I’m going to bet that you’ve been in this predicament before. You’re attending a conference, taking notes on your phone/tablet/laptop. An urgent question arises that you know you have the answer to in your email and so you hit search. Wheels spin, cursors blink, and nothing happens. Looking around you realize that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other people are also staring at their devices, waiting, and waiting and….  It’s readily apparent that the facility just doesn’t have enough Wi-Fi network capacity to deal with a tsunami of device connections.

As more and more people rely on mobile devices to keep up with critical and time-sensitive work, it’s become necessary, yet difficult, to pre-test a facility’s Wi-Fi to determine if it is capable of handling the load generated by fluctuating gatherings and flash-crowds. I should say, it was difficult. Cisco has a solution.

Cisco Aironet Active Sensors simulate real-world Wi-Fi experiences, testing connectivity, speed, and coverage of a facility’s existing wireless infrastructure to ensure that during an event the attendees can rely on using their mobile devices to work and communicate. The Aironet Active Sensor is a compact, portable device that plugs into a power outlet or laptop USB port to sense and test the local Wi-Fi environment. For more permanent installations, they can be plugged directly into an Ethernet switch port for both power (PoE) and connectivity. Since the sensors can be positioned at the same level where the real-world devices will be in use, they provide a more accurate view of coverage than traditional ceiling-mounted sensors.Aironet Active Sensors

Using Cisco AirProbe software, the Aironet Active Sensors detect and measure the capability of the local Wi-Fi. The tests will either verify that the Wi-Fi is capable of handling a multitude of devices and applications, or that it needs changes in radio coverage to handle the potential load. Most importantly, this can all happen before an event, letting you prepare to meet the influx of people and devices. During an event, as the crowds gather and device usage escalates, the sensors monitor and analyze the Wi-Fi traffic, density and locations of devices, and network connection errors to assist with remote diagnosis and repair via DNA Center.

These powerful devices aren’t just for occasional stress testing. Since Aironet Active Sensors can be monitored and controlled from DNA Center, so you can install sensors throughout a building or campus and manage them from one central pane of glass. The combination of Aironet Active Sensors and DNA Center enables IT to proactively identify service-related issues before people and applications are impacted. DNA Assurance automatically collects and organizes device, application, and user data, providing a real-time single source of insight for Wi-Fi health and coverage. Aironet Active Sensors are fully integrated with the Aironet and DNA Center portfolio, precluding the need for any additional overlay tools or applications.

Aironet Active Sensors are a gift to overburdened IT staff too. Why spend time traveling from building to building in a campus, or to distant offices, to monitor and fine-tune wireless networks when it can all be done from the DNA Center portal? From one central point, IT technicians can verify the remote Wi-Fi’s status, set up SSIDs and passwords, test the speed, and monitor the site for problems as meetings get underway. As people and their mobile devices gather, Aironet Active Sensors continuously analyze nearby Aironet Access Points (APs), mapping the Wi-Fi radio coverage and communicating the results to DNA Center. The algorithms in DNA Center automatically determine which radios in the APs can utilize Flexible Radio Assignment (FRA) to change the radios from 2.4/5GHz to dual 5GHz radios to decrease excessive 2.4GHz radios and increase coverage with 5GHz radios. DNA Center can also change AP radios to act as telemetry collecting sensors to analyze larger Wi-Fi neighborhoods such as a conference hall or outdoor venues.

As Aironet Active Sensors are woven even more tightly into Cisco’s Intent-based Networking paradigm, DNA Center will not only constantly monitor the telemetry coming in from the Wi-Fi segments for anomalies, but also pinpoint and automatically remedy many of the connectivity issues that can arise in order to maintain the intent and outcome of service level agreements.

To better prepare for events, Aironet Active Sensors, in conjunction with DNA Center, will be able to test Wi-Fi installations with a range of loads and bandwidth demands to simulate various types of traffic, from streaming video to simple messaging to document sharing.

So the next time an event brings a tsunami of mobile devices to your enterprise, Aironet Active Sensors can provide the assurance you need that people will be surfing the network, not being stranded by it.


Anand Oswal

No Longer with Cisco