Happy New Year to our faithful Wireless Report readers

Well, 2006 is about to come to a close, and there has been a ton of wireless news and important events that affect all of us in a *wireless way* this year.

2007 should hold more of the same, with wireless transforming the way we do just about everything -- from connecting over the Internet to each other to talking (the old-fashioned way) to data usage to....well, just imagine the possibilities. You think we've seen quite a bit? I think wireless -- in many ways -- is just in its infancy.

Have a safe, happy and fruitful New Year folks -- we are so glad to have you as part of our readership. We'll begin podcasts again shortly after the start of 2007, as they've been on hiatus over the holidays.

Have a Happy New Year!

Mike Sciannamea
Brian White

www.thewirelessreport.com

Merry Christmas to one and all!

We're taking a bit of a break to be with our loved ones over the holiday, and we hope you are too. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and we'd like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" for your readership. We'll be back posting again tomorrow once we can burn off some of the egg nog!

More college campuses have WiFi access

Sometimes I wish I could go back to college again, especially now that a growing number of campuses offer wireless access.

According to a new study from the Campus Computing Project, over a third (35.9%) of all U.S. college campuses have WiFi, and many more schools are planning to implement it in the very near future.

Of course, when you see the money generated from these schools just from tuition costs, it's easy to see where the funding for wireless access comes from. Nevertheless, wireless access gives students the opportunity to tap into all of the resources available within their respective campuses from virtually any location.

802.11n products to be pre-certified

With the IEEE taking its sweet time to actually ratify the 802.11n standard, consumers really don't want to wait. Therefore, the WiFi Alliance will begin "pre-certifying" 802.11n products early next year, before the actual 802.11n protocol is ratified sometime in 2008. 2008! What is taking so long?

The WiFi Alliance said it expects certified pre-n products to be compatible with products certified to the full standard, and it also confirmed that certification labels used for pre-n products will clearly indicate that the certified products are pre-standard. However, consumers will probably not understand that the products are based on the yet-to-be-ratified IEEE standard. Try communicating something like this to an average consumer. Not gonna happen.

Another example of why you need to secure your wireless network

We've talked here many times about how folks should take every step necessary to protect their own home wireless networks from predators and freeloaders who will steal your personal information outright or use your network to do some unsavory things. Consider the story of two Florida woman whose wireless network was hacked into by someone at a local community college and was using their access to subscribe to porn sites. Pretty embarassing and unnerving, don't you think?

The linked story has a few more tips to help you keep your wireless network secure from intrusion. Obviously, there's no way you can be totally protected 100% of the time, but the point is that if you take just a few steps, the chances of being hacked will diminsh greatly.

Wireless gambling about to take off in Las Vegas

So, you want to get your poker or hold 'em game on with a handheld wireless unit? You're about to be in luck, as these wireless gambling devices are soon to infiltrate restaurants and other venues where physical casino betting is impossible to have available. I mean, the Vegas casinos need to grow their revenue, right? How better than to make handheld gambling fit into every possible supervised public area in Sin City.

The regulations are new, the technology is new and the audience will soon be developing (most likely, males in their 20s and 30s), so watch out the next time you visit the city in the middle of the desert. You'll be able to order a NY strip steak and potatoes while playing Blackjack on the menu, or at least close to the menu.

Cities that deploy citywide wireless face numerous technical challenges

We all know that designing and installing a wireless network that covers a wide geographical area is no small task. There are so many variables to consider that it can make one's head hurt. This Cnet article talks about a few of these networks, and one in Chaska, Minnesota in particular.

The biggest issue Chaska faced was to ensure adequate signal strength was available to all areas where it planned to deploy service. At a nominal $16.99 per month for 750kpbs to 1.2mbps service, the pricing and speed model looked like a great balance to me -- that is, if you can get enough signal. The signal outside was fine, but residents found issues with the signal when moving outdoors. Perhaps everyone should have used their internet access on back porches with WiFi laptops?

A 300Mbps wireless router? Um, ok!

Belkin seems to only want to sell more product instead of waiting for industry standards to materialize. Same old song I guess -- and it makes headlines when a company announces a "300 megabit per second router!", Not that there is a market for this yet, or even in the near future.

With the 802.11n spec still being finalized, why do these over-eager manufacturers release products way, way, way before their time. I fail to see the strategy on why they do this, especially with future upgradeability not being guaranteed. Give us a break, Belkin!

Internet creator lauds upcoming wireless internet spectrum auctions

Vint Cerf, the guy credited with creating a large portion of the internet's infrastructure (well, in design anyway), spoke out about high-speed internet recently, and sees the potential of wireless internet and municipal WiFi as changing -- much for the better -- the competitive landscape of how customers receive high-speed internet.

I couldn't agree more -- Cerf mentions the "duopoly" of cable modems and DSL modems supplied by the same two monopolies there have always been -- the cable and phone companies, respectively. While many areas of the U.S. have three to five wireless carriers to choose from (ultra-good for consumer choice), high-speed internet is stuck in a not-too-competitive mode. The more competitors, the better -- I say.

Campuses across the U.S. set to rip out computer labs for WiFi networks

In what now seems like almost decades ago, in-house computer labs housing dozens of PCs in universities across the U.S. may soon have all those dusty, clammy rooms replaced by campus-wide WiFi networks, aptly replacing wired campus and internet access with wireless access.

This would seem to foster quite a bit more flexibility in information access as well as one-to-one collaboration when needed - between students or between student and professor. Will computer labs still exist? For a while, yes - but as student ownership of PCs starts reaching 100 percent (it's 90 now), most computer labs will probably disappear.

Built Ford tough, with a sprinkling of wireless as well

Our pals over at AutoBlog found that a Ford plant was going wireless - in far-out fasion. In addition to a fully-automated wireless entry/exit gate system for parts, goods, deliveries, etc. going into and out of this Ford plant, the Oakville Ford plant will also feature wireless internet access throughout the facility thanks to over 60 antennas placed strategically throughout the complex.

This is a way to increase productivity and hammer down costs while providing the kind of information access to keep movement of inventory as precise and flexible as possible - never a bad thing in Ford's case which needs as much tech to cut costs as it can. Kudos to the ops manager who made this decision - it probably won't be the last Ford plant to get a wireless makeover.

[via AutoBlog]

Those Darn Cheating Machines Known as Mobile Phones

This article over at cnet.com points out something that has hit the press before - classroom cheating using the mobile phone as the tool. Although this story doesn't mention specifics, my guess is that SMS messaging is still responsible for most of the infractionary cheating between students. On-the-sly answers and communications can go on pretty easily - or can they?

Isn't the clickety-clack of most keypads enough to draw the attention of, well, anyone close to a cheating student? There's probably a website somewhere that evaluates the noise level of the keypad found on many popular handsets, since I'll bet many students want the stealth effect whem texting their thumbs off each day. Or maybe there's a cellphone designed to look like a graphing calculator? That would be in-your-face stealth.

Newbury Networks Announces Wireless Asset Tracking and Location-Enabled "Presence" Platform

One area we see quite often here at The Wireless Report are bungled implementations of good and great wireless solutions. A great idea can be toasted if not implemented in the most customized way for the customer using it. This entails studying the workflow of the customer, tailoring the solution/software to their needs, testing the solution and tweaking as needed, and also planning for changes and other paths so that the solution is flexible and adaptable.

For industries such as the medical establishment, the multi-level restaurant, the hopping-busy five-star hotel - and other hospitality markets - real-time retrieval of information about, well, anything affecting smooth operations and the delight of customers, is becoming absolutely key. This "real-time" solution, by definition, requires wireless technology to be involved - not only involved, but central and integral. WiFi standards such as 802.11b and 802.11g have really shaped the capability of these industries to arm their workers and employees with up-to-the-second data on their patients, customers, and equipment locations. Or have they? Yes - the ideas are sound and in many instances they work wonders for overall productivity. But, how about wireless security? How about "presence" status of equipment and objects? You can't run a hospital floor wirelessly or not without locking down that signal with the strongest protection/encryption possible - personal medical data can be just a little bit sensitive. Ok, very, very sensitive. Also, it's just not good enough to know where you equipment or objects are - whether this be a blood pressure monitor or a the timing of a dinner reservation for five guests - but you need to know its status, what it is being used for in real-time, and how long the "object" will most likely be in service. For example - a party of five has reservations at a top-flight restaurant. Using some kind of WiFi marker, the logistical operations folks (the managing staff) can time precisely when the party gets their drinks, appetizers, main entree, and dessert with split-second timing and can guess when - to the minute - they will be exiting the facility. This kind of "presence" location-based tracking is the kind of real assistance wireless technology can provide.

Enter Newbury Networks. A pioneer of WiFi security solutions such as WiFi WatchDog, they announced today the Active AssetTM product - a WiFi asset tracking system that is used to locate and monitor large numbers of disparate WiFi assets in real-time. Using WiFi asset tags in variable physical sizes and power configurations, there are many ways to utilize the system. If you want your WiFi-enabled assets tracked, monitored, and even mapped to an overhead floor plan in real-time, Active AssetTM has you covered. Talk about having visibility into some of your most important people and equipment at the click of a mouse button. Using a software tracking model for locations, for objects, and finally using custom services and rules, the Active Asset system could be quite a boon to many industries needing quick and accurate tracking and monitoring capabilities.

Newbury also announced today the industry’s first “Presence” Platform for location-enabled applications - the Newbury Presence PlatformTM. This extensible software is what appears to match the Active AssetTM system as a complementary flexible and scalable software platform that can be tailored to the tracking and location needs that best fits the customer and the situational deployment.  Said best by Chuck Conley, VP of Newbury Marketing, "Instead of just utilizing our location technology, these software platforms allow customers to put together applications that make these things more manageable."

So, has WiFi technology infiltrated the operational and logistical world? Judging from these Newbury announcements, one would have to say yes. The one over-riding principle that we sometimes see is the inability for "information managers" - which can be operations people all the way down to front-line staff - to have precise, updated and relevant access to the information they need to make quick and correct decisions. We say relevant because access to data is useless - no matter how real-time it is - if it is not 100% relevant to the task at hand. With that said, the medical community, with its bustling days, routines, patient moves and equipment usage could really stand to take a look at these Newbury solutions in order to help themselves cope with a growing need for health care technology. With that said, here is an example of how the Active AssetTM solution could look for a medical establishment. Use the "Read" link below the image to read more about these two new  platforms at Newbury's website.

Canadian University Bans WiFi Network

Just when we think it couldn't happen, a Canadian university has banned implementing a campus-wide WiFi network under the belief that there may be health risks by being exposed to WiFi radio signals. Lakeview University in Ontario will not install wireless access points due to possible student health risks. What do they know that the rest of the world doesn't?

Apparently, there are "scientific studies" cited by Lakeview's president as a reason not to setup a WiFi network for students, also using the excuse that since many students are teenagers and are in "growth stages", possible exposure to radiation could be even more harmful. That's all fine and good, but where are these "scientific studies" he speaks of? Why haven't we heard of prior cases like this at other universities? Wireless networks have been so prevalent for a while now at many universities that it sounds odd Lakeview is just now expressing this concern.

Do Hospitals Need RFID? Case Study Follows

Well, if there ever was a personal use (with privacy implications, but I won't go there) for RFID, it stands to reason that the medical establishment should be the*first industry* to get it. When I start seeing nurses and PAs use a permanent-market Sharpie to indicate to the doctor what piece of the anatomy needs surgery (the left knee, not the right knee), I have to wonder if the infrastructure's weakest link (not the physician's skill of course) supporting the thousands of surgeries each day is direly out of date.

Isn't there a way to easily and technologically distinguish the specifics of each patient's situation without resorting to verbal exchanges (I think Nurses and RNs are stressed out enough) and magic markers? RFID implants (or necklaces, bracelets...choose your jewelry here) could solve this instantly I would think. The doctor looks at his monitor in the OR and it has already read the RFID tag on the patient to inform the doctor where the surgery is to take place. Perhaps this is in addition to the "magic marker" visual cue, a sort of backup to ensure no mistakes are made? If we don't get something like this in what is supposed to be the most advanced medical care in the world, things like this will still happen. Eeek - that chills me just thinking about it.

Enjoy the Super Bowl folks! But, please don't injure yourself celebrating!

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