Wireless expert touts coming apps

At a Wireless World Research Forum conference being held in Toronto this week, Network World Canada Editor Greg Enright sat down with the organization’s vice-chair of the Americas, Miguel Pellon, to discuss the organization’s work, the future development of wireless technologies, and the inroads that wireless is making into the enterprise environment.

The WWRF, founded in 2001, is a forum for more than 160 academic and industry member organizations to help guide strategies for the development of wireless technologies on both the consumer and corporate sides.

NW: Your organization often looks at what wireless will look like in five or more years, but can you describe some innovations you expect to see appear within the next year or so?

Pellon: One of the many underlying ideas we have is that in the future , we in our industry will be able to take advantage of multiple networks, ones that have to be available to render these services. In the shorter term we’re actually seeing the first level of implementation of that kind of activity in the market. I think that becomes a validation of the approach that we’re on.

So over the next few months we’ll see different types of products that combine cellular telephony with Wi-Fi and allow people to do voice over Wi-Fi and switch back and forth, that’s very much in the line of thinking. Granted the WWRF actually has a much more ambitious view of how to combine networks, but it’s always good to see an example in the short term of the track that we’re on.

NW: What future impact will wireless technologies have on the enterprise?

Pellon: What [the enterprise] looks for are cost-reduction opportunities. And in the near term, for us in our industry, things like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) really have the potential to be a significant component in what the enterprise is adopting. Obviously, it exists today on the wireline side, and what we’re seeing is that people are interested in marrying mobility with the cost-reduction capabilities that VoIP gives you. … There is the idea of a common handheld that you would have and that would be your office phone. It uses one single number, and then it either accesses an internal Wi-Fi-type network running VoIP when you’re in the building, or it jumps on to the wireless network. When you look at that from an enterprise point of view, that is a straight cost justification, because if you can move more of your minutes of usage into your own network on a VoIP protocol, it allows you to reduce your overall operating costs.

NW: Could the enterprise’s concerns around wireless security be an impediment to the adoption of wireless technology in that environment?

Pellon: I think that’s up to the industry. The good news is, the telecommunications and the wireless industry has the opportunity to establish the levels of security that will give all customers the confidence they’re looking for. It really is a given that if you start envisioning the kinds of apps that people want to do with wireless you have to make them inherently secure or else they’re not going to roll out to the marketplace; whether it’s electronic commerce or access to database information, you’re going to find that people are going to be reluctant to transact that type of activity if the underlying platform is not secure. The interesting thing is that we (in the wireless industry) come from an environment — in terms of devices like cell phones — that has been a closed environment. It has not been an open environment for adding applications. Basically, security has been easier for us to handle than more open environments.

So I think you see, in our industry, people taking more seriously that transition that is happening to more open environments. … People are saying they want to roll this out with the security implemented right from the start, because you do not want to introduce vulnerabilities into what is a new set of services.

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