CHARLOTTE – How big is the first-ever Connect (X), a premier wireless and telecommunications conference organized by the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) that’s underway through Thursday at the Charlotte Convention Center? Well, FCC Chair is among the keynote speakers. And the Internet of Things – bringing wireless connectivity to billions of devices – is at center stage.

Tom Snyder

That’s one of the reasons why Tom Snyder, executive director of Raleigh-based RIoT, agreed to help put on the event. RIoT is short for “regional Internet of Things,” a fast-growing organization focusing on making IoT ubiquitous.

And Snyder says the Queen City is a good site selection for the event since “North Carolina is incredibly strong in the wireless space and a leading state in smart city deployments.”

RIoT, which recently moved into new headquarters in Raleigh’s warehouse district and opened an accelerator to boost IoT startups, has grown to several thousand members, is putting on a growing number of events, and attracting high-profile corporate backers such as IBM.


“The Internet of Things is the next big wave of the economy, all driven by wireless transmission of data,” Snyder tells WRAL TechWire. “North Carolina is extremely well positioned to lead this economic opportunity with a strong university system, a balance of industry sectors and thriving entrepreneurial scene.”

Plus, there is the emerging next-generation wireless technology known as 5G that promises to deliver true broadband speed.

The industry is focused on a rapid, sustainable, and responsible rollout of 5G technology, say conference organizers. “Clear rules of the road for all entities will pave the way for an efficient rollout of 5G.”

Snyder agrees.

“We are seeing incredible innovation in medical devices, transportation, agriculture, education and manufacturing,” he explains, “all enabled by wireless connectivity of sensor data that could not previously be efficiently collected.”

Community broadband

RIoT is also working with a number of communities in North Carolina to develop their broadband strategy in order to take advantage of the benefits of broadband access and other rapidly developing wireless technology, Synder says. And though that work will continue, industry conferences are also a key component to forging partnerships that will make broadband available for all.

“Broadband access is critical for all citizens,” he explains. “And there is still a lot of work to do.”

As recently as November, the FCC reported that nearly 30 percent of census tracts in the United States lack a residential service provider with 25Mb/s speed, which is the lowest speed considered to be broadband. According to that same data, another 48% of census tracts have only one option for their internet service provider, which means that local communities, local and state governments, and businesses have a lot of opportunity to deploy infrastructure in a way that enhances access and speed.

FirstNet coming

Snyder also sees wireless benefits coming from the first responder network being built by AT&T called FirstNet – another highlight of the conference.

“I’m particularly interested to listen in on the FirstNet sessions,” Snyder says. FirstNet is a segment of the wireless spectrum that has been allocated for emergency response and is currently being rolled out across the United States.

“The spectrum provides guaranteed access to first responders during emergencies,” explains Snyder, which he adds is exciting in its own right. “But more exciting, FirstNet will provide a platform for innovative companies and government groups to come up with new applications that improve response and citizen safety.”