The first commercially available Wireless LAN
technologies appeared in the mid to late 1980s. The major requirement at first
was mobility–to give employees the capability to roam with a computing device
and still have connectivity to the resources available on the corporate LAN.
Early implementations were in specialist industries such as warehousing,
manufacturing, retail store management, and public utility environments where
computing traditionally could not go and yet where significant productivity
benefits were to be gained if such solutions were implemented. As a result,
early adopters of the technology were able to justify isolated implementations
of proprietary technologies in discrete locations.
The growth potential for this wireless technology is particularly interesting in the home, and small business markets. In the home, and for the small businesses sector, removing the need to invest in a fixed wiring infrastructure provides cost efficiencies and flexibility. To quote Mack Sullivan, Managing Director of the Wireless LAN Association: "Because there's no wiring, they take their system with them; they can set up the system themselves and save money on installation, too".
The industry is seeing the major players developing and adopting multiple current and emerging standards in wireless LAN technology. The various technologies implemented by vendors in the market are based on the work of such standards organizations as the IEEE LAN Interoperability Group (802) and ETSI.
In the late 1990s, a consortium known as the HomeRF working group was formed to focus on creating a shared wireless access protocol (SWAP) for interconnecting data and voice equipment in the home environment. This area was already being addressed by the European Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) standard.
In addition to these efforts, several leading wireless vendors led by Erricson, IBM, Intel, Nokia, and Toshiba, developed a wireless personal area technology named “Bluetooth”. This initial effort has led to the creation of an industry-driven Special Interest Group of over 1000 vendors. Bluetooth is an open specification for wireless communication of data and voice. It is based on a 9 x 9mm microchip, facilitating protected ad hoc connections for stationary and mobile communication environments. In addition to a hardware description, it also offers an application framework and interface support with interoperability requirements.
Bluetooth radio technology built into both the cellular telephone and the laptop will, among other things, replace the cable used today to connect a laptop to a cellular telephone.
The Open Group should facilitate industry cooperation to achieve alignment of the activities of Bluetooth, ETSI, HomeRF, and WECA to ensure that differences do not retard market growth, and conformance and certification testing programs are implemented to ensure end-user confidence.
There is an opportunity for The Open Group to leverage both its conformance and certification program skills and the power of its corporate and government buyers to promote a common industry consensus among the various competing interests for the purposes of driving forward adoption of these exciting technologies in the market.