Smart Is in for 2012
A lot of the trends are exactly what you'd expect -- more cloud, M2M, video and personalization on the business side; more social networking, video and user-generated content on the consumer side.
But there are two trends that are strong on both lists that I think warrant notice for very different reasons.
Both the consumer and business lists note the line is blurring between what is work and what isn't, as more consumers use their smartphones for both work and personal tasks.
It's the trend that led Verizon, among others, to devise ways to let enterprises piggyback their apps onto their employee-owned devices while protecting the business data should the employee leave or lose their phone. (See Verizon to Launch Enterprise App Stores and AT&T App Enables Work/Play Divide.)
This trend has been happening for some time, but smartphones are exacerbating the situation. That doesn't mean we have to like it, and I'm not sure I do. The fact that we can work everywhere at any time doesn't mean we should. But it's hard to blame service providers for making it easier, especially if they can sell it to enterprises as a feature.
More positively, the other trend making both lists is smarter networks, and this is where service providers should be concentrating their efforts. Every other network trend -- personalization, M2M, more video, that home/work combo -- depends on making networks smarter.
Network intelligence will also enable service providers to monetize broadband wireless more effectively by creating service tiers and packages that are more user-friendly and less onerous. Defining that network intelligence is not an easy task because it doesn't involve just one thing -- it's not just policy management and DPI, for instance.
I asked Roberta Mackintosh, Verizon's director of product marketing for solutions and professional services, how Verizon is defining "High IQ Networks" and her answer boiled down to tighter connections between networks and smart devices, network services and the cloud (i.e. data centers and data); and better signaling within the network itself, as well as smarter billing.
Basically that means flooding the network with intelligence but tying together the smart bits and pieces into a manageable piece. Your perspective on control of that piece will likely depend on where you are within the network infrastructure.
That's why two separate research projects can produce similar ideas about how policy is going to be deployed going forward, but reach very different conclusions. (See Pure-Play Policy's Future Is Fading and Policy Is Still Strategic, But Changing.)
And it's why other recent surveys tie smart services to higher profits. (See Smarter Services Pack Revenue Punch.)
So I'm boiling down my list of what's hot -- and good for you -- in 2012 to that one thing, a most uncontroversial choice: Networks and services have to get smarter.
— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading