By Carl Weinschenk
With Josh Weiss, wireless project manager for Sage Research. The penetration of wireless LANs into the enterprise accelerated during 2003. Sage's study, Wireless LAN Adoption Trends 2004, suggests that the momentum will continue to build this year.
This interview originally appeared in the IT Business Edge weekly report on Empowering a Mobile Workforce. To see a complete listing of IT Business Edge weekly reports or sign up for this free technology intelligence agent, visit www.itbusinessedge.com.
Question: What impressed you most about your research findings?
Weiss: I guess one of the main things is the extent to which current users are planning to expand their investment in wireless LANs. One of the motivations we saw was the solid impact wireless LANs are having on worker productivity. That's not a big surprise. We asked two questions: "What are the main motivations for installing a wireless LAN?" and "What benefits did you actually obtain from your wireless LAN?" I'm paraphrasing, of course. Both the motivation and the number-one benefit were improved worker or employee productivity. I would say that the sheer number of companies that are committed to investment leaves a solid impression that there's going to be growth. We found that 79 percent of current users will expand their wireless access to additional employees within the next six months.
Question: Are concerns over security fading to any extent?
Weiss: One question was about the major disadvantages of owning a wireless LAN network, and security still was by far number one. Most people still have it top of mind. You can't say people have gotten past it yet. But there definitely are other issues that are also coming to the front, such as reliability and coverage. There's plenty of press out there about security. It's still an obstacle for those considering the technology. However, for current users, the benefits of WLANs seem to, in a sense, speak louder than concerns about security. They are going ahead with investments despite their concerns.
Question: Did the study provide any information on adoption trends and patterns?
Weiss: Though it wasn't really a study designed to capture a broad spectrum of industries, we had some definite indications that wireless LANs are generating interest in various industries. For example, in manufacturing we have, for what it's worth, a mean budget number in 2004 of $13,000 for total amount spent on access points. That's a broad estimate, since these companies vary greatly in size. What we see is a solid commitment in manufacturing. In retail, it's over $11,000 [for APs] and in healthcare, over $9,000.