Lately I had been spending a lot of time in the office rather than on the road. Which isn’t all bad, as it gives me some semblance of a routine rather than living out of a suitcase. It has also has given me some spare time to come up with another blog topic, which actually stems from some of the work I have been doing for customers lately.
Typically when a site survey is being done, we will do spectrum analysis work as well, part of my job entails creating and reviewing documents from this work, prior to delivering them to customers, which means I have been watching a lot of spectrum analysis lately. Most of the customers I have worked with recently have been with CleanAir APs, so they will be able to monitor their environment in real time, once the WLAN is up and running. However it’s always a good idea to perform some spectral analysis while you are walking around doing a site survey. And really why not? If you are there and you have a few minutes, fire up the old spectrum card and get a capture of whats going on with your RF. This helps make sure there aren’t any major layer 1 surprises when you go to install the new WLAN. It doesn’t mean things won’t change, and they often will, due to the dynamic nature of RF. It’s an ever changing environment, so what wasn’t there on Monday, might show up on Tuesday and be gone again by Wednesday.
Before jumping into particular types of interferes let’s talk about some of the data that Cisco Spectrum Expert can show you. Two of the things I like to look at when looking at the RF in Cisco Spectrum Expert, are Real Time FFT and Duty Cycle plots, as pictured below.
The Real Time FFT is showing you is the RF energy in real time measured in dBm, so how loud or quiet the device is. The next is the FFT Duty Cycle, which simply put it’s how utilized the RF is. Let’s say you have a device that is being captured as having a 1% duty cycle. This means it’s using a very small amount of the available ‘air time’ to transmit its data. Conversly if there is a device that is showing a 100% duty cycle it is using up all the ‘air time’ and not allowing other devices to use the RF medium to transmit.
Two other views I find helpful are the Spectrogram views. These display the same info as the plots above, but are plotted out over time. I use them in a few of the examples below.
John Deere, working with integration and technology partners Prime Technologies (now Kubica) and AeroScout, used the existing Cisco Wi-Fi networking nodes that it had already installed throughout the facility to avoid the expense of installing RFID readers for a new manufacturing solution.
John Deere MaxEmergeXP
Here’s the story: John Deere’s Seeding Group factory in Moline, Ill. was seeking an automated solution to improve on its manual work in process manufacturing system. It wanted to increase efficiency in the way it replenished welding material as well as improve the way it carried out processes at its assembly stations at the plant. The factory in question assembles John Deere’s row-crop planter machines -- the MaxEmerge XP range - that are used by farmers to deposit a variety of seed in soils and seedbeds.
The new system uses a wireless back-haul to a Cisco infrastructure that enables the SAP, reporting and programmable logic controller (PLC) systems to communicate live. It’s intended to improve material replenishment and reduce delays caused by waiting for materials in its welding areas. It allows the equipment manufacturer’s kitting staff to boost material replenishment speed, and allows assembly workers to prepare for specific equipment as it approaches their assembly stations. The RFID Journal Story goes into excellent detail on the wip process and the process improvement, but I did want to reiterate some of the key business metrics:
“Our goal was to improve Takt time *,” says Shay O’Neal, John Deere Seeding Group’s project manager, who expects the reduction to increase from what he estimates may be about 5 percent improvement in Takt time thus far. He reckons there has been a 40 percent reduction in cycle time because of the improvement in replenishment. He has also seen a decrease in overtime work undertaken by kitting staff at the welding station. “I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the system met our needs,” O’Neal said in the RFID Journal article.
John Deere has seen a 40 percent increase in efficiency in welding due to improvements in material replenishment and fewer delays caused by waiting for materials in its welding areas.
On the assembly line, the system provides a view into the work in process (WIP), which thus far has reduced the cycle time (Takt) it takes to assemble a single product by about 5 percent.
Since existing Cisco Wi-Fi nodes read the RFID tag of each seeder as it passes from one assembly station to another, indicating where it has been and what its next assembly location will be, John Deere avoided the expense of installing RFID readers.
It is so critical that we make it easier for people to get on and off the network in a secure fashion. Cisco has made incredible strides merging access control platforms that have done well over the years yet still required heavier configuration and/or manual intervention. Not any longer…The Cisco Identity Services Engine or ISE, is a game changer that has already been well received by the market and yet just keeps improving.
We all see a growing trend of using wireless technologies in hospitals due to its benefits in cutting healthcare costs and increasing accessibility for patients and healthcare providers. Wireless applications have the potential to improve care by providing real-time access to a patient’s medical history including treatments, medications, laboratory tests, insurance information and more.
Our customer, Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics – one of the leading children’s hospitals in the U.S.—works tirelessly to help ensure healthcare providers, administrators, and patients have access to leading technologies. So when it came to managing the hospitals’ wireless network, IT managers knew they needed a best-in-class solution. Deploying the right wireless technologies is not only a matter of adopting reliable solutions – it’s also about putting the systems in place to identify and mitigate wireless interference, which can be a major challenge at a busy hospital.
To combat this, the hospital deployed the Cisco Aironet 3500 Series access points throughout the campus to enable high-performance 802.11n wireless services and Cisco CleanAir technology to both troubleshoot problem areas and optimize the wireless environment. The IT team quickly identified and addressed many areas of interference, including pinpointing that some interference was coming from public buses changing traffic lights at a nearby bus stop. With the powerful Cisco environment, Children’s Mercy Hospitals is moving to a “self-healing” wireless network that will automatically fix itself when interference is encountered.
Listen to what the customer has to say about their deployment and Cisco CleanAir: Watch now. You can also read and download the PDF version.
Ok, so maybe you are starting to give in to the idea that, employees bringing personally owned tablets at work, is indeed not a fad and you have to deal with it. You have decided on a BYOD strategy that protects company and network resources, while (mostly?) satisfying user appetite for connectivity anywhere from any device.
Great! Now. Is your 802.11n wireless network capable of delivering the user experience that is associated with these new sleek gadgets?
If you thought your network is “good enough”, then think again. This client wave is about to disrupt everything in multiple ways.
First, more devices on the network translate to significantly higher demands for bandwidth. In many cases bandwidth requirements can grow exponentially because the ratio of user to devices is no longer 1:1 but 1:2 and often 1:3. We therefore expect to see network utilization significantly rise over time.
Second, tablet form factor now allows users to truly be mobile. Unlike laptops, users can now walk/move and be productive at the same time. This new type of behavior will increase the number of clients roaming between access points.
Finally, it has been observed that tablets are primarily used for content consumption (as opposed to creation), and video is one of the predominant types of content being consumed, which further complicates bandwidth issues, but also creates new challenges.