Our lives are made up of a complex network of pathways that we can use to move from one phase of life to the next. The first step in determining which “next step” will land us to the most direct route to fulfillment and the realization of our life purpose is taking time to visualize the perfect future and then making a list of ways to manifest that future. And, it is not so different for a technology.
In this part (here is link to Part 1 of 3), I want to share my view of that perfect future and the opportunities around Wi-Fi.
Connected Self: Our need for “always-on” connectivity, “ever-enhancing” experience, “health” consciousness, “location” services and accessibility has led to the emergence of Wearable Tech along with the phone, tablets and laptops that we carry.
And, as a user I do not want to deal with constant “running out of battery”. Stretching battery power or harvesting energy is almost a must. The battery change cannot be required every few days or weeks. At this point, the only thing that matters more than specs and performance is battery life. I would like my Wi-Fi to be 10000 times energy efficient than it is today as well as capable of charging battery of my devices.
Seamless access: The need to register and login whenever I roam from one Wi-Fi provider to another needs to simply go away. Whether a user is at home or has a guest visiting; whether the user is a guest at a business or hosting guests at the business, there should be no need to register or login. You can also call it Automated Access. LTE-U promises to offer this. To me this one is like “evolve or die”. Wi-Fi must evolve to support this. Enabling Wi-Fi automated access everywhere is as important as having ability to call 911 from any phone.
Predictable User Experience:Wi-Fi is critical to the way we live and work today. It is no longer a “nice to have” option — it’s now the primary form of connectivity for many users today.
I want my Wi-Fi to be ‘always’ reliable on any device anywhere anytime. There should be no need for elaborate dashboards or systems to help identify the root cause (congestion, capacity, interference, etc.) behind bad performance – the bad performance must be automatically resolved!
To me not having Wi-Fi is like the situation in air-plane where they say “If cabin pressure should change, an oxygen mask will drop….”. There must not be a scenario where any user connected on Wi-Fi is expected to reach out to someone (IT departments, service provider or the techie at home) because the experience is poor.
“Wi-Fi is Oxygen. Period.”
Breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), including deep neural networks and probability models, are creating paths for computing technology to perform tasks that once seemed out of reach. Wi-Fi should make use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to just automatically deal with environmental and other issues (such as RF environment, applications, density of users, etc.) and always provide reliable and high performance!
Everything Connected:IoT may be a recent buzzword, but the quest for connected things is old. Very old. Caller ID, connected Coca-Cola vending machines, M2M, smart meters, RFID, AutoID, etc. The whole appeal of connected things has been efficiency and experience. And the desire for experience and efficiency is even greater today. We live in an experience era and have no patience. We expect ‘great experience’ and ‘efficiency’ around us. Only IoT can enable that. IoT is nothing but an intelligent and invisible network of things that communicate directly or indirectly with each other or the internet to enable experience and efficiency. In future everything is connected i.e. status and control available for everything that matters from any device anywhere. And, that future is not even far from now. In 2017 itself, 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016.
Whether its controlling lights, temperature/air conditioner, TV, refrigerators, toasters, locks, parking areas, garage doors or checking on the security of doors, windows etc.; I want Wi-Fi to become the standardized technology for connecting devices to each other or to the cloud. This means Wi-Fi must support need of connectivity for a large number of things over long distances.
Ease of Deployment & Operationalization: A product should be like the bath tub. “No user manual needed” is the mantra of this “no time to learn era” and yet when it comes to Wi-Fi, one needs to be a “techie” to configure it. Whether a user wants to install fresh, expand coverage, or increase capacity, its not a trivial task. It is a technology for the toddler as well as the nonagenarian and yet one has to open some web page on the access point, router, cable modem or wireless controller to configure the SSIDs and passwords. The configurations even talk abut firewall, access control lists and many more options.
I would like my Wi-Fi to be super easy to setup, expand coverage or increase capacity by a non-techie. Wi-Fi should be like any other utility (Water, Electricity, Gas) for a home, small business or even an enterprise. Perhaps the voice tools of today such as Google home, Siri, Alexa, or Cortana can help configure it or something like that could be built in the Wi-Fi system!
And, from an operator perspective, Wi-Fi should be completely open standards API based. Operators should be able to use these APIs to integrate Wi-Fi from any vendor easily into their deployment, provisioning, operations and change management processes.
Value: The thirst for more is something of a curiosity. This spirit drives innovation and pushes the boundaries. And, I expect more from Wi-Fi beyond the connectivity.
Lot of work has gone in providing real time location to enable location based services, analytics to enable business decisions based on usage, behaviors, dwell times, or anything else. Wi-Fi must make this value easily available to individuals or businesses.
End to end control: There is something that affects quality of wireless experience and is almost as invisible. The wires behind the wireless access points. The wires that are connected to the application servers such as Microsoft Skype Server, Apple OS X Server, ERP applications, Oracle, and many more that are sitting behind the wires in the wiring closet on premise or in the cloud. Almost all traffic goes from wireless to wired. You can have the best Wi-Fi infrastructure and best environment for Wi-Fi, but if you have no control on the wired traffic, you cannot provide the desired experience to the end user. You need the ability to monitor and control wireless and wired infrastructure at the same time — programmatically. I want abilities to control experience and policy end to end. Wi-Fi policy and quality of service not as overlay but as part of one network.
Extensibility: Evolution is not some kind of add-on to Life; it is an integral part of it. Everything, everyone, and every being’s purpose is to evolve. New technologies will come and new use cases will emerge. Until a technology comes that we don’t need the access points on ceilings, walls or in floor tiles, I want these access points to be extensible. If there is need to enable a newer technology that needs something like access points, one should be able to use the same access points. For example, I do notwant to add a new bluetooth only access points to track my BLE assets. The Wi-Fi access points should be modular. There has to be the ability to add other modules/other technologies in it. Not only that, the management of the access points should be designed in such a way that there is a single pane of management for not just Wi-Fi but the other “add-on” technologies.
Carrier Branded Wi-Fi Calling: Wi-Fi calling is nothing new; apps like Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp make it easier to use a phone to place calls and send texts over the internet using Wi-Fi instead of using your carrier’s network connection. Carrier-branded Wi-Fi calling is a bit different, however. It’s baked directly into the phone’s dialer, so you don’t need to fire up an app or connect to a service to use it. You can set it as your default way of placing a call, or if you lose phone signal, it will automatically switch to Wi-Fi calling. Wi-Fi calling is especially useful when you’re in an area with weak carrier coverage or roaming internationally. I want Wi-Fi as the natural first choice connectivity for all my voice, video needs across all carriers. All four major US carriers (T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and Verizon) provide built-in Wi-Fi calling. Republic Wireless and Google Project Fi provide Wi-Fi calling on certain phones too. All “Carriers Worldwide” must provide this.
Cloud Managed with Services: It must be possible to provision, monitor and troubleshoot your entire Wi-Fi network through a single (public) web dashboard or mobile app. And, this still does not mean that I am interested in “management of the Wi-Fi network”. The management still needs to be “little”. However, it should be possible to do that over the public web or using mobile app. And, if this is a Wi-Fi network for a business that has its own data center (or private cloud), that must be a supported model too.
The most important thing I am looking for is a “service marketplace” such as Apple App Store or Google Play. I would like to be able to select and add any service as easy as click click click or tap tap tap! This is for any service that one can enable on top of their Wi-Fi such as enabling a parental control, phishing and malware protection, guest services, location services, etc. And, this marketplace should be “open” like the Apple App Store or Google Play so that innovation can come from anywhere and become available to anyone.
High Capacity High Density: Although the standards have come so far (802.11ac Wave 2 today), the throughput capabilities are still limited when it comes to high density. Complex antenna designs and professional services help to a certain extent but the individual user experience is quite fragile in those environments.
All Wi-Fi standards until today were focused on aggregate performance or throughput increase, and the individual user experience has taken a back seat in high density environments. I am looking for Wi-Fi to focus on the metrics that reflect individual user experience such as individual user throughput and individual user performance in high density areas. This is critical as almost all environments are becoming high density and throughput needs are growing exponentially every year. Wi-Fi needs to be able to handle high capacity in high density environments.
Legacy wired stuff: Yes, some of us still might have wired devices even in the future. Those ancient printers. Those ancient desktops. Or, sometimes those devices that require tremendous real time throughput that wireless is still not there yet! I would like the Wi-Fi solution to provide ability to hang my wired devices to the nearest Access Point directly or add those devices using point to point wireless (no configuration needed).
Meeting the above needs creates enormous opportunity for evolution and innovation in Wi-Fi standards, Wi-Fi products as well as Wi-Fi operationalization. In the Part 3 of 3, I will go over what is happening (or not happening) in that space. In the mean time, please feel free to reach out to me to share your story and as always, looking forward to your comments.