For three days last week (June 19th through the 21st) the MuniWireless organization held their show in Santa Clara California. Attendance was (once again) up from their previous show in Atlanta and there is a reason for that – a well produced show, excellent topics and a list of great speakers that I was proud to be a part of.
By focusing in on the specific niche that this show targets it is possible to entice an interesting mix of attendees that span the spectrum from free community wireless groups, non-profit organizations trying to better the world like Green-WiFi and to some of the largest corporations in the world, like IBM, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics as well as representative of some of the larger cities that are considering building municipal networks.
It is exactly this mix of people that makes for the kind of cross-educational exchange that many of us find so valuable. While the sessions covered a wide range of interesting topics most of my time was spent networking with people outside of the sessions. It is really difficult to fully take in any exceptionally well put together show so we are all forced to make decisions as to what we will participate in and what we will have for forgo in order to get what we believe will deliver the best experience for us on an individual basis. In this particular case, I made the decision to not attend many excellent sessions that I am sure I would have learned an incredible amount in so I could interact with people, quite literally, from all over the world. In all honesty, if the show had been scheduled for an entire week I am not sure I would have had enough time to take in everything that was offered.
This show also had a larger selection of vendors than the previous show. While many of the names that were there are well known to us all, there were a few interesting additions that I had not seen before. I am hoping to do a dedicated piece on a few of these manufacturers like Netistix and Wavion in the near future as both of these companies offer products that are outside of the norm.
There is a deeper issue that I would like to bring up, one that should be discussed more often but is often overlooked when we discuss an event like MuniWireless, one that has a benefit that I am not sure many people in attendance understand is what kind of alliances are formed, what kind of ideas are spawned and can we really even begin to understand what dramatic effects a gathering of minds like this show creates has on the longer term benefit to society. In different discussions that I was part of I heard plans to help connect people in India, plans to integrate automobiles into the communications platforms as well as serious concepts at fixing communications after disasters. The diverse brain power coupled with an incredible energy that resonated at this show was unmistakable. One very important point was made clear, individuals, businesses both small as well as huge, organizations and governments are looking at problems – real problems – and doing something about them.
If we amplify this thought, we see that no longer is profit solely the motivator in this case, many of the people there were representing non-profit organizations. What we are seeing is a melding of business and private groups coming together to address problems so as to provide solutions that the majority can accept. We see the Electronic Frontier Foundation discussing privacy issues with Google in an attempt to find a way that both sides can live with. We get introduced to organizations such as Wireless Harlem presenting their vision along with groups like Seakay working to find the right mix of partnership to make their corner of the world a better place. Perhaps, most of all, in the center of this all, is one woman, Esme Vos whose vision, energy and determination has driven this once unheard of slice of the wireless industry straight into the public spotlight and we can now all clearly see what she has know for quite some time now, that this is only a start.
The best is yet to come.