Monday, August 24, 2015

How a 2005 WiFi Network will Destroy you by 2020

Growing up in the 90's and early 2000's, my electronic experiences were dominated by wires. The desktop computer I bought in 2000 (with a year's worth of paper route earnings) had a cabled mouse and keyboard, not to mention a fat, CRT monitor that weight 20 pounds. The controllers I held for the video games I played were mostly tethered by cables. Sure, cordless versions of mice, keyboards, and even game controllers were available, but required frequent battery changes or charges, and left much to be desired in terms of performance. While WiFi existed as an option for connecting to networks and the internet, it was generally slow (54 Mbps at best) as compared to ethernet connections that could handle 100 Mbps without the headache of connectivity issues. Tablets were non-existent, and laptops that weighed 8 or more pounds were a pain to use in any real mobile sense. As an older Millennial born in the 80's, it comes with little surprise that I tend to associates cables and wires with reliability and speed.

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This is not the experience of younger Millennials, and the latest generation of "Boomlets" born after 2001. As a high school freshman in 2000, a personal computer in your bedroom was a luxury. Now, it is the odd one out who doesn't have a smart phone by middle school. Just as general computer proficiency wanes the higher you climb the generational ladder past gen X-ers, so too does an appreciation for electronic mobility diminish beyond most Millennials. However, it's not Baby Boomers who will be entering the workforce in droves and representing more and more consumers hanging out in lobbies over the next five years. It turns out a wireless network from 2005 isn't going to earn their favor or their business, and those who think otherwise are in for some hard times.

The sit-at-your-desk-all-day work environments considered normal through 2010 are fading fast. Millenials don't remember a world without computers, and untethered internet access from their pockets is 2nd nature. While one can accomplish basic browsing from a fairly robust cellular network, limited data plans and spotty coverage drive smart phone users toward (often free) WiFi connections. This expectation carries into the workplace, and Millennials demand corporate network access to perform their jobs seamlessly away from their office desks, from home, or traveling abroad. Businesses unable to facilitate a mobile-friendly engagement will struggle to capture the talent of the next generation's workforce. Conversely, organizations that embrace and promote a mobile spirit now will enjoy a competitive edge in their talent pools for years to come.

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But there is more for businesses to be concerned with than just attracting mobile-ready employees. The same expectation for a mobile engagement also lies with the next generation of consumers. On site guests and customers expect WiFi access, especially if they will be spending any significant amount of time on site to obtain your services. Hospitals, hotels, resorts, coffee shops, sports arenas, automotive service centers, salons, grocery stores, corporate conference rooms, schools, even office lobbies and reception areas are feeling the pressure of providing WiFi access for their guests. The newest cars are even WiFi ready! As more and more everyday services and tools are made available via the internet, the everyday consumer's reliance on a steady connection to access those tools while making decisions about the services they purchase will only increase. The future of consumers will quickly write off organizations that cannot facilitate an acceptable guest WiFi experience in favor of their competitors that do.

How future generations engage with the world around them in an increasingly mobile capacity means a great deal to how they will do business. The businesses that are most successful will be the forward thinking ones that facilitate the trend.

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