Abishek Chari is Global Head of Brightstar’s Strategic Insights, Innovation & Advisory division.

With Mobile World Congress 2017 in full swing in Barcelona this week, the entire industry will be looking ahead to what’s coming in wireless for the rest of the year, from flagship handsets to Industrial IoT solutions, innovations in back-end technology and carrier operations.

As Global Head of Brightstar’s Strategic Insights, Innovation and Advisory division, I’m tasked with not only tracking the industry and predicting key trends well in advance but also translating their ‘actionable implications’ in the real world. These include products, propositions and customer experience initiatives. I particularly keep an eye out on mid to long term trends that would be closely relevant to our global clients. Working with my team based all over the world, we distil and localize trends down to their regional implications.

Here are four key trends to watch out for 2018 and beyond…

Wearables will break free from the wrist

Think wearables today and activity / fitness trackers and smartwatches typically dominate this segment. But expect this technology to break free from our wrists. In time, the market for these activity trackers and smartphone-dependent accessories will plateau, but as part of wider connected systems, connected apparel, shoes and wares are poised to explode; particularly as an integrated part of broader lifestyle solutions such as security and medical use, they’re going to grow in a big way.

Take the assisted living segment, for example. For many of our independent elderly folks with limited mobility, even the simplest of daily tasks involving moving around the house or getting up to turn the light on or off turns into a monumental one. With the help of a connected cane, however, which not only aids in basic mobility support, but is also smart enough to learn the user’s walking pattern over time, carers can detect any abnormal activity and report it to family members or emergency responders. Everyone sleeps easier!

Connected health solutions for babies and parents alike will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, and expect the category to expand to our four-legged family members too. Expect connected dog and cat collars that work over GPS and a myriad of wireless connectivity protocols (including cellular networks) to help owners track their lost pets accurately. These connected collars would also provide real-time insights into their pet’s vital statistics such as body temperature, thus preventing overheating or prolonged sunlight exposure. Nobody has to lose their pet ever again.

Voice is the next Human-to-IoT interface platform, but whose platform?

The smart home invasion is well under way. We take connected thermostats, door locks, smoke alarms, security cameras and even smartphone-controlled light bulbs for granted. For tech companies, the spoils now are to be found in getting them all to work with another – expect connected interoperability to take front of stage.

We’re already part of the way there thanks to the growing acceptance of voice control (assistants) as a key medium of communication with smartphones and other home IoT devices. Voice assistants are rapidly replacing dedicated apps as the human-to-IoT interface of choice thanks in large part to natural language learning and artificial intelligence. But the interface is still only as good as the rest of your smart home equipment. That’s where holistic solutions come into focus. The company who can crack interoperability best, who can make it seamless to control your oven, HVAC, security camera, garage door and even your AI vacuum cleaner from one platform, will win – and we’ll see big strides towards that in the next 18 months. Imagine the flexibility to choose your connected vacuum, dryer, washer, fridge, smoke alarm and garage door opener from any vendor you like, yet they talk to each other seamlessly. Now that’ll be true choice.

Connectivity is transforming Phones, Homes and… Cars

Our team attends the annual Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas, to analyze where the convergence of technology, connectivity and wireless is headed – and right now it might as well be called the Car Electronics Show. Some of the top automakers are increasingly using the traditionally consumer tech oriented tradeshow to showcase their innovations, value proposition and role within the consumer’s broader connected lifestyle. The personal mobility segment is undergoing a tectonic shift as traditional automakers are rapidly transitioning into a multi-specialty mobility services provider, of which autonomous driving is a part.

To achieve that, they’ll need to make sure their vehicles are online, all the time. And that means a leap into the next generation of connectivity, namely 5G, standards of which are being set by the ITU, 3GPP and other 5G organizations. 5G won’t just bring about a mere bandwidth (speed) increase over the current 4G LTE specs; but also improvements in almost every other area such as latency, geographic accuracy, reliability and QoS. Sometime in the near future a 5G-enabled car will be able to stay connected at Gigabit speeds with no downtime, even at speeds of 60mph.

Cars are already beginning to drive by themselves, but with ubiquitous and constantly available 5G speeds, they would start driving with each other, speeding up journey times and making roads safer for everyone. Though mass commercialization of 5G networks may be several years away, we should expect to see variety of businesses explore the standard’s vast potential, its real world implications and design related solutions much sooner than that.

Through cognitive AI, connected objects will learn to become emotional

Cognitive AI-backed connected objects are already here, so expect the dialogue in the next 18 months to expand from what connected objects are constantly learning to the educated guesses they’ll make about you and even the subsequent pre-emptive actions they take. That’s where the next value proposition of individualization lies for the industry and its value players.

Soon it won’t be about proactively interacting with your smart bulb via an app or voice. It won’t even be about the connected home or car anymore. What the future holds for us is the emotional interactivity with these connected lifestyle objects, in large part due to the advancements in AI and machine learning.

In the future the your emotional car and home would not only know you but also react with ‘smart-actions’ accordingly. One such example: your AI-enabled car will use a suite of onboard sensors, cameras and facial recognition algorithms to constantly track your emotional state. Let’s say on a particular evening drive back home it detects your stress levels running abnormally high. The car automatically reacts by acknowledging the stress, taking over the wheel, adjusting the ambient temperature and even tuning in to your favorite de-stress playlist. But this emotional-car goes even further and even informs your (emotionally-aware) home to run a bath, set the ambient temperature, continue the same playlist and even adjust the lights to something more…de-stressing! By the time the car pulls through the driveway, your house is not only ready, it is welcoming. No more tapping a screen, fumbling with an app or yelling at the lights. In other words, Home Sweet Home v2.0 can’t come soon enough.

Stay tuned for our next Future Watch segment where we’ll cast a spotlight on the industrial Internet of Things (IoT), key solutions being developed and use cases as well as the key enabler of all things connected – advanced networks.

As an industry thought leader; we at Brightstar not only pick up on relevant trends way ahead of the curve; but will also be ready at the right time to assist you in bringing them to your customers. Whether that entails procurement, lifecycle management, financing, device protection, channel strategy and even the end-to-end logistics; rest assured you can depend on Brightstar to be your trusted partner through the Connected Lifestyle journey.