Everyone seems to have a story to tell in Artificial Intelligence (AI) these days. But is it really having an impact on wireless networks? Here, Jeremy Cowan of VanillaPlus talks to two execs about recent developments; Keith Cahoon, UK Business Development director of Mist, and Kevin Fenn, global head of networks at ThoughtWorks.
VanillaPlus: AI has been touted as a game-changer for communication service providers in fraud prevention, and customer care. Why do you say it can transform wireless networking?
Keith Cahoon: “Wireless networking is at an inflection point whereby the traditional way of deploying, operating and managing Wi-Fi networks will no longer suffice. The good news is that we now have the ability to collect and analyse data pertaining to wireless networks like never before, driving operational efficiency in business and delivering unprecedented user experiences. This lets us automate manual operational tasks like packet captures, event correlation, and root cause analysis so that manual configuration and troubleshooting tasks can be eliminated.
“In addition, AI and machine learning provides real time predictive recommendations to provide IT departments a heads up before employees, guests, and customers experience problems. Eventually, we will achieve a completely self-healing environment, where the network can detect, predict and fix problems before users even know they exist, achieving the ultimate performance and cost savings.”
VanillaPlus: How does Artificial Intelligence make Wi-Fi predictable, reliable, and measurable?
Keith Cahoon: “Wi-Fi is more business-critical than ever and therefore has to be more predictable, reliable and measurable. To do this, there needs to be greater insight into the user experience and time-consuming manual IT tasks need to be replaced with proactive automation. AI-driven wireless platforms enable an enormous amount of data to be ingested and processed in real time, which allows unprecedented visibility into user behaviour, location and even the device type or operation system the user is using.
“This is key for baselining and monitoring trends and predicting macro issues early so they can be addressed proactively. In addition, AI puts a face on wireless by creating virtual network assistants that can answer questions on par with a human, such as “what was wrong with Bob’s Wi-Fi last week?” or “why is the conference room having issues?” This eliminates hunting and pecking through dashboards and provides unprecedented insight for better troubleshooting and insight.”
VanillaPlus: You state that AI can reduce wireless networking costs and boost employee productivity. Do you have any case studies you can share?
Keith Cahoon: “A good example of a company using our AI wireless networking platform to reduce costs and boost employee productivity is ThoughtWorks, a privately owned, global technology company. The company utilises our Marvis Virtual Network Assistant, which helps them quickly resolve wireless issues using simple language queries, event correlation, and trending analysis. It gives their workers the information they need to troubleshoot their own problems and provide insight into how everything is working at a macro level, which subsequently helps save time and costs, and boosts productivity.
“In addition, Mist has MSP partners, like Verizon and NTT, that are using AI to deliver software defined wireless services. With key features like service levels, dynamic packet capture, and event correlation, it is estimated that they can troubleshoot problems 40% more quickly with considerably less onsite resources, which saves substantial time and money.”
VanillaPlus: How did Mist and ThoughtWorks come to specialise in this sector? What are the companies’ USPs?
Keith Cahoon: “Mist built the first AI-driven wireless platform with the world’s first virtual IT assistant, Marvis. It is also the first vendor to bring enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, BLE and IoT together to deliver personalised, location-based wireless services without requiring battery-powered beacons. While other vendors are trying to bolt AI on top of legacy platforms, Mist built an AI engine from scratch on top of a real-time microservices cloud platform. This eliminates the need for expensive overlay hardware and software, it saves time and money with elastic scale, and it provides unprecedented feature agility.
“ThoughtWorks is a company that thinks disruptively to deliver technology that address its clients’ toughest challenges, all while seeking to revolutionise the IT industry and creative positive social change.”
VanillaPlus: Keith, you are quoted as saying Mist accelerates adoption of AI-driven wireless? Can you elaborate? Is it just in the UK, or elsewhere?
Keith Cahoon: “There is an abundance of companies looking to leverage AI to simplify Wi-Fi operations, increase Wi-Fi reliability and deliver new location-based services using virtual Bluetooth LE. In two years of shipping, we have quickly established ourselves as a leading visionary in the wireless space, with global customers in every vertical industry. To date, two for the Fortune 10 and approximately twenty-five of the Fortune 100 have purchased Mist for their Wi-Fi needs and/or to deliver personalised indoor location services using vBLE, such as wayfinding, proximity notifications, real-time alerts, and asset location.
“For a while now, we have seen significant interest in North America, and this is increasingly spreading throughout Europe. Indeed, the UK market is key to Mist’s global growth strategy. Based on the early success we have seen, we are excited to double-down in the UK and put the strategic pieces in place to bring much needed WLAN innovation to the region.”
VanillaPlus: Kevin, how is ThoughtWorks supporting clients’ IT initiatives like open seating, mobile videoconferencing and guest Wi-Fi?
Kevin Fenn: “Most of our offices offer open seating, with little or no fixed desks, nor wired connectivity, which means the Wi-Fi always has to work consistently and reliably. We are heavy videoconferencing users at ThoughtWorks and as it’s our primary means of communication Wi-Fi stability, performance and roaming are key to a great user experience.
“The experience of our clients and guests in our offices is really important to us, we aim to provide safe secure access to the internet for all. With our previous Wi-Fi solution we had to manage over 80 wireless LAN controllers in order to keep this environment safe and secure, this provided many technical challenges and lead to lots of inconsistences in deployments. A simple thing like changing our global guest SSID password consumed more than 20 hours of people’s time.
“We now use Mist’s AI-driven platform to automate mundane tasks, improve Wi-Fi reliability, accelerate troubleshooting and provide insight into the wireless user experience. Having great API’s in the MIST platform has allowed us to take our peoples experience of Wi-Fi to another level.”
Jeremy Cowan, editorial director of VanillaPlus & IoT Now, was talking to Keith Cahoon, UK Business Development director of Mist, and Kevin Fenn, global head of networks at ThoughtWorks.