Meet the Instructors Q&A – Part 1

Mark Nichols

Here at Spanalytics, we offer adaptable training courses to suit our clients’ needs and time constraints.  These training courses cover foundational and in-depth knowledge about the most common wireless information technologies used in the Internet of Things today and how to use our products to understand your wireless network environments.  These courses currently consist of direct instruction from multiple subject matter experts in the format of lectures, lab activities, and live demonstrations.  We offer a variety of course lengths. Currently, we have planned courses with strict time constraints, ranging from five to ten days of instruction. Our lectures are available in person and remotely via video webinar so that we can offer flexibility for client health and distance concerns.

Our training programs are planned out and taught by four subject matter experts.  We will take a little time and introduce them with a short Q&A in this post.  We will be talking to Mark Nichols and Rhonda Smithbey, who cover Bluetooth, Stacey Mescher, who leads IEEE 802.15.4 protocols, and Cheri Burnett, our expert on Z-wave.  We will start by talking with Mark, Founder and President of Spanalytics.  Mark is a veteran of the U.S. Army and wireless technologies, having worked in the telecommunications field for over 20 years.

Q:  How did you start working with Bluetooth?

A:  Well, I was working for Maryland; in a particular group that I can’t talk about, we were given a choice of protocols to work on. I chose Bluetooth because it seemed like no one else was, as it was rather complicated and unknown


Q: How long have you been working with Bluetooth?

A:  Since the late ’90s, almost as long as it’s been around.


Q: What is a little-known fact about Bluetooth that you enjoy sharing with people?

A:  Well, that depends on the audience, but for people who aren’t very familiar with wireless technology, I have a couple that I like: It’s used for much more than just audio, and it is two wireless protocols in one.


Q: What do you think are the most useful features of Bluetooth?

A: Well, it’s ubiquitous. It’s widespread, so it’s on almost every mobile electronic device. It’s cheap to implement, and it’s been around so long that it’s been thoroughly debugged. There are also just so many use cases for it.


Q: What do you find most frustrating about working with Bluetooth?

A: How complex it is. The specification document is over three thousand pages now and still changes often. They roll out a whole new set of features every few months.


Q: What do you find the most confusing part of Bluetooth to teach? What do you find students struggling to understand most often?

A: Typically, I find it challenging to teach everything essential to know about Bluetooth with the time we usually have.  As for the students, there is just so much information that some students don’t retain all of it.


Q: What is your favorite teaching tool?

A:  I like to use visual depictions, something like drawing a diagram on a whiteboard or putting up a spectrum analysis or packet capture on the screen


Q: How do you think Bluetooth will be used in the future?

A:  All of the same things it is currently used for, although the focus will shift more towards using just BLE. I expect we’ll see it used for more asset tracking and resource management in the future as BT mesh becomes more popular


Now, some questions about Mark


Q: What did you do before Spanalytics?

A: After I got out of the army, I worked as a tech for defense contractors while studying for my degree.  After I obtained my degree, I was able to work as an engineer at other signal processing companies before founding Spanalytics.


Q: How did you get started working on wireless technology?

A:  I didn’t have much of a choice since I wanted to keep that job, but I don’t really like following trends, so I avoided working on team Wi-Fi and learned Bluetooth instead.


Q: What are some pieces of technology that you use every day?

A: Software-defined radios, my computer, my stereo, and my heated mug


Q: Do you have any pets?

A: Two cats, although they act more like the kid’s cats.


Q: What is one of your hobbies outside of work?

A: Reading, I enjoy reading science fiction; I recently finished the Reacher series by Lee Child. I also enjoy playing chess.

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