On September 24th, 2020, Robert F. Heile (Bob Heile) of North Attleboro, MA and Prudence Island, RI passed away at age 75 from prostate cancer. He was born on March 27th, 1945 in Chicago, one of four sons born to Dorothea Jane Fonda Heile and John A. Heile. He was a graduate of Oberlin College for his undergraduate degree, and completed his masters and doctorate in physics at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. On February 13th, 1971, Bob married Margaret (Bonnie) Sargent Heile and they had two daughters, Sarah and Beth.
After receiving his doctorate, Bob started his professional career at Union Carbide followed by various engineering and management positions with Imaging Systems, a manufacturer of nuclear medicine equipment and instrumentation. Starting in 1980 at Codex Corporations, Bob began a 40-year career in data communications and wireless data. As Vice-President of Business Operations and Transmission Products, Bob oversaw the development of early modems and wireless networking devices. Through the 1990's, Bob continued his trajectory in wireless technologies with vice president positions at Windata Inc and TyLink. He joined BBN in early 1997 with the mission of developing business strategies to commercialize certain wireless technologies as spin out businesses. After BBN was acquired by GTE, Bob's career moved into consulting.
His work at BBN and subsequent consulting positions led to Bob's interest in technology standards, a set of specifications and procedures designed to ensure compatibility, interoperability and safety. In 1990, he was one of the founding members of 802.11, commonly known as WiFi, a standards group within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and was one of a tiny group of active original 802.11 members until his death. In 2002, Bob was an organizer and founding member of the ZigBee Alliance, the industry group responsible for developing and promoting ubiquitous wireless sensor and control networks for residential, commercial and industrial applications, today known as the "Internet of Things". He served as its Chairman and CEO until 2013. In that time, Bob led the Alliance from an idea to an organization that is recognized around the world. He subsequently served as chairman of the IEEE group 802.15, which defines certain wireless standards used by the Internet of Things, up until a few days before his death. Finally, Bob served as the Director of Standards and as Chief Representative for Business Development in Greater China with the Wi-SUN Alliance. Bob gained a global reputation as an innovator and leader in this field and for his efforts to foster global harmonization of wireless standards. He was actively sought as a keynoter and industry expert for many events all over the world.
At home, Bob was a long-time seasonal resident of Prudence Island, Rhode Island. Visitors to the island might not know his name, but they certainly recognize the "big yellow house on the top of the hill on the west side". Bob was the operator of the Prudence Park water system otherwise known as "come out and play and bring your own shovel", and spent many hot summer days digging holes with other residents as they tracked down water leaks. He was also well known for his love of worldwide travel. Since his work necessitated many trips, Bob was never one to stay within the convention center, and routinely extended his trips to visit new locales and old friends. In particular, he harbored a special love for Hawaii, and traveled there at least once a year. Each Hawaii trip always included viewings of any volcanic activity and daily ingestion of shave ice. Although he had a deserved reputation as a healthy eater, Bob would throw calories out the window in a heartbeat to consume the aforementioned shave ice, his mother's blueberry pie, or partake in happy hour on the porch at Prudence. Ever the active learner, Bob consumed articles, books, and reports at a furious pace, and was a prolific DIYer, with projects spanning numerous fields.
Bob is survived by his wife Bonnie, his daughters Sarah and Beth, and his brothers David Heile and John P. Heile. When asked what he wanted people to remember about him, Bob stated he was particularly proud to serve as mentor to so many in the wireless industry and to "help support others to bring ideas to innovation and fruition". His legacy is not as a developer of wireless products themselves, but as a developer of people, and the groups that help make those products possible. In the words of one of his colleagues, although the world will never know his name, his influence will be felt for decades to come.
In accordance with Bob's wishes, there will not be a formal funeral service. Instead, Bob asked that people donate directly to his primary oncologist, to support the research and treatment of other people with prostate cancer: http://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/bobheile
To sign an online guestbook for Bob, please visit www.sperry-mchoul.com.