy and my wife wishing for the simpler days of a “real” remote for the TV and peace and quiet instead of the constant “Alexa …” from my daughters.

What has you excited or scared about technology or business?  I always welcome people to continue the conversation with me.

Rob Betzel is Founder & CEO of Infinity Network Solutions in Macon, GA. Infinity’s team of professionals have decades of experience in delivering solutions such as unified communications, network security, and disaster recovery planning to name a few.

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