Stop for a second and imagine this: Your toes are buried in the sand, with a laptop on your legs, when you click the link to a videoconference. Wireless technology instantly presents you the feed of a faraway meeting room populated by your colleagues, and you see them pulling up chairs, queuing a slideshow, and chatting in the minutes before a presentation. Soon, you're sharing screens to discuss the latest projects. Within 30 minutes, everyone is caught up and dispatched with new goals for the week.
Taking this dream one step further, technology innovation could allow you to join this meeting and display a holographic image of you sitting alongside your teammates. VR simulates an alternate world where the new product you helped design is already being used, and IoT devices are delivering real-time updates on how well similar products are performing in the real world. Unfortunately, this isn't reality—not yet, at least. Videoconferences are fraught with mishaps, and often, you can't hear a thing. Then, the meeting organizer's video falters and fails. More messages are frantically sent. Mics are checked, network speeds are confirmed . . . you get the idea.
These days, wireless technology and internet connectivity are like electricity: Your employees count on it to work, and when it doesn't, panic ensues and focus is lost. But imagine a world where video and teleconferencing—not to mention messaging apps, email, and all internet-connected devices—not only operated seamlessly but even boasted .01-second load times on a mobile browser, no matter where you were in the world.
Living in a Wi-Fi world
Technology innovation has provided a glimpse into a future entirely dependent on Wi-Fi:
- Autonomous cars have started transporting goods and people.
- For those who need hard copies of reports, mobile printing solutions make it easy to send print jobs to a printer from any device, while securing all data in transit, no matter where you are.
- Smart locks supplant the need for passing around keys, as they only require a smartphone to sync with their virtual security.
- You can seamlessly translate voices speaking in different languages by using an app that works with wireless earbuds.
- Holography can create a presence from absence.
- The Internet of Things can connect anything from doorbells, thermostats, wristwatches, and athletic apparel to make even the most mundane tasks faster, smarter, and more efficient.
But the more wireless technology advances, the more growing pains the IT world experiences. According to a nationwide survey by ZK Research, "Wi-Fi should be a mature technology with well-defined deployment best practices and mature troubleshooting tools. However, this is clearly not the case." More than half (58 percent) of the IT professionals responding to the survey said they spent at least a quarter of their time troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues.
Are there alternatives to wireless technology?
All these Wi-Fi troubles almost make you wonder why you can't just stick with the analogue and stay wired. Remember Ethernet cables? Those relics from the days of Walkmans, VHS, and MC Hammer pants did one thing—and did it well: connect reliably and securely to the internet.
Having an Ethernet connection would mean an end to searching for a reliable open Wi-Fi network and putting in a password if it's secured. If Wi-Fi is unsecured, you're taking your chances that every web page you open and every passcode you type could be hijacked by someone hacking into that wireless network. Not to mention your connectivity speeds change based on how far away your device is from the main router or access points.
For better or worse, Ethernet isn't going to have a renaissance anytime soon. For most workers and their employers, Wi-Fi is the primary network and a mission-critical resource. Besides, many devices in the current BYOD world don't even have the option to be wired—but another solution may be on the horizon.
Wireless moves at the speed of light—literally
Exploration of the electromagnetic spectrum reveals that while radio waves are currently used to communicate, light waves might become the next big thing to provide wireless technology innovation.
"We may not have the radio spectrums to serve the future need," said Professor Harold Haas of the University of Edinburgh in an interview with Gizmodo. He explained that radio waves might eventually get clogged with too many signals from a range of wireless technology. By using LED light bulbs that double as communication conduits, "Li-fi will be the nervous system of the future of smart autonomous systems, smart buildings, smart everything," Haas said.
Although it may seem far-fetched, light bulbs have privacy and security sewn up: Since light waves can't travel through walls, you'll have much more control over your network. And li-fi could transmit much more data faster than current Wi-Fi technology can. The researchers also found the connectivity is reliable for over 300 miles, without the need for satellites. It's currently too expensive to be considered a viable option for most offices, but it sure is fun to think of a day when speedy internet will be as reliable as switching on a light.
Whether that day comes to pass or not, it's clear the world is hurtling toward a future of greater wireless connectivity. There'll probably be some bumps along the way, but who knows—maybe you'll be phoning into meetings from the beach sooner than you expect.