Friday, January 6, 2017

Wi-Fi Trends Take Center Stage in 2017

by Shane Buckley, CEO, Xirrus 

From an unprecedented DNS outage that temporarily paralyzed the entire internet, to the evolution of federated identity for simple, secure access to Wi-Fi and applications, 2016 had its mix of growing pains and innovative steps forward.

Here’s why 2017 will shape up into an interesting year for Wi-Fi technology.

IoT will create continued security issues on global networks

In 2017, the growth of IoT will put enormous pressure on Wi-Fi networks. While vendors must address the complexity of onboarding these devices onto their network, security can’t get left behind. The proliferation of IoT devices will propel high density into almost all locations – from coffee shops to living rooms – prompting more performance and security concerns. Whether Wi-Fi connected alarms or smart refrigerators, the security of our homes will be scrutinized and will become a key concern in 2017. Mass production of IoT devices will make them more susceptible to hacking, as they will not be equipped with the proper built in security.

The recent IoT-based attack on DNS provider Dyn opened the floodgates, as estimates show the IoT market reaching 10 billion devices by 2020. The event foreshadows the power hackers hold when invading these IoT systems. Taking down a significant portion of the internet grows more detrimental, yet all too plausible these days. Because of increased security concerns, vendors will equip devices with the ability to only connect to the IoT server over pre-designed ports and protocols. If IoT vendors don’t start putting security at the forefront of product development, we can only expect more large-scale cyberattacks in 2017.

LTE networks won’t impact Wi-Fi usage

Don’t expect LTE networks to replace Wi-Fi. The cost of deploying LTE networks is ten times greater and LTE is less adaptable for indoor environments than Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi will remain the lowest cost technology available with similar or superior performance to LTE when deployed properly and therefore will not be replaced by LTE. When people have access to Wi-Fi, they’ll connect. Data plan limitations remain too common.

Additionally, the FCC and other international government agencies began licensing the 5GHz spectrum to offer free and uncharted access to Wi-Fi. But, we don’t want carriers grabbing free spectrum and charging us for every byte we send, now do we?

LTE and Wi-Fi will co-exist as they do today, where LTE works well outdoors and Wi-Fi well-designed to work consistently throughout internal spaces.

The push toward federated identity will continue in 2017

Today, there remains a disparate number of Wi-Fi networks, all with different authentication requirements. This marks an opportunity for Wi-Fi vendors. In the coming year, we will see federated identity become a primary differentiator. By implementing federated identity, vendors simplify and secure the login process. Consumers can auto-connect to any public Wi-Fi network with their existing credentials – whether Google, Microsoft or Facebook – thus providing them with a seamless onboarding experience. It’s the next step for Single Sign-On (SSO), and one that will set Wi-Fi vendors apart in 2017.

This coming year, the repercussions of IoT, coexistence of LTE and Wi-Fi, and demand for simple, secure access to Wi-Fi, will take center stage. The onus falls on company leaders, who must adapt their business strategies so they can keep pace with the fast and ever-changing Wi-Fi landscape. 2017 will have plenty in store.

About the Author

Shane Buckley is CEO of Xirrus. Most recently, Mr. Buckley was the General Manager and Senior Vice President at NETGEAR where he led the growth of NETGEAR’s commercial business unit to 50 percent revenue growth over 2 years, reaching $330 million in 2011 – and played a prime role in growing corporate revenues over 30 percent. Prior to that, Mr. Buckley was President & CEO of Rohati Systems, a leader in Cloud-based access management solutions, Chief Operating Officer of Nevis Networks, a leader in secure switching and access control. He has also held the position of Vice President WW Enterprise at Juniper Networks, President International at Peribit Networks, a leader in WAN Optimization and EMEA vice president at 3Com Corp. Mr. Buckley is a graduate of engineering from the Cork Institute of Technology in Ireland.

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