As an IT product manager with 20-plus years of experience, I’ve seen the technology landscape evolve in many ways, but one constant is that devices keep getting smaller and more portable. The move toward cordless operations is another notable trend, as is the current emphasis on platforms that allow users to transition between locations (e.g., work, home and in between) and devices (smartphone, desktop, laptop, tablet, etc.) without encountering friction.
But don’t look for cords to go extinct anytime soon — devices frequently operate in connected ecosystems, so the need for cords will remain in those environments, which are significant. Connectivity products that allow people to charge, dock and connect devices and peripherals without compromising mobility will be more important than ever. What other connectivity solutions will shape users’ technology experience in 2017 and beyond? Here are three trends I believe will drive the connectivity solutions space:
Greater demand for workforce mobility solutions: People need more workplace flexibility now that they’re on the go more often and at work virtually everywhere. Connectivity solutions like docking stations that are brand-agnostic and able to convert a smartphone into a fully functional workstation will be increasingly popular with highly mobile workers. In addition to advanced docking stations, connectivity solutions like video display adapters are also a must for employees who need to maintain high levels of productivity on the road. Look for connectivity solutions that allow employees to work within a connected ecosystem on the road, at the office, at home and anywhere else to make market share gains in 2017.
Increasing need for speed: Users aren’t satisfied with sub-par connection speeds outside the office anymore, so there’s more demand for high-performance connectivity technologies. Cables that allow people to dock laptops to multiple displays and peripherals and achieve fast speeds improve workflow. This in turn allows knowledge workers and creative professionals to access and edit high-resolution, graphics-intense images, videos and CAD drawings, without being hampered by slow speeds. High-performance connectivity is also important to medical professionals, who need to quickly get to huge datasets and high-resolution media — these users can also benefit from a single-cord solution. Look for manufacturers to adopt future-proof connectors like USB-C to enable universal connectivity.
Reconciliation of performance and portability: It’s a given in today’s environment that devices will be thinner, smaller and lighter. That’s because portability matters, a trend that shows no signs of abating. But a related trend is that users are now performing more sophisticated functions on these small devices, such as conducting presentations from smartphones, editing video and other media files on tablets, etc. Connectivity solutions like cables that allow mobile devices to function as robustly as in-office workstations and cords that connect peripherals will become more popular to resolve the portability-performance paradox.
Another quantum technology leap is on the horizon: the emergence of WiGig wireless connectivity that operates in the 60GHz range. WiGig can handle data transmission speeds of up to 7Gbps now, and experts say it could eventually operate at speeds of up to 25Gbps. Breakthrough speed like that can transform the way users and offices function in fundamental ways, enabled by docking stations.
From a technology product management point of view, some trends are persistent, including the move toward greater mobility and smaller devices, and some trends are situational, such as the drive toward cord-free operation. Because of ecosystem connectivity considerations, I don’t think a cord-free future is in the cards, but rather an intentional balance of both wired and wireless solutions, and I do expect to see more sophisticated connector products enabling greater mobility, speed and performance in 2017 and beyond.
Sean Taylor is the Director, Product Management at StarTech.com. In this capacity, Sean is responsible for bringing StarTech.com’s cutting-edge, hard-to-find connectivity solutions to customers around the world.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi