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The World Has Gone Wireless: Could You Live Without Wi-Fi?

People are addicted to Wi-Fi and want to cut the cords on all their devices.

Need proof? In one survey, 75 per cent of people said one week without Wi-Fi would make them grumpier than a week without coffee. In another study, 60 per cent of people claimed they can’t go without Wi-Fi service for more than one day.

That’s just Wi-Fi. There’s a lot more going on with wireless connectivity these days, whether it’s Bluetooth, small cell networks or the Internet of Things. Here’s what you need to know about the latest advancements in wireless technology – and how they can help your business.

The technology

Wi-Fi: How important is a good, reliable, secure Wi-Fi connection for businesses? Here are some interesting findings for two verticals: retail and hospitality. Based on research by Acquity, 50 per cent of retail customers “feel comfortable making a large purchase in-store if Wi-Fi access is available” and 28 per cent would stay in a store longer if it offered Wi-Fi. In one survey, hotel customers ranked Wi-Fi as more important than a good night’s sleep. No wonder customers in another poll named free Wi-Fi as the single most important room amenity of all.

WiGig: This new Wi-Fi protocol (officially known to chipheads as 802.11ad) will offer connectivity at 10Gbps, a blazing ten times faster than current Wi-Fi technology. Although WiGig promises lightning fast connectivity, it only works over short distances (we’re talking one to 10 metres), so you have to be very close to a wireless router to use it.

Bluetooth 4.2: The latest version of Bluetooth eliminates the wireless middleman, so to speak, by allowing devices to connect to each other directly via IPv6/6LoWPAN rather than through a router or tower. That could make it an important player in the Internet of Things. (The same technology is also used by Apple’s iBeacon system to send offers and messages to shoppers within a certain radius inside retail stores). Bluetooth 4.2 also boasts greater speeds and data capacity than the current version.

SON: This acronym stands for self-organizing networks, which are an emerging new way to configure, optimize, manage and even repair mobile broadband networks (including LTE) through automation. Although this technology is relatively recent, analysts at Markets and Markets estimate global SON revenue will top $4 billion by the end of 2017, surpassing revenue from conventional mobile network optimization by almost 60 per cent.

Small cells: Small cells are low-powered radio access nodes that can provide wireless connectivity within a range of about 10 metres to two kilometres. They’re particularly helpful in boosting mobile network capacity in rural areas, but also alleviate heavy wireless traffic loads in large urban regions as demand escalates. Since they reduce power consumption and reliance on cell towers, small cell networks are viewed as environmentally ‘greener’ than some other wireless technology.

Read Related: The Wireless Glossary

The Trends

Now that you’ve had a primer on a few of the exciting evolutions in wireless technology, consider some mobile business trends you’ll see harnessing that technology now and in the future.

For example, marketers can use geolocation applications to push notifications, directions, discounts or advertising content to consumers on their mobile devices when they’re inside or near a certain store or other business location. Improved wireless will also enable more consumers to conduct research, compare prices and complete purchases on their phones and tablets while inside stores and other businesses.

Robust wireless technology is crucial to the Internet of Things, which businesses will utilize to remotely monitor inventory levels, track product distribution and reduce energy costs, for instance. Wearable IoT devices will help businesses do things like accept mobile payments and authenticate user identity for secure access to offices, manufacturing plants and IT networks. 

Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) really showcases the central role wireless technology can play in an enterprise environment. Since UCaaS applications (like phone, video conferencing, email, messaging and presence) run wholly or partially in the cloud, they can be accessed by workers on virtually any device from any location – provided they’ve got great wireless connectivity and technology, of course. 

What wireless tech topics should we discuss next? Tell us in the comments below.

Christine Wong

Christine Wong is a journalist based in Toronto who has covered a wide range of startups and technology issues. A former staff writer with ITBusiness.ca, she has also worked as a reporter for the Canadian Economic Press and in broadcast roles at SliceTV and the CBC.

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