Submission by Timothy Edward Hawes – This 2-day event was held at London’s Olympia on 6th/7th April and was billed as “Europe’s biggest Wi-Fi show”. Sponsors included Intel and BT, and the event was a 3-way mixture of free exhibition, free seminars and a paid-for conference.
The exhibition was primarily targeted at the Business-to-Business sector and was well supported by some of the big industry names. Exhibitors came from all areas of the networking field and included community broadband, component and product manufacturers, distributors, software houses and security consultants. Although largely a product and services showcase, it was still possible to buy kit on the day from a handful of stands… The free seminar programme was subdivided into three categories, each with a different agenda spanning the two days:
- Unplugged: Mobile computing for enterprises – this was the part I was really there for, deploying wireless terminals in an industrial environment.
- Wireless Networking for enterprises – included security issues, campus & enterprise wireless LANs and roaming / GPRS,
- Wireless Broadband & Home Networking – developments in and the future of the home market sector, new Wi-Fi standards (e.g. 802.11n, WiMax), community broadband, data, voice & video.
The conference was a mixture of presentations and panel sessions. However since tickets were a fiver shy of the £1000 mark, I gave that bit a miss. Some of the topics that were up for discussion included: Wi-Fi & GSM, Hotzones and roaming, Wi-Fi on trains & planes, Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWLAN), WiMax & PWLANs. There were presentations from the major players in the IT and mobile industry as well as organisations such as Virgin Trains and Boeing. The content looked interesting, particularly the roaming and VoWLAN topics, but my pockets weren’t deep enough for a ticket.
Highlights – For me, one of the highlights of the show was the blunt-talking chap from BT on how industry must change its view of consumer to enable the transfer of broadband from the “geek niche” to the “mass market”. Joe Public is not interested in the technology, just the end uses, and the industry (including BT) has to recognise that and adjust its stance if it’s to meet its goal of every house connected to broadband. The “hacking” demonstration from Orthus was also interesting, although probably old news to those that work in the industry. Some useful leads for me though.
I had to admire the presentation from the bold new venture Abrocour – they’re pushing wireless technology into new homes and in conjunction with their building and IT industry partners, are “giving away” 50,000 wireless TVs this year (a $40MM exercise in itself!).
Finally, the rugged devices from Psion Teklogix. Of particular interest to me were the Netpad and Netbook Pro units. About the size of a multimeter and A5 laptop respectively, they have touchscreens and both run Win CE .NET. The Netpad is drop-tested to 5 feet, IP67 rated (1m submersion) and has optional Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, barcode scanner, Tri-band GSM/GPRS. The Netbook Pro is a little less rugged but has a larger screen, keyboard, and some expansion slots. Hopefully I’ll be getting some on test in the near future, so I’ll report back in due course.
Finally, some classic quotes from the visit (well, they made me giggle anyway):
- When asked about his home broadband service, the poor chap who had spent the whole day plugging BT Openzone, and was still sporting his BT polo shirt, had to admit he was on Telewest.
- (remember this was a Wi-Fi show) . . . the Intel demonstrator confessed to running the Pinnacle Showcenter box over a wired connection as there was “too much interference to do it wirelessly”.
Summary – On the whole a good show, and was worth making the effort to go. The seminars were interesting and relevant, although without them you could do the exhibition part in a lazy couple of hours. I picked up useful tips and some contacts for the work-based applications I’ve got on the go. From a UKHA standpoint, the VoWLAN section of the paid conference would’ve been nice to listen in on, but not at a grand per ticket.
Will I go next year? Probably, if I can swing it with the boss
The Wireless LAN Event: