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The Latest in Wi-Fi Trends

Mohan Vellanki
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Mohan Vellanki
Wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi®, has become pervasive across many applications, from wireless devices, to medical devices, and smart grid. The advent of innovative implementations in Wi-Fi over the years, coupled with an all-IP nature of communication, has enabled it to be a default wireless interface for the emerging ‘The Internet of Things’ market. Wi-Fi was invented to be a networking technology, to play a complementary role along with the much successful Ethernet technology. Wi-Fi can be used in the home, on the campus, in offices and factories, in a hospital, or at public places, including restaurants, airports, or even on the street, to connect a variety of electronic devices. Today, the Wi-Fi interface is not only lower in power than many proprietary wireless interfaces; it is low cost and also supported by a very credible industry ecosystem. This article discusses the various target markets and applications for Wi-Fi.


Wi-Fi was first introduced in 1999, with Wireless Ethernet Alliance (WECA) endorsing 802.11b specification. This specification was branded as Wi-Fi technology. WECA was renamed to Wi-Fi Alliance in 2002. The main focus for the specifications has been to enable electronic devices to connect seamlessly. Although, the idea was to replace Ethernet cabling; the initial technology was not mature enough to compete at high bit rates for wired connections. However, after a decade, the growth of Wi-Fi has been phenomenal with one billion Wi-Fi chips sold in the last 10 years. The major mass adaptors of this technology were the laptop and PC markets. This was aided by wide scale availability of wireless enabled networking routers and access points to home consumers at a sub-$50 price.

Wireless Technology Positioning

The figure depicts the positioning of Wi-Fi technology, in comparison to other prevalent wireless technologies. Notice that Wi-Fi is promising to become the leading technology in PAN (Personal Area Network) and LAN (Local Area Network), with advances in Wi-Fi Direct (Peer to Peer device connectivity) and 802.11ac (more than 800Mbps throughput support) standard launches in 2011. New Age of Wi-Fi With the launch of the Apple smartphone in 2005, it was considered significant for the exponential growth of Wi-Fi. The device pushed the focus away from the PC and laptop market, to devices in general. New product development was focused on task based computing. The advantage of machine to machine (M2M) connectivity, as a truly networked environment, was possible with Wi-Fi as the standard protocol. Wi-Fi provides the convenience of wireless connectivity, along with the flexibility to design intelligent applications on an IP network. This combination of standard and ease of development was missing in other wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth and ZigBee.

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