Businesses are constantly thinking about what new technology can be used to help reach customers. With so many shiny new gadgets out on the market, an often taken-for-granted yet very crucial infrastructure is Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi is so vital for businesses to implement new strategies that work towards their goals, and it’ll continue to play a huge role as businesses continue to explore new and innovative ways to remain relevant.

Here’s a few Wi-Fi-related trends that’ll likely be high on the agenda for businesses in 2017:

Uninterrupted internet connection

As the latest iteration of smartphones and wearables flood the market, consumers now expect higher degrees of utility from each product upgrade. The more the utility grows, the more fundamental uninterrupted internet connectivity becomes. In a recent report by iPass, 63% of consumers indicated they would choose a Wi-Fi hotspot over mobile data. No surprise given that the more apps consumers run, the quicker that data usage starts to stack up and the more expensive it costs. With everyone seeking Wi-Fi everywhere they go, it’s inevitable that brick-and-mortar businesses will need to provide customers a reliable connection.

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What an opportunity guest Wi-Fi brings. From retail to hospitality to the transportation industry, by offering guest Wi-Fi, businesses are able to make data-driven decisions to improve operations. Analytics can be used to optimize staffing hours, make smart product placement decisions, and reduce points of friction. Guest Wi-Fi can also bring a new communications channel in which to engage customers. Whether it’s push notifications or real-time interactions, 2017 presents a lucrative opportunity to elevate customer engagement through uninterrupted Wi-Fi connections.

Digital transformation

More organizations want to offer staff and customers a better digital experience without increasing overall IT spend. There’s a real opportunity in 2017 for businesses to accelerate this transformation through smarter use of the Wi-Fi networks they already have in place.

CIO and IT departments have traditionally been responsible for Wi-Fi deployments, but are now no longer the only parties with a vested interest in the technology. Extending the functionality of the Wi-Fi platform can enable seamless integration between front and back end IT systems – such as payments, CRM or even security systems, streamlining operational functions for employees, while providing a better experience for customers.

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Whether it’s sales teams or service staff taking Wi-Fi-enabled payments from customers anywhere in a venue, or shoppers and diners browsing promotions via branded apps in situ, CIOs, CDOs and CMOs can work together to create a network that delivers on all of their business objectives.

Federated identity

As more Wi-Fi networks are made available to the public, the process of logging in becomes a hassle and potentially frustrating if guests can’t remember pre-registered login details. Consequently, 2017 will see many guest Wi-Fi providers move to a federated network offering. This public system of digital identity is already a popular approach in many European countries. By having one user account, guests can gain access to all different services – government, education, transportation, healthcare, banks, and of course, Wi-Fi access. This helps both simplify and secure the login process, and users are auto-connected to any public network with their credentials.

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IoT

Many consumers will argue that current Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t able to support simple bandwidth-intensive actions such as downloading music or streaming live videos. In 2017, businesses will increasingly require networks to adequately support a host of new IoT-enabled applications.

With the IoT market expected to be worth over $1.1bn by 2021, businesses will need high-performing Wi-Fi networks that will connect the countless number of devices and sensors required for an interconnected digital world. Those Wi-Fi platforms that will offer interoperability between existing infrastructures and a way of connecting the billions of devices in a unified way, will rise to the top.

Preparing for the future

The Wi-Fi trends this year will set the precedent for the future. Whether business goals involve digital transformation or utilizing new IoT devices, one thing’s for sure: Wi-Fi is a key aspect in supporting new technology and will play a huge role in how businesses operate in the future.