Being employed by a large enterprise often means accessing applications and data remotely at home, and although it was designed as a consumer technology, a cloud-based Wi-Fi system from a firm called Plume may wind up playing a supporting role in the future of work.
Bell Canada recently announced its Whole Home Wi-Fi service, which effectively white labels technology from Plume to ensure broadband is available for the increasing plethora of smart devices no matter where they might be in the home. Plume’s products and services include palm-sized access points, called pods, which can plug into a regular electrical outlet. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm’s software then “learns” the typical Wi-Fi usage inside the home in order to optimize the network and then locate the best possible signal.
While Bell is the first carrier to bring the technology, which Plume has trademarked “Adaptive Wi-Fi,” to market in Canada, it follows U.S. telecoms such as Comcast, which launched its Xfinity xFi service last Spring.
“It’s not just that people want to work from home. People want to work from home from where they want to work in the home,” Shawn Omstead, Bell Canada’s vice-president of residential product development, told B2B News Network. “We’ll have customers who will ask, almost in a whisper, ‘Can I install this outside?’”
The answer is yes, so long as the pods can be protected from the elements. The technology means customers can avoid the limitations that come from using Wi-Fi extenders, explained Omstead, because those devices often take the power of the network gateway out of the equation and may not deliver the performance a remote worker might expect.
“We know customers are doing Internet speed tests all the time. We can see it,” Omstead said, adding that companies like Bell will then get complaints that customers aren’t getting the Wi-Fi strength they’re paying for as part of their contract. He described the Plume technology as the “third wave” in Wi-Fi connectivity, following the router-based approach and more recently, mesh networks.
In an e-mail, Plume co-founder and CEO Fahri Diner suggested the company’s technology make people look at their Wi-Fi connection in the same anthropomorphic way they now look at smart devices in their homes.
“It would be a great solution for anyone needing Wi-Fi they can rely on for their home office,” he said. “You will be able to join a video conference, stream and share content, and download files quickly and consistently. Plume works perfectly well in SoHo environments”
Bell has been quietly beta-testing the Whole Home Wi-FI service since last Fall, Omstead said, and now has a base of thousands of customers who have proven it works. Getting a pack of four pods, which he said would meet the needs of more than 90 per cent of customers, will cost $5 per month. An extra pod will be two dollars each.
Besides the pods, customers will also be able to use a mobile app developed by Plume to monitor their usage, share access with guests or even schedule how usage works in areas of the house. A remote worker might want to limit their teenager’s ability to stream videos, for instance, at a certain hour in the evening as they use more critical applications, Omstead pointed out.