The future for Wi-Fi - The prediction - Securing Wi-Fi
I usually start my prediction by talking about the past and how Wi-Fi has evolved over the last 10-15 years, solving many problems along the way. I call it the three C's of the past, Connectivity, Coverage and Capacity.
Connectivity - When I first started out in Wi-Fi back on the early 2000's obtaining a consistent Wi-Fi connection was challenging enough. There was no or very little built-in support for Wi-Fi within devices such as laptops and PC's and the only way to get connected was to use a PCI or PCMCIA card. Windows had no built-in support either and you had to install what was called a supplicant to be able to configure a profile for your connection... 802.11a/g was when Wi-Fi really become a connectivity option with advances such as antenna diversity assisting in maintaining a consistent connection...
Coverage - With connectivity no longer an issue and as the adoption of Wi-Fi really started to increase the main problem that was then created was the lack of pervasive coverage. Initially coverage was kept to 'Hotspot' areas within businesses and public spaces, hence where the name came from. But as demand grew (which was mainly driven from everyone having Wi-Fi at home) we were then challenged with making those Hotspot areas join up together. What greatly helped at this time was 802.11N and MIMO. Although MIMO gave us higher data rates 802.11n gave us better connections and consistent coverage, making joining up our hotspots a simpler task.
Capacity - With connectivity and coverage now expected wherever you go it was never going to be long before capacity became the next issue especially with the explosion of devices that has been seen within the last few years. Whilst our need for more and more data will always increase, 802.11ac and its promised Gigabit speeds has for now addressed this requirement. Only in multi-dwelling units such as student accommodation do we really see 802.11.ac being pushed to its potential with most office and public Wi-Fi networks still not needing Gigabit speeds.
The Future - So with connectivity, coverage and capacity addressed for the time being what do I think is left to achieve in Wi-Fi? In a nutshell, Security and the challenge of onboarding clients in a secure and easy way. It still amazes me how many networks are still using a pre-shared key or require time consuming setup of the client in order to achieve a secure connection. Most IT departments find it too complicated or clunky to use 802.1X and secure certificates due to the overhead of managing a radius server and certificate server and public hotspots are seriously lacking basic security leaving most users vulnerable to many security and privacy dangers.
What is needed is an easy way to securely connect your device regardless of where your connecting to with your traffic encrypted and your data secure. Hotspot 2.0 hasn't as yet gone mainstream by mobile operators to bridge the gap in securing public hotspots and in the enterprise it is being left to private companies to innovate. As I don't see anything new emerging from the Wi-Fi standards any time soon but I do believe that companies such as CloudPath (www.cloudpath.net ) are bridging this security gap.
CloudPath and their 'enrolment system' offers a vendor neutral, client onboarding solution that works with WPA2-enterprise to wired networks with 802.1X. Having used this solution for some time I like the set and forget policy driven workflow and the fact that there is a Built-in certificate infrastructure and RADIUS server which greatly overcomes the issues with managing and supporting your own 802.1X setup.
I look forward to reading this post in a few years time and reflect back to see how close my prediction was... What I am 100% sure on is that the trend for more and more devices requiring ever more data will continue to increase!