CSA Explains: Wireless
On Friday morning, 14 June, I had the pleasure of attending the “CSA Explains: Wireless” event at the Lewis Center of De Paul University. This was one of the best technology and business seminars I had yet attended. Each speaker provided clear insight into the technological developments associated with Wireless and their perceived opportunities to translate the difficulties and evolutions of the wireless world into business.
While Ari Kaplan, CEO of Expand Beyond, moderated, Dan Ehrmann of Risetime Technologies, Michael DelCiello formerly of Curious Networks, and Craig Goren, of Centerpost walked us through the wireless landscape.
Mr. Ehrmann provided a strong factual orientation to the wireless arena. As an adjunct professor at De Paul, he has collected a number of fundamental facts of the wireless arena. One such set of facts concerned the correlation of the technological platform to the distance and throughput of wireless communication:
(1) RFID, used in I-Pass, the Mobile Speedpass, and also for identification of military crates in Desert Storm, works best below 5 meters of distance and is sold at volume prices around $0.50 per chip.
(2) Bluetooth, the technology long in development but slow in deployment, works best in the personal arena below 10 meters and is priced around $5 per chip.
(3) 802.11x, using a wireless IP networking protocol, has been deployed in WiFi and corporate wireless networking. Its best distance is in the 100 meter range, but members of the audience note that they have successfully picked up signals at 5 km. 802.11b was blamed for many of the security breaches that have made the news lately, while it is anticipated that 802.11g will soon be released and address many of these issues while importantly retaining backwards compatibility.
(4) Finally, Cellular, 2G, 2.5G, and 3G, works within the 100 m to 10 km
Mr. DelCiello was very upbeat regarding wireless platforms. In approaching the value proposition of providing data on a variety of wireless platforms, heused the phrase “perishable data.” By this, he meant data which has a time-dependent value to the receiver — either email which requires a quick response, or less mundane applications such as customer knowledge before a salesperson walks in the prospects door, or near real-time pricing data, logistics data, etc. Mr. DelCiello described the high variety of devices that support wireless data, their form factors, memory size, user input method, and user interface. Each separate combination requires a different way to think about how the user will access and interact with data on a wireless device. He highlighted the need for inter-applicability of the wireless data and its deployment platform, ending with the note: It’s not just a technological question, determine the business drivers, success metrics, and processes.
Mr. Goren changed the subject from “pull” technologies to “push” technologies. While “push” has not yet taken off in regards to the forwardingof location specific information (for example, if a person is within 100 feet of a restaurant, a server automatically sends a message telling him what’s on the menu and a discount), it was demonstrated to provide a high level of value within specific applications. The application he demonstrated was from United Airlines. In this demonstration, the pushed data had a high degree of personalization and immediacy. It specified the recipient, the status of a flight that the recipient was to depart upon, and all updated information such as the gate, time, etc. At the end of his talk, he outlined where automated pushed information was inappropriate, and where it provides a high level of value for the recipient.
At the end of the talk, Mr. Kaplan asked four excellent questions: “Myths of Wireless? Favorite Gadgets? Industry Stage in the Technology Life Cycle? The Role of Chicago?” To this I added a question regarding the “Convergence of technology or the proliferation of wireless?” Mr. Erhmann replied that he foresaw a convergence in the underlying technology of wireless but hundreds of different form factors and designs, dependent upon the target market and the target application.
Mr. Goren anticipated a continued proliferation of devices, but the consolidation of information within any one particular device. And lastly, Mr. DelCiello also foresaw the continued proliferation of devices, but the convergence of functionality. Their answers imply that the fundamentaltechnology regarding wireless is maturing to the point that applications can safely be developed and deployed by large corporations, and it may be time to enter another up-tick in the tech sector.
My thanks goes out to the Chicago Software Association for hosting this event and each of the speakers for their excellent preparation and presentation.
The May Report, TECH BUSINESS BRIEFS, June 17, 2002
Source Code, CSA’s Electronic Newsletter, July 16 2002