From the cold depths of McCook Cold Storage in McCook, IL Realnets recently starting wrapping up it’s task. Cover over 190,000 sq ft of -18F warehouse space with perfect, continuous WIFI for their automated scanning systems. We worked all the issues – heated equipment enclosures, intense interference, overlapping zones, 5 stories of height, and endless product in between the devices and the access points before getting to the testing phase.
As myself and Mike Maz (project implementer) walked the aisles testing every area of the massive complex I thought to myself… man its cold in here, but then I started thinking about WIFI and it’s future. It’s clear that the cost of implementing a professional and secure network over the airwaves is becoming within reach of many businesses. What’s not clear is how the market place will utilize the new features many of the emerging technologies coming out.
Today the options your environment can leavage is ever changing. The playbook in the past was simple and straight forward. Limit the types of devices to a few (IE only Dell 6520 notebooks), only people who absolutely needed the service get it. The new way is to provide employee’s allowances and to let them select the devices the suit them best. This insures the employee treats their equipment nicer and off loads support costs to retailers. As smart phones have been made ever smarter the demand for a more collaborative wireless work environment has been increasing. Software solutions such as Taptera have made mobile solutions for business a real cost saver and thus brought more of these devices in to the work place. The impact to your IT group is the need to support dozens of different devices. Devices like smart phones and IPad‘s have poor WIFI hardware embedded. You need to treat these devices differently than you would a dual band laptop with a great antenna.
Companies like Cisco have busy inventing the next generation of access points. More clients and improved abilities to detirmine what device needs what are obvious improvements being made. The area that is interesting and will change the world is within profiling. Cisco Systems has locked on to the demands of companies and they are providing dymanic profiling services. This might look like – I want my employees IPAD’s to be able to reach email services but not accounting services, they can hit Facebook but only 12pm to 1pm and I want their internet traffic limited and confined on a specific VLAN.
Well these services seem straight forward and applicable to the corporate arena; imagination can put them in to the public spaces with major impact on traditional service providers. Lets take an airport like O’hare. It has 10′s of thousands of people going thru their space a day. Currently they provide people internet at a cost or with advertisements. Take that concept a step futher. Block the major carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint. Make them pay you to connect to their own customers. By deploying a WIFI approch to every device they gain control of the entire enviroment. Just the desire to be able to control what photo’s get posted by users at the United Center or to stop phone calls and texts at a Broadway theater would be enough motivation. The ablity to then monetize that same control and make it a revenue stream seems to me to be the next obvious step.
Once upon a time you could sell the top of your building to AT&T for a cell site and make big bucks. They realized it was cheaper to buy land and put their own towers on them. Then they started to run out of network bandwidth. Now they will sell you a repeater to improve cell coverage within your own building off your internet connect. That’s right, you actually are paying them to provide you a signal off your connection to yourself. This can’t last. It’s clear to me the future will be control of the air waves. The launch of devices such as the newest Cisco AP’s which have the ability to pin point a device on a floor plan within 1 meter of their location could bring even more to the table for public venues. Metrics on convention space usage would be valuable. Consider every person at CES needing to register their device to gain cell and network access and then being able to track their movements throughout the building. Pretty powerful stuff. Options like this are going to motivate these venues in the near future to make it happen sooner than later. New construction will likely start building in features to block cell signals and tenants will see a security benefit.
Time will tell but I think the writing’s on the wall. If you’re building a new public building this should be on your radar. The age of thousands of wires running to patch panels is going to start to slow. The need to control everything in a building going in and out will be key and the ability to make money doing it is going to set the standard for a new market where the guy paying the property tax is going to see a piece of everything going in and out. After all this Internet revolution has failed to change one thing. Someone still owns the bricks and mortar around you. Technology will provide the means for more control in those structures and you can bet everyone is going to want a piece.