Pick up the daily newspaper, peruse the business section and a strange sight greets you: "Wanted, Chief Wireless Officer." "Not another executive," you think to yourself, as you finish your coffee and head to work. But as the pace of traffic slows, the CWO concept still swirls in your mind. After all, it was only two days ago that a flood of yet another new technology drowned the quarterly meeting. M2M. 802.125.4. SNAP. What does this all mean?
How businesses learn to communicate within their organization is about to be dramatically reshaped once more. Machines are learning to talk. While a new executive position may be too dramatic--CIOs have only recently gained acceptance--attention to this tipping point will be critical to a company's ability to differentiate in operational efficiencies over the next decade.
Where IT directors have focused on information technology, this new responsibility focuses on communications technology--especially wireless. This next wave is not simply more capable cellphones, but wireless communications for machines and their connection to the Internet. Whenever the force of a new idea begins to take hold, expertise in understanding the highly technical concepts and details are critically important in helping a business to shape strategy from an informed and experienced viewpoint. And wireless machine communications to monitor and control is new.
So, where would someone responsible at the highest levels for wireless communication need to focus? One example is the long-term preservation of the investments in the new infrastructure by selecting the right standards. By understanding the intent of different standard organizations, such as the ZigBee Alliance for buildings, WirelessHART for factories, or SNAP for a broad range of applications, the right products can be selected with the knowledge that they will be supported well into the future.
Knowing the key technical drivers behind the specifications for bandwidth, power, range and network topology will guide the business in planning and building the right infrastructure. If the best locations for increased monitoring and control are in facilities that cover a large area, then range and battery life are key. If the business has local operations, like the FFT calculations needed to monitor machine health via vibration sensors, then onboard intelligence and processing power are key attributes. A professional "CWO" will understand these issues and guide the executive team towards the right investment.
However, selecting the right components is only part of the problem. Ensuring that businesses obtain the maximum benefit from the technology comes from understanding how this new capability will integrate into business operations. This is where the critical focus for differentiated advantage can be gained. Developing the proper gateways will allow networked workers and now, networked machines to finally "talk" to each other.
This means that the objectives created and managed by the people running the business can be directly connected to the means by which these objectives are met. Facilities can now sense their environment and "tell" people how it is regulating energy use for cost saving efficiencies. Factories can "listen" to orders for customized products and "talk" to suppliers, equipment, and process controls to act on these requirements. And the machines can request maintenance when they detect the need for adjustment or repair.
An expert in wireless communications technology will understand the pace at which these functions can be reliably implemented, as well as the way to best meet company goals. In time, this function may be absorbed into a broader responsibility. But at this point, bringing on the right talent and experience will make the difference between companies that propel themselves successfully into this new world of wireless communication and those which either wait--and get left behind--or underestimate the power of this new capability and implement without the necessary business and technical acumen.
As you finally arrive at work and watch your computer screen spring to life, you notice a message from the factory informing you that the changes to the production run based on your new client requirements went smoothly. Looking closer, you see that it is signed by machine No. 42.
Wade Patterson is founder, president and CEO of Synapse Wireless Inc.