Wi-Fi Alliance Head 'Suddenly' In Charge

By Ed Sutherland

August 09, 2005

The new chairman for the industry group says the consortium and its testing remain important to the future of wireless networking.

Clint Chaplin, the  newly-announced chairman of the Wi-Fi Alliance, finds himself thrust onto center stage and a bit unaccustomed to the spotlight. The appointment “was kind of sudden,” says Chaplin, former technical head of the industry group.

The naming of Chaplin follows the recent resignation of Bill Carney, appointed last June by the Alliance. Chaplin says Carney recently gave two weeks' notice to his employer Texas Instruments and to the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Carney wanted to move into UWB wireless technology with the UWB chipset company WiQuest, according to Chaplin. Carney was named senior director of market development there.

Chaplin was asked to serve out the remainder of Carney's one-year term.

In his "day job," Chaplin is the wireless security advisor for Symbol Technologies, a company that helped co-found the Wi-Fi Alliance in 1999. He was Symbol’s IEEE delegate for the 802.11i Task Group for security. He co-founded and chairs the IEEE 802.11r Task Group on wireless roaming.

Chaplin envisions a different course for the Wi-Fi Alliance. While the Wi-Fi Alliance’s managing director Frank Hanzlik oversees day-to-day operation of the trade group, a chairman is still needed.

“It’s not a ceremonial position,” says Chaplin.

“Clint Chaplin brings to the Alliance the necessary leadership to further grow the Wi-Fi brand and technology,” said Hanzlik in a press release.

“I look forward to leading the organization, and expanding the Wi-Fi brand into new and emerging markets as the Wireless LAN market continues to grow worldwide,” Chaplin said in a prepared statement.

“The board is in transition,” Chaplin told Wi-Fi Planet. The 14-member board must concentrate on forward-looking issues and tactical issues. While the chairman should set the direction, he can only offer suggestions to alliance members.

Although Chaplin’s election was sudden, the new chairman does have a few issues he’d like to see addressed. Wi-Fi has come a long way from 1999, a time Chaplin calls "chaotic" in the industry, but more work must be done to answer increasingly baffled consumers' concerns.

Residential and small business users are flocking to Wi-Fi products, but are often using default security settings -- which usually means no security at all. When headlines proclaim Wi-Fi security is broken, something must be done, according to Chaplin. The goal of simple configuration is to allow the end user to configure and secure Wi-Fi easily in the home or office, says Chaplin.

The Alliance hopes to have a certification program for “simple configuration” products available by the first half of 2006, according to an earlier Wi-Fi Planet interview with Hanzlik.

 As Voice-over-Wi-Fi gains momentum and more products appear, the Alliance will need to define when a device truly is “voice-ready,” says Chaplin.

The Alliance is already working with vendors offering converged Wi-Fi and Cellular products (WCC). It has been in contact with CTIA, the cellular trade group, on the subject. WCC tests should appear later this year.

The Wi-Fi Alliance is also ready to step in and calm marketing hype surrounding pre-standard products, according to Chaplin. It has had to warn companies promoting pre-standard gear that they could lose the organization’s ‘stamp of approval.’

“I don’t see a similar situation with 11n,” says the new chairman.

The Wi-Fi Alliance looks to be active beyond the computer. Wi-Fi is becoming part of a growing number of consumer electronics devices.

Wi-Fi CertifiedConsumers rely more on the “Wi-Fi” brand, says Julie Ask, a Jupiter Research analyst. While enterprises are able to evaluate products internally, “consumers rely more on finding the ‘Wi-Fi Alliance’ symbol to guide their decision-making," she says. The “Wi-Fi Certified” logo is known by 59 percent of consumers, while 54 percent of consumers report that the brand affects their buying decisions, according to a Jupiter Research survey.

While consumer acceptance of the Wi-Fi brand has risen from the first days of the Alliance, “we still have a task to do,” says Chaplin. The Wi-Fi Alliance’s work ensuring product interoperability is vital, he says.

“If we were to drop that effort, it is unclear whether the industry would get sloppy,” he says. Eliminating the Wi-Fi Alliance would lead to “possible anarchy,” says Chaplin.



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