5 Computer Networking Trends for 2020 and Beyond

All those acronyms are becoming part of your daily life

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Computer network technology continues to develop in new and interesting ways. Here are five of the most important areas and trends to watch in the year ahead.

01
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IoT Gadgets Will Become Commonplace

Internet of Things

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In 2020, an array of internet-connected products will compete for your attention. The Internet of Things (IoT) is another name for these "wired" items and some categories will be especially interesting to watch:

  • Wearables. You're likely to see operational improvements, including processing speed and battery life. Watches will continue to focus on health and fitness tracking. And, could this be the year that Google comes out with a Pixel wearable?
  • Smart kitchens. Keep an eye out for things like temperature-controlled smart mugs, microwaves you can command with your voice, blenders that know the exact amount of ingredients to add, and improved food recognition in your connected fridge.
  • Smarter light bulbs. Be on the lookout for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled lighting systems and expect additional improvements in bulb quality, programming options, and ease of integration.
  • Public applications. Besides equipment in our homes, IoT functionality will show up more in stores, restaurants, and municipal locations.

Along with these innovations, expect accompanying security concerns. Many fear the privacy risks that accompany IoT devices, given their access to users' homes, activities, and personal data.

02
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We'll See Even More Hype Over 5G

Mobile World Congress 2016
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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.

5G is set to boost the speeds of mobile connections dramatically. But, exactly how fast consumers should expect these connections to go and when they can buy 5G devices might not be known until industry technical standards are set.  

However, just like when 4G was initially being developed, companies aren’t waiting to advertise their 5G efforts. Researchers will continue to test prototype versions of what might become part of standard 5G networks. While reports from these tests will tout maximum data rates of many gigabits per second (Gbps), consumers should be just as interested in the promise of improved signal coverage with 5G.

Some vendors will undoubtedly start to retrofit this tech into their 4G installations, so look for “4.5G” and “pre-5G” products (and the confusing marketing claims that go along with these vaguely defined labels) to appear on the scene soon.

03
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IPv6 Rollout Will Continue to Accelerate

Google IPv6 Adoption (2019)

 Google 

Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) will one day replace the traditional Internet Protocol addressing system we are familiar with, IPv4. The Google IPv6 Adoption page illustrates roughly how quickly the deployment of IPv6 is progressing. As shown, the pace of IPv6 rollout has continued to accelerate since 2013 but will require many more years to reach a full replacement of IPv4. In 2020, expect to see IPv6 mentioned in the news more often, especially pertaining to business computer networks.

IPv6 benefits everyone either directly or indirectly. With an expanded number of available IP address space to accommodate an almost unlimited number of devices, internet providers will find it easier to manage subscriber accounts. IPv6 adds other improvements as well that boost the efficiency and security of TCP/IP traffic management on the internet. Those who administer home networks must learn a new style of IP address notation.

04
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AI Will Continue to Expand

Robot Lab Showroom - Paris, 2016
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The ability of computer systems like Deep Blue to play chess at world champion levels helped legitimize artificial intelligence (AI) decades ago. Since then, both computer processing speed and the ability to exploit it have advanced tremendously.

One key barrier to more general-purpose artificial intelligence has been limitations on the ability of AI systems to communicate and interact with the outside world. With the much faster wireless speeds available today, it's possible to add sensors and network interfaces to AI systems that will enable impressive new applications.

Watch for applications in the healthcare and manufacturing industries. Also, look for new ways to establish AI trustworthiness and security.

05
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SD-WAN Will Become the Norm

SD WAN

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A software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) is networking technology that offers greater flexibility for companies than previous WAN systems. While a traditional WAN enables businesses with multiple locations to give employees access to data, files, and applications at the home office via multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), SD-WAN takes that process a step further, using Long Term Evolution (LTE) and broadband internet services to provide access. SD-WAN adds cloud-based applications to the mix, allowing employees to remotely gain entry to enterprise-wide programs like Salesforce, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Office 365.

The technology is still relatively new, so customers and providers have been experimenting to understand how best to use this innovation to increase productivity, enhance business agility, and improve security. But, now that it's been available for a couple of years, SD-WAN will likely become the new norm.