WiFi Pioneer Cees Links Sets His Sights on the Smart Home

Winner of Design News’ 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award says the IoT will be much bigger than the WiFi revolution.

Cees Links believes the Internet of Things (IoT) is waiting for the next "Steve Jobs moment."

Links, winner of the Design News 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award, knows about Steve Jobs moments. While making a presentation on an old-fashioned overhead projector at Apple Inc.'s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. in 1998, Links learned how quickly Jobs could change the course of history. “He knew what he wanted,” Links told Design News recently.  “As I put foils on the projector, he talked. After two or three foils, he said, ‘Is it clear what I want?’ I said yes, and he stood up and walked out of the room.”

Thus was born the era of WiFi’s worldwide success. Jobs launched Links’ wireless radio technology in the Apple iBook a year later under the name Apple Airport , igniting the spread of WiFi throughout the computing landscape.

The irony of the moment was that, by then, Links had already been working on the radio technology for a decade. Since 1988, he had led teams of engineers in the development of wireless local area networks at NCR, AT&T, Lucent Technologies, and Agere Systems. He had made countless technical presentations at conferences, in which he would pull a laptop computer from a special pocket sewn into the lining of his jacket, and then demonstrate the concept of remotely connecting to a wireless network.

Pacific Design & Manufacturing, Anaheim, Golden Mousetrap Awards, GMTs, Lindsay Craig, Linz Craig, Cees Links, Gadget Freak, Allied Electronics, David Prutchi, Rising Engineering Star
Cees (pronounced “Case”) Links, WiFi pioneer and current general manager of Qorvo's Wireless Connectivity business, is the winner of the Design News 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award.

“We had our first wireless product in 1991, and I had been pushing and evangelizing for almost a decade by the time I met Jobs,” Links told us. “People kept saying WiFi was not needed, it was risky for your health, and it would create reliability problems. We tried to sell it to Apple before Steve Jobs saw it and nobody was interested. We tried to sell it to Dell, and Michael Dell pooh-poohed the idea.”

But in a matter of 10 minutes, Jobs changed all that. Today, WiFi provides internet access to hundreds of millions of computer users. It also serves in video game consoles, smartphones, digital cameras, audio players, computer printers, factory automation systems, and thousands of other products.

Pacific Design and Manufacturing Show, AnaheimCATCH UP WITH CEES LINKS. Cees Links will present, “The Internet of Things is a service application” at Center Stage during Pacific Design & Manufacturing, Feb. 8, 2017, at 10:30 a.m., in Anaheim, Calif. Don’t miss out on a great talk by an industry pioneer! And join your peers at the Golden Mousetrap Awards Feb. 7, 5 p.m., when we honor Links with the 2017 Design News Lifetime Achievement Award!

As big as WiFi is today, however, Links believes the IoT will be bigger -- much bigger. In 2004, he founded GreenPeak Technologies , a fabless semiconductor company that works on sense-and-control networks that can be employed by the IoT.

Links foresees a day in the near future when homes will incorporate hundreds of IoT devices, including motion sensors, door locks, window locks, lighting systems, curtain controls, thermostats, and

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