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AI-powered Wi-Fi as a service: part of a $60 billion market by 2025 (Reality Check)

The market intelligence firm Tractica forecasts that the revenue generated from the direct and indirect application of AI software will grow from $1.4 billion in 2016 to $59.8 billion by 2025. Key industries for AI adoption will include automotive, business services, investment, media & entertainment, and legal.

“Artificial intelligence has applications and use cases in almost every industry vertical and is considered the next big technological shift, similar to past shifts like the industrial revolution, the computer age, and the smartphone revolution,” says research director Aditya Kaul.

Wi-Fi as network as a service (NaaS) is starting to establish beachhead in companies with 500 or fewer employees and could grow to become a multi-billion dollar market in the coming years. It starts with Wi-Fi and then on-demand and employee-based monthly software services will follow (firewall, compliance, UC, presence and more). Why you may ask? Recent research by iGR found that 64% of enterprises are more than willing to outsource Wi-Fi because they want to focus on the core business. The reason is very simple! There’s a scarcity of IT expertise to manage networks in one or more locations.

“Wi-Fi service enables us to focus on our core competency which is to manage stores and distribute food and goods,” said Harrison Lewis, CIO of Northgate Markets. “With this service, we can easily monitor our many stores, distribution center and our corporate office, as one global network from anywhere and respond when KodaCloud alerts us to any issues which require human intervention.”

Wi-Fi as a service, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, enables MSP and enterprise IT departments to provide highly optimized Wi-Fi service to end users in numerous locations, with little or no on-site IT resources required. Wi-Fi service providers are learning that the subscription economy will take over the enterprise in the move from capital to operating expense.

Wi-Fi as a service is changing how Wi-Fi networks are deployed and managed. The service can include a network of indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi access points (APs) that are shipped directly to customer locations, eliminating the need for a customer to buy equipment or a partner to manage inventory or shipments. The entire network can be installed in minutes and managed for a monthly fee. With proactive network monitoring, Wi-Fi as a service identifies and corrects tens of thousands of daily connectivity or performance issues. 4 out of 5 corrections can be made autonomously, and the network isssues alerts to IT teams where human intervention is needed.

“With our many distributed office locations, we needed a Wi-Fi network that could run and fix itself, as well as scale with our growing needs,” said Michael Ramsey, vice president of information technology with EmployBridge. “Wi-Fi-as-a-service has re-defined how we deploy and manage our Wi-Fi networks – allowing us to focus more on scaling our business.”

Though small and medium enterprise customers are the first to benefit from Wi-Fi-as-a-service powered by AI, larger enterprises and service providers are now taking notice. If scale is not an issue with cloud and AI then why not embrace a more flexible and opex-friendly model?

But, the vendors in the $12 Billion Wi-Fi equipment market will not stand by idly and let the as-a-service companies erode away high-profit margin equipment sales. Incumbent vendors continue to make announcements about “cloud Wi-Fi” in hopes of maintaining existing customer relationships as Wi-Fi evolves.

AI has influenced cloud access and network services forever, automating what’s normally handled by large IT teams, massive infrastructure products and software. As a result, more and more investments are flowing into machine learning & AI startups.

As the saying goes, “the train has left the station” for AI-powered Wi-Fi. Get on or get left behind. Some large vendors are starting to embrace the new model and 2017-2018 will see a bifurcation between old and new service vendors.


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