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Wi-Fi, the new Internet, & the irresistible urge to invent

By Claus Hetting   /     Mar 22, 2015  /     Uncategorized  /  

If you’re a tech & business innovator these days, where do you look for the next great thing to invent?

We did away with cables a long time ago. For the past 20 years or more, we’ve handed the job of connecting people to the Internet and to each other to big telcos. We still need them because there would be no Internet without cables in the ground, under the seas, or big trunk radios hanging off towers. We need all of that.

But there’s also a new Internet now. It’s the wireless Internet of everyone: Tens of millions of Wi-Fi routers across the world owned by individuals, businesses, companies big & small, and – of course – some big carriers, too. This Internet carries 80% of traffic on phones and much more for other devices. And precisely this is the wireless Internet of the future.

This Internet exists in large part independently of big companies. It needs no government license to exist. It needs no permission from anyone to grow, create, prosper. In fact – it’s begging for the next great inventors to come onboard. Wi-Fi is a perfect playing field for those with the irresistible urge to invent something new, something big, something immensely valuable.

Inspiration is always scarce. One of the great things I get to do in my job is meeting people that are taking on big challenges – people with the urge to invent. Last week at the Mobile World Congress, I met William Smith, the young CEO of San Francisco-based startup Euclid Analytics. Will told me that he doesn’t know anything about Wi-Fi “we’re just using it to deliver data science”. Euclid is winning. They’ve got the right idea and they’re using the new Internet to make it happen.

Another favourite of mine is Mimosa: A company creating Wi-Fi hardware serving up super fast, long-range Wi-Fi to hundreds of users at price that’s a small fraction of what it costs for the typical telco to do the same. Started by two guys who believe the time is now to shake up the status quo with technology that’s just better, cheaper, and faster – and here today.

We’re all used to paying for mobile plans. But what if the new Internet could do away with that altogether? WSJ reporter Ryan Knutson went Wi-Fi only for a month at zero cost and found that getting used to this is mostly a question of breaking a few largely unnecessary habits.

Is this a validation of what Clayton Christensen wrote in The Innovators Dilemma? Wi-Fi as “a low-cost, low quality alternative that slowly improves until it has claimed the bulk of an industry’s customers”. I think yes. Except it may not be that slow.

We need the innovators to show us how to turn this into an opportunity to create value through something else. Euclid & many others are already doing that. If you can hold it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand (unless it’s against the laws of physics). Thoughts become things. And the new Internet driven by Wi-Fi is our playground to do just that – create.

For more on great innovations in Wi-Fi join us at the Wi-Fi Innovation Summit in San Francisco on April 21-22. The best time to get involved in Wi-Fi was 15 years ago. The second best time is now.

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