The moment I noticed my Kindle Paperwhite got updated the other night, I headed over to the Settings page to see if there were any new features available to play with. What I instantly noticed though, was that there were 30 available Wi-Fi Networks around my tiny apartment.
I would have consulted Wikipedia and tried to figure out how Wi-Fi discovery works and whether or not more hotspots mean more battery energy gets consumed during the process, if I was geeky enough or perhaps suffered good from OCD. I mean, that potential bit of energy spent purposelessly could have been used to flip through a couple more pages of enjoyment.
And come to think of it, it almost feels funny when you realize how cumbersome a Wi-Fi router really is. An ugly square box, guaranteed to look out of place, poor portability, taking up space and an extra socket outlet, exists solely for the purpose of linking together devices and providing them access to the Internet.
So why are we having all these routers broadcasting signals to such an extent that the density of their coverage goes beyond waste, especially when all traffic converges upon a central hub somewhere near the building? Is it really necessary for each one of us to have a dedicated Wi-Fi router?
Well, do not get me wrong. There is no doubt that wireless connections are of absolute necessity to many, if not all, which I am not going to argue about, and the convenience and productivity boost that Wi-Fi routers and the like have been providing is not to be dismissed lightly, but maybe it is now worth taking a close look at the fundamentals about devices connectivity, especially the patterns that Wi-Fi routers have been imposing.
So what are the implications of having Wi-Fi routers everywhere? Well, it forces you into thinking that in order to have your iPhone to be able to collaborate with your iPad on certain project, you must first have each of them connected to some intermediate device or service, for example a Wi-Fi router, to exchange data, and arguably, this line of thinking is part of the reasons why we have Cloud Service everywhere today, to play the central hub role. At any rate, this represents a persistent and centralized pattern, offloading the connectivity complexities onto those routers sitting in between. This simplification encourages a wide range of devices and applications.
However, in the light of ever emerging workflow-centric applications and increasing data privacy concerns, I believe that short-range, intermittent, on-demand, device to device direct type of connection is to be emphasized. For example, when I take a photo with my iPhone and want to use an App on my iPad for further processing and adding extra effects, it is to my most convenience to be able to just “pair” the two devices and get it done, not to wait for the photo to appear from PhotoStream after a round trip back from iCloud, and certainly not through iTunes from a laptop. Also, by limiting the devices that have access to the data, privacy could be better protected.