Skip to main content

On the up and up, celebrating Wi-Fi’s 20th Anniversary

(Image credit: Image Credit: Chris Oakley / Flickr)

2019 marks an important milestone in the networking industry, specifically when it comes to Wi-Fi. This technology has been connecting people and devices through wireless communication for the last 20 years. Wi-Fi has become a part of our everyday life and is truly ingrained in our culture, both on a personal and professional level. The amount of transformational change that Wi-Fi has brought to our world is staggering. And we’re only poised for more, particularly as 5G enters the scene. Every industry has been transformed by Wi-Fi and has benefited from it in some way. From retail to manufacturing, to healthcare, education, and hospitality, Wi-Fi is the driving force behind it all.

As devices change or data volumes increase requiring more capacity, so too does Wi-Fi’s future role, whether that’s enabling connected vehicles or providing someone with life-saving medical care. For the past 20-odd years, Wi-Fi has evolved with the primary focus of ‘how fast can it go’. In that time, our relationship with our mobile devices has changed, which means different demands on the infrastructure we rely on to use them. At a certain point, our Wi-Fi is fast enough – you can raise the speed limit, but it won’t improve traffic.

The focus on speed has not taken into account real-world use cases where we now have a multi-AP environment with lots of devices attempting to communicate simultaneously. Which is important to consider when deciding Wi-Fi’s role in the future of the below industries, alongside the ways that it has currently changed their industries.

The retail revolution

Although the advent of the Internet and online shopping in some cases has hurt brick and mortar stores, Wi-Fi has instead enabled retailers to connect with their customers both online and offline.

Through innovative in-store technology and leveraging a customer’s mobile device addiction, retailers are personalising the shopping experience to provide improved services and communication, and build brand loyalty.

Deploying wireless connectivity can be the ultimate game changer for retail businesses. Sales associates can now foster more personal interaction and carry mobile devices for customer service while walking around showrooms or shop floors. Customers can receive instant product recommendations and suggestions based on preferences, increasing the closing percentages for sales across stores. Overall, Wi-Fi has the ability to transform and elevate the way retailers serve customers and contributes to the bottom line.

Taking the manual out of manufacturing

The use of Wi-Fi-based devices in manufacturing has revolutionised the logistics industry. Instead of relying on manual processes, the use of tablets and embedded computers has led to a step-change for process and production. Mission critical isn’t just a buzzword in manufacturing. Without reliable Wi-Fi, entire operations are shut down. With fast and stable Wi-Fi, companies are able to make smarter decisions to drive their businesses forward.

Simple management, scalability and cost transparency are key conditions for manufacturing businesses. Good monitoring abilities and a reliable, flexible network are also required to ensure delivery of projects and materials.

Benefits of a healthy network

For healthcare, inconsistent and unreliable Wi-Fi can literally be a matter of life and death. Doctors, nurses, and other staff rely on up-to-date information from a host of device types that connect to Wi-Fi (and only Wi-Fi).

New Wi-Fi solutions that are able to meet the demands of patients and residents will help bring healthcare into the future. Real-time tracking and VoIP will significantly help staff to manage devices, digital files, inventory and ultimately provide patients with a better quality of care.

The host with the most reliable network

Hospitality is largely driven by the customer, and they expect reliable, secure, and fast Wi-Fi access. Kristine Rose, vice president of brands for Hyatt said in a statement recently, “Internet connectivity is no longer an amenity. It has become an integral part of travellers’ daily lives and basic expectations.” Further to that point, wireless has become a utility just like electricity that every hotel or resort, big or small, requires today.  

Connecting the education sector

Wi-Fi has certainly been at the heart of a lot of changes in education. Thanks to the rise of mobile devices, tablets, and ultraportable laptops, students are able to connect to resources like never before. Teachers have access to the world’s information, and all of it is running off Wi-Fi.

Wellington College recently implemented Aerohive access points to be able to provide students, faculty and staff with reliable connectivity across the campus and the vast number of devices on the premises. Without reliable Wi-Fi, lessons wouldn’t be able to go forward and with Aerohive, Wellington has benefited from 100 per cent uptime across the College. The network is also able to support 4,000 devices on average each day across the network, which is crucial for a successful learning environment.

Wi-Fi 6 brings enhancements to capacity, and it’s much more efficient than previous generations. With Wi-Fi being the default communication for end-user devices and internet of things (IoT) devices, our reliance on it is only going to grow. With an AI-driven network management system powered by machine learning, users are going to be well prepared for whatever is thrown at their networks. Twenty years have flown by, and we can’t wait to see what the next 20 will bring!

Mathew Edwards, Director of Product, Aerohive Networks (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Chris Oakley / Flickr

Mat is a Product Marketing Manager at Aerohive where he helps drive strategy and vision for Aerohive's wireless LAN solutions.