Education Technology: Wireless as a Service, 802.11ac and Social Wi-Fi

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Read about trends in education technology: Wi-Fi as a subscription service, outlook for 802.11ac adoption in schools and integration of social media into wireless networking.

BETT 2014, UK’s learning technology show, has been and gone, but it certainly won’t be forgotten! For those in the educational technology sector, be it primary school teachers all the way to network managers of colleges and large secondary schools, this was THE event and is memorable for new technology and aching feet from over 4 days of the conference.

Wireless as as Service for Education

So what was all the fuss about and why was #BETT2014 trending on the social feeds? There were a few noticeable trends this year noted by attendees and exhibitors alike. Firstly came “XXX as a service”! As educational funding changes, so does the need to adapt and service the new legislation whilst still enabling the educational IT needs in what is a constantly evolving technology landscape.

Cloud Wi-Fi as a service

Cloud Wi-Fi as a service

One that stuck out was North Pallant Cloud and their WISE (Wireless as a Service for education). Using secure cloud managed Wi-Fi provided by the Airtight Networks, they are offering an OPEX model that fits the new financial structures of schools and enables secure Wi-Fi to be deployed. This allows school administrators to deliver all the new applications to their teachers and students whilst getting the assurance that they are securing the network and enabling simple management and deployment for the heads of IT.

Verdict on 802.11ac in Education Is Still Out

There wasn’t as much talk of the new Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, from attendees, which was a complete opposite from most Wi-Fi vendors at the show. General opinion was that schools don’t have the money to invest in .ac devices as yet and that in reality, a robust, well designed, deployed .n network will still allowing streaming video to all students. Most of those I spoke to saw 802.11ac as a shrewd plan by Wi-Fi vendors’ marketers to increase sales as opposed to being offered groundbreaking technology.

I’m pretty sure that this opinion will be more divided come BETT 2015 as most schools appear to be first or second generation Wi-Fi users and the realization that security and management of what has now become the primary application delivery network in education, Wi-Fi, is actually pretty important! To that extent, the newer breed of Wi-Fi vendors, those who are cloud managed, were the vendors to see, with the common message that the controller is dead. Its not often you see vendors “buddying up” but that was the common messaging.

Social Wi-Fi: Fit for Education?

The advent of social Wi-Fi seems to have split opinion in terms of its value to the educational sector. The majority of IT people saw no value, whereby a sizable number of principals I spoke with saw it as an invaluable way of promoting the school and being seen as technically “with it.” Competition is fierce amongst schools and social Wi-Fi is a way of engaging with the students, who according to several people “go zombie” as soon as the class is done and lurch around hallways, seemingly sucked into their mobile device. What better way to tell them of events, news and the like than by communicating on the students’ preferred platforms, Twitter and Facebook. We’ll see over the coming months which way this goes, but it is here to stay in one format or another.

With Wi-Fi now running smart boards, tablets, laptops, desktops, telephony, cameras, entry systems, in fact pretty much everything, 2014 looks like being memorable for those in the business and those looking to utilize the technology.

A gold star and a certificate of merit for all exhibitors and attendees and roll on BETT 2015, my lanyard is ready!

This is the first post is from Zara Marklew, EMEA channel manager, who is the newest addition to the AirTight team in Europe. Welcome, Zara!

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Zara Marklew

Zara Marklew

Zara Marklew is AirTight’s channel manager responsible for EMEA. Based in the UK, Zara covers regional trends and events, with an emphasis on retail and education verticals.

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