Change Is In the Air… Or It Isn’t.

By Ryan Adzima, Blog Contributor

There's a change coming to the world of wireless….

Last week I attended Atmosphere 2015 in Las Vegas and while there were some big announcements (a new line of printers or something like that… I wasn't really paying much attention), the underlying tone of the event showed the direction the market is taking. And Aruba is hands-down leading the way.

Wireless, Wi-Fi, WLAN, whatever you want to call what we do, it's moving away from becoming a technological island dedicated solely to connecting people to networks and quickly moving towards connecting things, connecting apps, enabling workflows, and disappearing into the background noise much like wired networking has done for the past decade. This isn't a bad thing either, in fact if you work in the world of wireless it's about to get a lot more fun. As enterprise, hospitality, retail, education, and healthcare look for new ways of engaging, educating, healing, and optimizing all aspects of the mundane day-to-day work all eyes are turning to better integration of better applications. Applications made better through location and context awareness, unification of disparate systems for seamless data exchange, and intelligent systems able to recognize the needs of the users.

WLANs have evolved beyond being the end goal and are now a platform on top of which the possibilities for development are endless. Much the same as a virtualization hypervisor or a web server, you don't set one of these systems up and call it a day. Getting a platform online is step zero in achieving a vision.

Now that I'm done pontificating on that… what does this mean for wireless engineers? Nothing. Or everything. Or something smack in the middle. This is pretty much the same as when SDN and/or devops killed the route/switch expert.

The world of wireless is far from perfect. How many hotels have you been in that offered free Wi-Fi with a separate SSID for each floor and 12 APs using channels 1-11? How many public venues have you been in where the crowd inside simply crushed the single access point serving a few hundred devices? At #WLPC this year we saw calls for the industry to unite and create an organization to certify networks as best-practice deployed and operated. The traditional role of RF whisperer isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

But just like SDN and devops, there are new opportunities everywhere. How many wireless folks can sit down and discuss the finer details of Bluetooth LE? How about the business relevance of location analytics? What about the best way to integrate API x into system y to present x on a screen in an app? There are new sub-fields of wireless opening up as the technology is emerging and it's happening faster than most engineers can keep up with but it's allowing for many new specializations within the field. It's also drawing a lot more attention to the necessity of proper design, deployment, and management of existing networks. There's a new generation of engineers catching the wireless bug and entering the field bringing fresh perspectives and more brains to help us all keep up with the momentum.

This tech we all rally around is changing fast and there's a lot to learn, but I really do think wireless is starting to separate from mobility. And it's a good thing.