The Pervasive Computing Paradigm

By Alex Goldman

June 14, 2004

One topic of gossip and anticipation at the Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo last week in Baltimore, Maryland, was the persasive wireless Internet network.

After a pre-conference of tutorials and in-depth security sessions, the conference's day one began with an address by Aris Melissaratos, secretary of business and economic development for the State of Maryland, who congratulated attendees on helping network people, creating jobs and business opportunities around the world (although most attendees were from the U.S. and Canada, we met one attendee from Cameroon, two from Mexico, and one from Singaporeand exhibitors were from all over the world too, from Taiwan to Finland).

Then James Keegan, vice president for global pervasive/wireless e-business for Armonk, NY-based IBM provided the first keynote, an overview of the needs of the wireless enterprise. He spoke of "converging convergences" where the needs of the individual mesh with the needs of the organization, and the cellular, LAN, and telephony networks become one.

He said that this is the transition from the Internet revolution to the pervasive computing revolution, which will make even more demands on IT, from security to wireless networking to supporting an ever-growing number of devices.

Devices are already proliferating in certain vertical industries that are ahead of the technological curve. Whereas, in the past, healthcare lagged behind industries such as finance in the deployment of IT, the HIPAA law is forcing all the industries touched by healthcare to join the new network.

Brad Rosen, vice president of business development for Waltham, Mass.-based Cognio, a wireless systems consultancy, said that his company identified 25 different systems that could be emitting RF in any one hospital room. For example, a nurse could be using a Wi-Fi laptop or tablet, the IV drips could be communicating with one prescription system, and the nurse could also be using a handheld scanner to register any other medicine being administered.

The enterprise may soon become as complex. Leigh Chinitz, Chief Tecnnical Advisor for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based wireless hardware and software developer Proxim, said that devices will need to hop between access points and to do so they will need to be able to calculate which AP is better. He said the 802.11k protocol is beginning to work on this intelligence, but that the devices could do more than is currently being envisioned.

Alain Mouttham, CEO of Kanata, Ontario-based SIPQuest, a SIP product developer, countered that SIP can provide true mobilityindependent of session, service, and even device. "It's tied to you. Your address goes with you."

He added that the handoff delay has been decreased from 400 to 600 ms down to about 10 ms.

Stephen Salzman, director strategic investments in the broadband and wireless industries for Intel Capital, complained that SIP devices from different manufacturers lack interoperability. As far as we know, this remains a real problem with all of the leading edge technologies that will be used to deliver advanced services over IP.

Equipment vendors and service provides alike are eagerly anticipating the sales bonanza that a converged network would bring. They anticipate selling Wi-Fi and cellular dual mode devices, building out networks that can hand off to each other, from private corporate WANs to public hotzones to profitable WISP networks.

However, the usual concerns remain. Such a network needs open standards. It also needs better security.

In the pre-conference day, Richard Rushing, CSO of Alpharetta, Ga.-based WLAN security provider AirDefense, demonstrated several tools that can be used against wireless networks. The bottom line, his presentation noted, is that the tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated while requiring less expertise to use.

Rushing's session complemented the day-long security tutorial run by ISP-Planet author Lisa Phifer, vice president of Chester Springs, Pa.-based Core Competence, a consultancy, and Diana Kelley, security strategist for Islandia, NY-based Computer Associates. Although standards and protocols are constantly improving, which is good, that also means they are constantly changing, which means wireless security experts require continuing education.

Continuing education to handle constant change is what the conference was for. As the wireless network continues to grow, security threats probably will get worse. But the world is going wireless, and there will be great business opportunities for all of the companies working on the Internet's frontier.

Reprinted from ISP Planet.



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