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What to expect from wireless tech in 2018

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In 2017, as expected, wireless technology became more ingrained in our daily activities than ever before. To show how important our smartphones – and the information they keep us connected to – have become, in a recent U.S. Cellular survey, 28 percent of smartphone owners said they check their phone every few minutes, and 41 percent said they would rather give up water than their smartphone. But wireless technology encompasses so much more than smartphones.

In 2017, use of The Internet of Things (IoT) became more common for consumers and businesses, whether it was a Nest thermostat in a home or vehicle trackers for a fleet of trucks, and the millions of connected devices have opened up a world of possibilities that can help businesses revolutionize their customers’ experience and consumers enhance and simplify their lives for years to come.

So, what’s next for wireless technology? In 2018, we see trends from recent years evolving, with businesses using the latest innovations to help them exceed customer expectations, and consumers embracing the idea that computers and artificial intelligence can learn, in perhaps unexpected ways.

As we look back on 2017 and celebrate the New Year, we anticipate three trends in the wireless industry that you may experience in 2018:

1. Fixed wireless and the connected home ecosystem

Last year, we talked about the Connected Home trend, and it certainly did come to fruition, as 26.5 percent of households utilized smart home technology in 2017, according to Statista. They expect that to rise to 53.1 percent by 2022, and for that to happen, everyone needs to have reliable internet access. We predict Fixed Wireless to be a growth area for wireless carriers and technology companies in 2018 and beyond in order to provide this access to residents in rural areas where internet options may be limited.

Fixed Wireless technology has been around for a while, but with 5G speeds on the horizon and the need to be connected higher than ever before, it will become a more recognized and used solution for home internet. It is usually done by installing an antenna on one’s house that connects to the nearest cell tower to ensure the most reliable connection. Then computers, tablets, smartphones, smart televisions, gaming devices, Google Home, Nest and other Connected Home devices are all on the same network via an in-home router. At U.S. Cellular, we currently offer in-home high-speed internet in selected markets and are exploring fixed options for 2018 and beyond.

2. A personalized customer experience

In 2017, research showed that consumers started expecting a highly personalized customer experience, and in 2018, more and more companies will use data to meet that expectation. Innovative brands have already begun redefining the customer experience and delivering more relevant and curated information to its customers and providing personalized touchpoints in the shopping experience. Pandora was an early adopter of this trend, as it uses each person’s individual music tastes to curate a playlist. Similarly, Netflix and Amazon make recommendations based on past behavior. Beyond that, cosmetic and clothing retailers let you upload a photo of yourself to help them find the best products for your needs, and Google Maps can give you directions based on a plane ticket or vacation you booked.

Wireless technology and data can help guide content, offers and interactions and make recommendations that provide each individual a unique customer journey. Instead of standardizing how companies serve customers, data can be used to help personalize the experience, and wireless technology is the pipeline that can make it happen. We aren’t yet in a world where every electronic billboard, email or mobile offer is personalized just for one person, but with the technology available, the future of the customer experience could look vastly different from what it does today.

3. The power of your voice

While it may seem like we have gone away from talking and towards text messaging and emailing as our favorite means of communication, the latest trend in wireless technology relies on one thing – our voice. Many of the latest innovations in tech require us to tell computers what to do, and those computers are speaking right back to us. Whether it’s Siri on an iPhone or Google on an Android phone, voice-activated technology on smartphones will truly become our personal assistants.

It goes beyond that to Google Home and Amazon Echo devices in our homes, as well as IBM Watson and other artificial intelligence solutions for businesses. Our voices are helping computers learn, so in turn they can simplify and enhance our daily activities. In 2018, I expect that more of our voices will be used to direct self-driving cars or farm equipment, and more websites will allow us to speak with chat-bots to help us get what we need, further developing a personalized customer experience.

(Matt Kasper is the director of sales for U.S. Cellular in New England.)

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