WiFi in 2014: 10 Rising Trends That Will Affect Us at Work, Home

1 -WiFi in 2014: 10 Rising Trends That Will Affect Us at Work, Home
2 - Gigabit WiFi Gathers Steam
3 - Cloud WiFi Goes Mainstream
4 - BYOD Gives Device Users More Control
5 - Mobile Unified Communications Moves Into the Limelight
6 - SDN Moves Into Campus LAN Networks
7 - 2014: The Year of Mobile Engagement for Public-Facing Enterprises
8 - Companies Will Reduce Energy Usage
9 - WiFi Finds a Home in Everyday Appliances
10 - K-12 Moves to a New Generation of Wireless Deployments
11 - More WLANs for Ultra-High Density Public Venues/Stadiums
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WiFi in 2014: 10 Rising Trends That Will Affect Us at Work, Home

by Chris Preimesberger

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Gigabit WiFi Gathers Steam

Users want the benefits of being untethered, along with the performance of a Gigabit Ethernet connection. This season device makers will be rolling out a plethora of new mobile products, and they are expecting to see some of their biggest sales numbers in history. With many of these new devices boasting 802.11ac capabilities (also known as Gigabit WiFi) and with an increasing number of enterprises swapping out legacy voice systems in favor of WiFi-connected unified communications, a higher level of performance is on the short list of requirements for many network upgrades.

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Cloud WiFi Goes Mainstream

Managing WiFi connectivity across distributed locations can be a headache for IT administrators. What they need is a simplified and centralized way to provision and manage multiple WiFi locations, which would bring cost and efficiency improvements. Previously, cloud-managed WiFi networks required some tough trade-offs, such as consumer-grade reliability and performance. In 2014 this will change. Over the next 12 months, cloud WiFi will take off as the technology matures, delivering the kind of enterprise-class features and performance inherent in traditional WLAN management.

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BYOD Gives Device Users More Control

The job of connecting users to the network poses a significant IT management burden, especially with employees bringing an average of three or more WiFi-enabled devices into the workplace. To help alleviate the demands this trend puts on help desk support teams, IT departments in 2014 will give end users more control over their devices and access. Tasks previously handled by IT, such as onboarding and provisioning new mobile devices, giving network access to guests, and registering and sharing media appliances over the network, will be turned over to end users.

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Mobile Unified Communications Moves Into the Limelight

The Apple App Store alone has 1 million apps. While a fraction of those are UC-related, the general trend is moving toward more bidirectionally communicating mobile apps. Modern WiFi networks have helped usher in mobile UC by providing visibility into the traffic and by communicating directly with UC systems. This allows for reliable, high fidelity voice and video over crowded enterprise WiFi networks and gives IT administrators an end-to-end view of UC calls for management, reporting and troubleshooting. With the WiFi network allowing IT to gain better visibility and control, mobile UC will become widely available in 2014.

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SDN Moves Into Campus LAN Networks

Applications work better when networks can adjust to the different types of traffic running over those networks. While the prioritization of traffic has been around for a while, on-demand visibility and the ability to adjust the infrastructure to improve mobile apps are features that are just now becoming possible. In 2014, software-defined networks (SDNs) will begin to play an important role in mobile infrastructure, enabling a better app experience for end users. With SDN, mobile networks can be more dynamic, adapting in real time to changing conditions and application requirements.

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2014: The Year of Mobile Engagement for Public-Facing Enterprises

In developed countries, more than 90 percent of consumers' time is spent indoors, and 70 percent of those consumers carry WiFi-enabled smartphones into venues. This sizable addressable market presents a unique opportunity for marketers to engage with their customers. In 2014, retail establishments and hospitality venues will increasingly use their WiFi infrastructures to engage with consumers and increase customer loyalty by delivering customized content and specialized offers.

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Companies Will Reduce Energy Usage

With energy usage a concern, many organizations are no longer rolling out Power Over Ethernet (PoE+) to each workstation in favor of their employees connecting via WiFi. While each port may only account for about 30 watts, this results in a sizable savings when a company's headcount is in the hundreds or more. In 2014, WLAN proliferation will further reduce the PoE+ port-to-employee ratio, and one of the inherent benefits will be energy savings. A company with 400 employees, for example, could save more than 12,000 watts.

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WiFi Finds a Home in Everyday Appliances

The connected "home of the future" has been a topic of discussion for years. However, with residential broadband speeds hitting all-time highs, WiFi is no longer a "nice to have" but rather a "must have." Further, as wireless chip costs have declined, connected home appliances are quickly becoming commonplace. In 2014, appliance manufacturers will expand their lines of affordable wireless-connected appliances even further, enabling consumers to enjoy perks such as ordering up a fresh cup of coffee from their own personal coffee maker via their tablet or smartphone.

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K-12 Moves to a New Generation of Wireless Deployments

As institutions of higher education continue to move into the future—thanks in particular to 802.11ac deployments to support the rapid growth of mobile devices on campuses—many K-12s are following suit, taking steps to give their students true 21st-century classrooms. A variety of factors are driving a more rigorous adoption of wireless access in the K-12 market, including increasing demand from a generation of tech-savvy students, breakthroughs in managing and controlling mobile devices in the classroom, and the new Common Core Standards, which require that assessments be conducted online.

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More WLANs for Ultra-High Density Public Venues/Stadiums

An increasing number of spectators at stadiums, auditoriums and other large public venues are using mobile devices to share photos, upload videos and check messages. However, today's cellular networks can't handle the capacity required for these types of apps in high-density environments. In 2014, large public venues will increasingly turn to WiFi to elevate the fan and attendee experience, securely and reliably delivering perks such as in-seat food orders, news feeds from the teams, live play-by-play details, and instant replays and highlight reels.

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