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A Customer Story: Hospital uses Cisco CleanAir technology to rapidly isolate radio interference in “noisy” environment

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.

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Announcing a New Flavor of Cisco Identity Services Engine for Wireless Networks – Cisco’s “Smart Bouncer” for Your Network

During last month’s Cisco Live event in Las Vegas, we invited a few guests to take a tour of the data center of one of our customers, Switch Communications Group. Switch hosts data and servers for several casinos and government agencies, among other high-profile customers, and they take security VERY seriously.  

As Don Clark of the Wall Street Journal described, once the guests passed through security – which included a holding room and confiscated IDs – armed guards monitored every step the guests took while inside the data center, and strictly enforced all policies that disallowed any photography and basically touching anything. 

You could think of this experience as a metaphor for the capabilities of Cisco’s Identity Services Engine (ISE) – just without the armed guards.

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Tips to make your next site survey 100% more fun!

My first project at Cisco was a wireless site survey at a large hospital complex. The hospital wanted a new 802.11n network with CleanAir APs and the ability to track hospital equipment, make Vo-Fi calls and provide guest access for devices like the iPad.  The scope was to survey an estimated 3 million square feet of the facility, which wasn’t even all of the buildings! My retail background consisted of either stores or distribution centers, mostly with fairly large square footage, so my first thought was this shouldn’t take long. What is 3 million square feet, when an average distribution center was 1.5 million square feet?

What didn’t occur to me initially, but did very shortly after looking at a floor plan, is the huge difference in the purpose of the buildings. For starters there are a lot of rooms in a hospital, where as in retail there is primarily just large open spaces. Having to walk in and out of room after room, really adds a lot of time to a survey. Additionally many of the rooms have been re-purposed over time to meet the changing needs of the hospital. For example, rooms now used as administrative or doctor offices were at one time used as isolation rooms for patients, or various other uses that make RF propagation less than ideal. Another challenge was restricted pharmaceutical areas where badge and key access is tightly controlled. This doesn’t necessary pose a challenge in terms of providing coverage, but it does when you are walking your survey and you suddenly find yourself locked out of a room!

After many trips to the hospital and countless number of hours roaming hallways and going in and out of room, I have found that a few things have become almost second nature when I am getting things prepped or planning for a return trip. Below I have a few things that might help WLAN Engineers when planning for their next survey project. While none of these are directly related to the finer technical points of a survey, like configuring your survey APs power level importing floor plans into tools like Air Magnet, they will make life much less frustrating!

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Tablets Welcomed: Will you create the “killer” enterprise app?

Last week’s blog highlighted ways you can improve the user experience by preparing your network to meet the challenges associated with the sea of devices entering the corporate networks. Ultimately however, productivity is not only going to be depended on the freedom to choose a device, or the ease of access to information, or the quality of the connection when consuming bandwidth intensive content. It will largely be depended on the tools available on those devices – in other words “the apps”.

Most desk-bound knowledge workers will be quite content using existing productivity tools such as word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation software already available in the various app stores. There will however be many other types of workers that can tremendously benefit from having applications that are turbo-charged with network intelligence.

What do I mean by that? Well, you will just have to watch the video where Jagdish Girimaji, product manager for the Mobility Services Engine (MSE), outlines what network information can be exposed to make tablet applications more intelligent.

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Tablets Welcomed. Can Your Wireless Network Support the User Experience Expected of These Sleek Devices?

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.

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