Follow the 'Wireless' Road

In the last couple of years, we have seen a great expansion of wireless technologies in the market: mesh; Wi-Max; Zigbee; MIMO; 802.11n; 3G; LTE; and more. Regardless of the acronym, the bottom line is that wireless comes in lots of different flavors, each with a specific application. As you may have already realized, wireless is here to stay and it is in your best interests to get up to date with it before you find yourself left behind.

The wireless way is the profitable route

Many system integrators have capitalized on this trend and added one or more wireless solutions to their offerings. Others have gone all the way and decided to specialize in deploying wireless solutions as their sole source of revenues. Regardless of where you are currently standing you are probably asking yourself where wireless technology is going and what you should be getting ready for.

Wireless networks are becoming more reliable and capable of handling a larger amount of data per link. In addition, the cost of deploying a wireless network has gone down dramatically, making it an even more competitive alternative to hardwired solutions. This decrease in cost is due to lower cost of the hardware, such as radios and antennas, as well as a shorter deployment time because of more effective and user-friendly products and network interfaces.

The next step is what we really want

So what's next? True system integration, i.e. making it all work together. We have witnessed successful mesh networks with 500+ cameras. We have seen reliable Zigbee deployments for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). We have proven that MIMO and 802.11n can break the 100 Mbps barrier and we have all added a friend on Facebook through our 3G-capable cell phones. The next step is to integrate these technologies together and truly understand what the limits of each one are. It's easy to get a wireless mesh network up and running. It is not nearly as easy to integrate a mesh network for public safety to support Zigbee traffic for SCADA as well as provide 802.11n Wi-Fi access on Main Street USA. And how about allowing police cars to have live CCTV streaming on their laptops for a more immediate response?

Thanks to the IP revolution, integration of different technologies is simpler and allows for an immediate increase in what the system can do. Yet, this also poses a challenge for integrators and manufacturers alike to capitalize on this opportunity and make sure that interoperability becomes a reality both for static and mobile systems.

When it comes to mobility in particular, different solutions are being implemented from mesh networks to cellular to satellite. For now, due to different restrictions in every country, all three technologies are being used with different performances and cost of implementation. If the current market trends are sustainable, wireless bandwidth might become a free asset in the near future. If that will be the case, wireless connectivity will become a part of daily life; lots of integration challenges will be simplified; and the bar for wireless reliability and performances will be raised one more time.

Cosimo Malesci is co-founder and vice president of Channel Sales and Marketing, Fluidmesh Networks Inc., Boston.