In 2014 WiFi will change dramatically, and much of that evolution will be sparked by Hotspot 2.0, which is already gaining wider adoption. 

Looking at the data, global mobile data traffic grew by 70% in 2012 and the average smartphone usage rose by 81%.

In 2013, mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global internet in 2000. This will continue to grow in 2014, fostering the development of WiFi in the process. 

Hotspot 2.0 will support this growth by enabling any end-user to land in a foreign country and look for a WiFi network, rather than a phone network, based on their roaming agreement.

This is already available on iOS7 and will soon be available to Samsung Galaxy S4 owners and other manufacturers by the latter half of this year.

Additionally, as innovative product developments such as Google Glass become more mass-market, WiFi usage will accelerate further, and by 2020 both cellular and WiFi frequency will become completely saturated.

This, along with the increase in mobile data usage, is expected to put huge pressure on 3/4/5G networks, creating a need for more blanket coverage whilst leading to changes in frequency.

What will change from the user’s perspective?

The user’s experience of WiFi often begins with a very long list of SSIDs. All this really tells us is the name and whether it is locked or not.

You certainly can’t rely on the name because anybody can broadcast an SSID and of course the SSID could be spoofing a real one.

If it is unlocked you have to ask yourself: “what’s on the other side?” It could be paid for, it could be looking to hijack your information or it simply doesn’t connect because it’s oversubscribed.

The best case scenario is you connect, and then you have to open a browser and go through a registration process.

With Hotspot 2.0 the WiFi provider will broadcast much more detail; is the WiFi open? Is it paid for? Does it require registration? Is it oversubscribed? You can then make informed decisions about the network very quickly.

This will also create a seamless experience where you never have to interact with the network if you already have credentials in place.

That means, if your mobile provider, broadband provider, hardware provider or anyone else has a pre-agreed roaming agreement with the network, they can make all those decisions in the background and just connect you.

WiFi’s role in marketing 

The online world has been spoilt for many years with a wealth of data and analytics about how we interact with websites. WiFi is now paving the way for this same rich data to be available in the offline world.

With mobile devices constantly beaconing (looking for a WiFi connection) we are able to use this data in-store to capture footfall, average duration times in a venue, frequency, recency of visits and many more valuable insights.

Combine this with users who connect to the WiFi and you have a powerful marketing tool, which lets venues understand the environment, identify visitors and interact with them in new and meaningful ways.

Real time and highly relevant coupons or information for events are just two small examples.

WiFi’s role in innovation 

The Internet of Things (IoT), or Internet of Everything (IoE), is something that WiFi is going to play a major part in. As more and more devices and sensors have the ability to connect, they need a way of doing so.

Wearable tech such as glasses and watches may use Bluetooth tethered to your mobile device, which will ultimately connect to the WiFi.

Sensors will also become much more commonplace. An example of this are the sensors that will be inside nappies/diapers to notify you when your baby needs changing (they’re available now).

This is one simple example of the thousands of use cases for sensors that will control our world and will need connectivity to do so. A more well-known example is smart meters which are being rolled out everywhere by utility companies.

The development of WiFi will also place a stronger emphasis on the role of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO).

These roles are fast becoming responsible for social and digital innovation, including WiFi initiatives, with many now being required to develop effective strategies as part of their remit, often using WiFi technology as the enabler.

However, the consumerism of IT and the introduction of BYOD, encouraging employees to bring their own smartphones, laptops and PDA’s to the workplace, and connect via the company network is expected to raise various security and VoIP subscription issues.

There will be plenty of challenges to face as the ongoing developments in technology and marketing increase the demands on connectivity. WiFi will need to continue its evolution to make these requirements a reality.