Where’s Wireless

Wimax. Photo credit: StalinasAs we venture through our daily lives at work, in our communities and at home, the mobile device has become an appendage to our humanity. Each day, more and more people are using their phones and tablets for an ever expanding array of productivity and entertainment applications.

Technical details of the various current and proposed future wireless standards are best handled by experts such as Matthew Gast. In 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide (O’Reilly Media), now in its second edition, Gast covers every detail of WAN and WEP and all in between. Where we dare to venture is to the specific usage of wireless in the Integrated Audio Visual Systems’ world. How can Media Managers and IT Directors cut costs and provide better support to their internal clients by implementing wireless in control, video and audio distribution and projected displays all around unified communications.

Sitting in a local hospital’s radiology center recently, I was taken aback by the patients of all different ages, races, and genders who were waiting for their name to be called. Every person had their phone out, in hand with head down, doing something or other with that device. The usual busy stack of magazines lay idle on a table collecting dust. Less than two years ago I recall sitting in the lobby of a cardiologist’s office. The age range was a bit older but there was still age, gender and race diversity. Very few were using smartphones during their wait. In that short period of time; less than 2 years, the explosion of wireless technologies has made the use of these devices commonplace. E-mail, web-searching, shopping, texting, tweeting, taking pictures, voice activated memos, banking, buying a cup of coffee and so much more are now done everywhere. The smart phone has extended people’s access to applications that once were restricted to the office.

“Today, ISDN connectivity is no longer in use at K-20 connected institutions, IP networking has become ubiquitous.”

With this much access and activity over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WiMAX, UWB, etc., “where is wireless” going? I mean, where is it going beyond consumer usage with smartphones? In a past blog I reviewed some of the latest ways in which control system manufacturers were finding innovative ways to use iPads to “snip-the-cord” on traditional touchpads and add more intuitive features into these systems. In yet another major growth area, videoconferencing is taking more and more advantage of wireless as IP networks become more viable. More and more organizations are switching to IP for their video conferencing needs. Washington State’s K-20 Education Network for example published a report this past summer in which they concluded that, “Today, ISDN connectivity is no longer in use at K-20 connected institutions, IP networking has become ubiquitous.”

Advantages of wireless include mobility, reduced ownership costs, scalability, speed and ease of installation. Purchasing new videoconferencing or video systems hardware can be more easily justified when the interconnectivity, transport and delivery systems can be upgraded with software rather than installing new or additional infrastructure cable. However, it is important to note that at least up until now, wireless LANs are used more often as an augment rather than a replacement of enterprise, wired LAN networks.

Schools, healthcare facilities including hospitals, multi-location companies, hospitality venues and governmental agencies are demanding better remote access and more transparent communication linking. Employees can benefit from this “mobility” using video in any room, not limited to only using the room with “the” system. Personnel required to travel to off-site facilities and deliver visual presentations will use wireless to minimize setup requirements and reduce the need for local MIS support.

Once again a client with diverse communication application needs gains so much more in working with a unified communication integrator who understands wireless and wired systems. Not only is it important for the partnership to be enhanced by technically trained experts in all facets of communications, but it is also critical to have a collaborative partner who has developed strong relationships with manufacturers leading the way in these newer, more cost effective, 21st Century products.

Companies like Christie, Crestron, AMX, Cisco, Extron, V-Brick, Polycom and many others are finding new ways to transport high quality video, audio and graphics more efficiently and wirelessly. Emerging new digital signage systems are being deploying using wireless technology such as delivering rich content to multiple locations over a WAN. A case in point was Advanced AV’s recent digital signage design and rollout with Swiss Farms.

Like Waldo, wireless can be found, but not in just one place. Look for it continuing its push into all aspects of our lives helping us to be global, mobile and unattached.