Feature Story

How Wi-Fi is Changing the Way We Work

Connected devices are changing the workplace. Organizations must adapt to support the evolution of mobility.

By: Matt MacPherson

The explosive growth of connected mobile devices is in no way slowing down, and neither are the network speeds users will demand to support these devices. In recent years, the conversation around mobility and the workplace has revolved around the influx of smartphones and tablets and an organization’s ability to support employee-owned devices to enable a new way of working. However, with the new wave of high-speed mobile devices coming quickly online and into workplaces, a new mobile transition is taking place wherein each employee averages several mobile devices. Wearable devices will continue to drive this trend, with the number of wearables expected to grow from 109 million in 2014 to 578 million in 2019.

See Also: Wearable Tech Startups Target the Enterprise

Organizations risk missing out on potential productivity and gross margin gains if they’re not prepared to support the influx of wearables and other connected devices in the workplace, particularly as workers bring multiple devices running always-on and/or bandwidth-heavy applications to complete tasks faster and more easily. The ability for workers to innovate and offer business value with these devices hinges largely on the capabilities of the enterprise wireless network and high-tier network speeds. The average mobile connection speed is increasing – growing 20 percent in 2014 alone – and the ability of organizations to support these speeds for an expansive number of devices on the Wi-Fi network is critical.

The move to the next phase of Wi-Fi (802.11ac Wave 2) is expected to increase wireless speeds by up to 10x more than 802.11n, which greatly benefits users who rely on smart devices and wearables at work. A better built Wi-Fi network offering faster wireless speeds will drive change in the workplace by ensuring that multitasking employees will have a better end-user experience and are able to utilize their devices, from the smartphone and tablet to the wearable.

North America alone will hold 33 percent of the wearable connections by 2019, with the majority of wearable traffic routed through smartphones. As we’ve seen with BYOD, there is no barrier between the consumer and the enterprise mobile space – wearable use will be routed through the Wi-Fi network the minute employees walk through the door, particularly as users look to offload from the service provider network to save on data charges.

Employees can and will take advantage of a Wi-Fi network with greater speeds and higher bandwidth, particularly a Wi-Fi network capable of providing the speeds promised by .11ac Wave 2 and the future 802.11ax, by bringing an increasing number of connected devices online. As we look at this next mobile transition making its way into the workplace, 802.11ac Wave 2 offers tremendous opportunities (as well as some challenges Cisco is already addressing) to support a connected workforce that is persistently pushing to change the way we work with technology, one device at a time.