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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Mist Explains a New Wireless Network for the Smart Device Era

interview mist 

VMblog:  To kick things off, can you explain who is Mist and what does Mist do?

Jeff Aaron:  Mist built the "new wireless network", designed specifically for the smart device era. We started with a clean sheet of paper. We looked at how big data companies correlate massive amounts of information using the cloud and machine learning and asked "How do we harness these same principles to build the first user-centric cloud based wireless network?"

The result is the first truly innovative wireless platform in over a decade. The Mist learning WLAN simplifies Wi-Fi operations through automation, event correlation and predictive recommendations - all handled via a purpose-built cloud architecture that uses machine learning. And it enables highly accurate Bluetooth LE location services without the need for site surveys and physical beacons.

Three key benefits of Mist platform are:
  • Wi-Fi with assurance: For the first time, the Wi-Fi user experience is predictable, reliable and measurable. You can set, monitor and enforce service levels, for example, and finally quantify the impact that system changes (e.g. RRM) have on the user experience.
  • Contextual user engagement with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE): Businesses can better interact with employees, customers and guests with contextual, location-based services like wayfinding, proximity messaging and resource scheduling. (Mist virtualized the BLE experience so no site surveys or physical BLE beacons required.)
  • Proactive operations via the world's first virtual assistant for wireless: Machine learning eliminates mundane management tasks like packet captures and event correlation with proactive, automated operations using artificial intelligence. The result is a better wireless service that is easier and more cost effective to manage.

VMblog:  What are some of the different use cases of the Mist technology?

Aaron:  Our Wi-Fi solution is used across all industries to deliver a better wireless experience.  Anyone using Wi-Fi today can benefit from a move to the cloud whereby artificial intelligence automates operations. The Mist Wi-Fi solution is particularly tailored for MSP environments, where Wi-Fi is delivered as a service with guaranteed service levels.  

Mist's BLE location services are also widely applicable across most industries, with some of the use cases below being the most prevalent:
  • Enterprise - Businesses of all kinds can use location intelligence to help users find open conference rooms, colleagues' offices, printers and other resources. Security notifications can be sent to employees on a particular building or floor. Facilities planners can use analytics to understand space utilization based on traffic patterns and control environmentals like electricity and heating and cooling.
  • Retail - Stores can provide location-aware coupons and notifications, such as greeting loyal customers as they arrive at a store with a special offer. In addition, they can deliver relevant product information, such as a short video, while a customer is looking at the product in the store. Larger facilities can provide turn-by-turn directions to help find a specific department or product, and easily locate a nearby available sales associate. With location-based analytics, stores operators can see how many customers came into the store at a given time, where those customers spent the most time, and so on.
  • Healthcare - Using a mobile app as a personal concierge, patients (and their visitors) can check into a hospital as they enter and navigate to an assigned room, lab or other location. Furthermore, healthcare facilities can deliver a personalized in-room experience and offer information about doctors and treatments, as well as provide a location-aware nurse-call system. With analytics, hospitals can track patients and assets (such as expensive wheelchairs), monitor room temperatures and understand how much time a doctor or nurse spent with a specific patient in his or her room.
  • Hotels and hospitality - Hotels can provide guests with fast check-in and turn-by-turn navigation to rooms, the fitness center, the swimming pool and nearby stores and restaurants. Loyal guests can be greeted with personalized messages as they arrive or depart.
  • Education - Students can find open labs, conference rooms and study areas and navigate across campus with turn-by-turn directions. Self-guided tours enable new students and visitors to find their way around.

VMblog:  Why did you get back into wireless after a 12 year hiatus?

Aaron:  Wireless isn't new. It's an industry that has been around for decades, and I had the good fortune of being part of the revolution in the early 2000's when Airespace launched one of the first WLAN controllers.

However, while innovation has been exploding across all markets in recent years, wireless has remained stagnant for the last decade. All the major WLAN platforms in use today were built prior to 2007. This is before the smartphone or modern cloud even existed!

When I saw what Sujai and Bob were doing at Mist, I immediately saw the  opportunity and wanted to be a part of it. We are making wireless sexy again - and more relevant than ever. With BLE, I truly feel we are at in inflection point much like in 2003 when Intel launched Centrino. I am excited to be part of that journey.

VMblog:  AI and machine learning are white hot topics at the moment - how are these trends changing the wireless space?

Aaron:  Using the latest technologies, we can now collect and analyze 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, machine learning provides real-time predictive recommendations to provide IT departments a heads up before employees, guests, and customers experience problems.

With new applications popping up every day, we are at the forefront of a new era of machine/human interaction that will completely transform the way we live, work and play on par with the internet. While we are a long way from having machines replace IT administrators, virtual wireless assistants are now a reality. With machine learning, your WLAN is smarter than ever before.

VMblog:  Can you tell us more about the relationship between Bluetooth Low Energy technology and wireless?

Aaron:  The world is at an inflection point, where smart devices are taking over as the predominant computing platform. While this can present various challenges from a wireless operations and management standpoint, it also opens up huge opportunities for businesses. This is because smart devices are location-aware, and location is a strategic attribute for engaging with customers or employees and tracking high-value mobile resources.

Thanks to iBeacon and Eddystone, the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technologies used by Apple and Android respectively, the vast majority of mobile computing platforms are location ready. The challenge to capitalizing on location awareness comes on the infrastructure side.

Deploying and managing physical beacons for BLE can be both expensive and time-consuming. Installation often requires comprehensive site surveys, which have to be redone whenever beacon placement changes (or the RF environment is altered). In addition, batteries in the beacons are expensive to replace, and the beacons themselves can be lost or stolen, creating more headaches. Furthermore, wireless networks generally lack the scale to handle a large number of BLE devices, complicating performance and management of BLE networks.

Mist overcomes these challenges by integrating BLE location services into its enterprise wireless networking platform. Mist's Intelligent Wireless Cloud (IWC) platform combines three key ingredients to deliver flexible, scalable, enterprise-grade location services: virtual beacon technology, machine learning and wireless access points with directional antennas.

VMblog:  We understand Mist formally launched in April 2016 and has had great momentum since then. What does Mist have planned for the rest of 2017?

Aaron:  Our ultimate vision is to bring new wireless experiences to the billions of smart devices on the planet. So, while we've had great initial success with deployments at some amazing customers (including almost 10 of the Fortune 100 in our first six months of shipping), we have a long way to go.

At Mist, we say that we are putting "AI in the Air".  We are making wireless smarter, more automated, more predictable, and more measurable.  In short, we are making wireless even more indispensable for our daily lives.  When people start complimenting WLANs instead of cursing them, then I will know that our job is done!

##

Jeff Aaron 

Jeff Aaron serves as Mist's Vice President of marketing, where he is responsible for global promotion of the company's groundbreaking wireless platform. Prior to Mist, Jeff was VP of marketing at PernixData, the leading storage acceleration and analytics company.

Jeff has over 22 years of experience marketing in the high tech space, having worked at various software, networking and telecommunications companies including Silver Peak Systems, Airespace (acquired by Cisco), Turnstone Systems, and Newbridge Networks (acquired by Alcatel). He began his career as a senior consultant at Ernst and Young where he counseled Fortune 100 companies with IT design and planning. Jeff earnedhis BA from Duke University with majors in Computer Science and Economics. 

Published Tuesday, May 30, 2017 7:01 AM by David Marshall
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