In his breakdown of tech trends for 2019, Comcast Business’ Jeff Marston considers how the shifting contours of an evolving tech landscape can unlock exciting new opportunities and transform the way people communicate and conduct business.

Here are some tech trends to watch throughout 2019 and beyond:

The continued rise of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN)

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) continue to grow both in scope and influence. SDN and SD-WAN solutions make it possible for businesses to manage their networks across multiple locations or data centers.

This cloud-based technology—along with the ability to develop and integrate powerful, new applications—comes with a host of benefits. Adding flexibility and functionality, saving money, enhancing visibility across the network, and introducing new efficiencies open up new technical and operational possibilities. For example, the benefits of remote management lets decision-makers remotely push policies across the network to select or multiple sites and configure traffic routing across the network to optimize efficiency.

Supercharged automation and connectivity

The rise of connected devices, sensors and other new technologies associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) is extraordinary. Connected systems facilitate more inter-office and intra-office communications, and allow automation to play a greater role in everything from inventory management and disaster recovery to security tools and self-healing technologies. Self-healing tech, for example, can independently identify and correct issues (a network outage, for example), which leads to minimizing operational disruptions, streamlining and enhancing customer service, and ultimately saving time and money.

The growing sophistication of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and bots—enhanced by an IoT-fueled influx of big data—has moved out of the realm of science fiction and into the everyday reality of today’s businesses. AI helps with everything from predictive analytics and routing calls more efficiently to making customer-facing applications more personalized and user-friendly. The important point to recognize going forward is that these technologies aren’t just more powerful, they are also more affordable and accessible. Consequently, it isn’t just national and global enterprise-level brands making use of these tools; small and mid-sized businesses can put them to practical use within their everyday operations.

Bandwidth getting wider

Maybe the most remarkable piece of the technology puzzle is one that flies a little bit under the radar, which is ironic, because it serves as the foundation for all the new tech and functionality mentioned above: the growing thirst for bandwidth and the proliferation and implementation of high-speed network solutions.

Bandwidth demands continue to increase at exponential rates. 100-Gigabit Ethernet is quickly replacing 10-Gigabit as the baseline expectation for “ultra-high performance networks”, and providers will continue to expand and upgrade national networks to support both businesses and individual consumers. It’s the former where we will likely see the greatest growth throughout 2019 and beyond.

According to Equinix, data exchange between businesses is on the rise in a big way. Interconnection bandwidth is projected to outpace growth of internet and WAN traffic, increasing to 8,200+ Terabits (Tbps) by 2021 (a figure that is five times higher than 2017 numbers).

The bottom line

Network capacity is critical because reliable, secure and sufficient bandwidth is essential for evolution of the “Smart Office” that we can expect to see in many businesses going forward. Video security, web hosting, and cloud-based services—it all ties back to the strength, durability and flexibility of the network.

The exciting thing is these advances in technology provide game-changing operational efficiencies and fundamentally level the playing field in a way that enables more small and mid-sized businesses to compete with larger enterprises. That, along with the groundbreaking work being done by growing numbers of collaborative institutions and tech companies functioning as incubators of innovation, provides plenty of reasons for optimism that inspired tech advances will play an increasingly important role in transforming the digital architecture of the business landscape in the months and years ahead.

Read more by Jeff Marston about the technologies influencing the customer experience.