I’m often asked by customers and vendors what I think the next big thing will be to emerge from the Wi-Fi industry and whilst I don’t have a magic ball to fall back on I do have over 10 years in the industry to see what has been done and what is left to do..
I usually start my prediction by talking about the past and how Wi-Fi has evolved over the last 10-15 years, solving many problems along the way. I call it the three C’s of the past, Connectivity, Coverage and Capacity.
Connectivity – When I first started out in Wi-Fi back on the early 2000’s obtaining a consistent Wi-Fi connection was challenging enough. There was no or very little built-in support for Wi-Fi within devices such as laptops and PC’s and the only way to get connected was to use a PCI or PCMCIA card. Windows had no built-in support either and you had to install what was called a supplicant to be able to configure a profile for your connection… 802.11a/g was when Wi-Fi really become a connectivity option with advances such as antenna diversity assisting in maintaining a consistent connection…
Coverage – With connectivity no longer an issue and as the adoption of Wi-Fi really started to increase the main problem that was then created was the lack of pervasive coverage. Initially coverage was kept to “Hotspot” areas within businesses and public spaces, hence where the name came from. But as demand grew (which was mainly driven from everyone having Wi-Fi at home) we were then challenged with making those Hotspot areas join up together. What greatly helped at this time was 802.11N and MIMO. Although MIMO gave us higher data rates 802.11n gave us better connections and consistent coverage, making joining up our hotspots a simpler task.
Capacity – With connectivity and coverage now expected wherever you go it was never going to be long before capacity became the next issue especially with the explosion of devices that has been seen within the last few years. Whilst our need for more and more data will always increase, 802.11ac and its promised Gigabit speeds has for now addressed this requirement. Only in multi-dwelling units such as student accommodation do we really see 802.11.ac being pushed to its potential with most office and public Wi-Fi networks still not needing Gigabit speeds.
The Future – So with connectivity, coverage and capacity addressed for the time being what do I think is left to achieve in Wi-Fi? In a nutshell, Security and the challenge of onboarding clients in a secure and easy way. It still amazes me how many networks are still using a pre-shared key or require time consuming setup of the client in order to achieve a secure connection. Most IT departments find it too complicated or clunky to use 802.1X and secure certificates due to the overhead of managing a radius server and certificate server and public hotspots are seriously lacking basic security leaving most users vulnerable to many security and privacy dangers.
What is needed is an easy way to securely connect your device regardless of where your connecting to with your traffic encrypted and your data secure. Hotspot 2.0 hasn’t as yet gone mainstream by mobile operators to bridge the gap in securing public hotspots and in the enterprise it is being left to private companies to innovate. As I don’t see anything new emerging from the Wi-Fi standards any time soon but I do believe that companies such as CloudPath ( www.cloudpath.net ) are bridging this security gap.
CloudPath and their “enrolment system” offers a vendor neutral, client onboarding solution that works with WPA2-enterprise to wired networks with 802.1X. Having used this solution for some time I like the set and forget policy driven workflow and the fact that there is a Built-in certificate infrastructure and RADIUS server which greatly overcomes the issues with managing and supporting your own 802.1X setup.
I look forward to reading this post in a few years’ time and reflect back to see how close my prediction was… What I am 100% sure on is that the trend for more and more devices requiring ever more data will continue to increase!
In today’s competitive warehouse market it’s all about productivity, the faster you can move product in and out of the warehouse typically the more products you can handle. Gone are the times when pickers would use pen and paper to record a pallet or product with advances in technology over the last 10 years now seeing pickers using hand held scanners, “voice to pick” and wearable technology to increase productivity.
What all these technologies have in common is their critical use of Wi-Fi for communication and it is why ensuring that the Wi-Fi is operational 24/7 is one of the easiest way to maintain high levels of throughout, productivity and ultimately profitability.
Consider this prime example: Warehouse A picks and ships 60,000 items per hour 24 hours a day, each of the 300 pickers must pick 200 items p/hr or nearly 4 per min (3.3). The warehouse charges a handing fee of £1 per item or £60,000 per hour for its picking, packing, shipping. The cost or loss of business should the Wi-Fi be out of operation for one hour is easy to calculate, £60,000 but what is not so easy to see is how much is it costing for a poorly performing Wi-Fi network that is slowing down your pickers “Pick Rate” or worse not allowing them to improve their pick rate past your pick target and increase profitability overall. Should the pickers in this example be able to increase from 3.3 to 4 items per min they this would increase productivity by from 200 to 240 per hour and the warehouse overall could handle 72,000 an increase of 17,000 per hour!
So how can you prevent a drop in pick rate or even help to increase productivity, let’s explore the most common issues:
I know this sounds like an obvious one but having too much or too little Wi-Fi coverage can cause several issues. Too much signal or too many Wi-Fi access points will cause channel interference, too little signal or not enough Wi-Fi access points will lower performance and stop scanning altogether.
Pickers and their scanning devices must be able to roam wherever they need to scan meaning their devices must roam from one Wi-Fi Access Point to another seamlessly or a delay in scanning will occur, slowing down their pick rate. This is even more important if you use a “Voice to Pick” solution as not roaming efficiently will leave you connected to an old Wi-Fi access point in another area which will lower the voice quality making communication difficult to understand. Luckily the most recent improvements in Wi-Fi have been in the area of roaming, (802.11r and 802.11k)
Ensuring that your Wi-Fi network design has an element of coverage redundancy is crucial, although equipment fail rates are relatively low they do happen and the cost of not picking can often outweigh the cost of a proper Wi-Fi survey and design
Wi-Fi Health Check
Get a Wi-Fi health Check performed on your network once a year, a bit like an MOT, this will ensure that the points raised above are covered. Being proactive to ensuring your Wi-Fi is working could be up to 10 times more cost effective than to being reactive to problems.
Ensure that you get the right Wi-Fi design to start with and that it stay’s current with any changes you make in layout. Engage with a supplier that specialises in designing Wi-Fi in warehouse environment and that they can prove that they have experience in this. Designing a Wi-Fi network in warehouse with moving forklifts, high racks and constantly changing stock levels is worlds apart from designing Wi-Fi for an office or school. Your supplier should provide Wi-Fi coverage heat-maps of your warehouse, test for interference using a spectrum analyser and provide you with a professional document detailing where the Wi-Fi Access Points are going to be installed. If you change the layout of your warehouse over time you should re-address this design to protect productivity.
Ensuring that your pick rate and productivity stay high through best practise Wi-Fi design is critical in today’s competitive warehousing market. Being at the forefront of warehousing picking technologies will differentiate you from your competition and allow you stay one step ahead, with properly designed Wi-Fi being the foundation blocks.
If you would like a review or health check of your current Wi-Fi network then please get in contact.. You never know you might just improve productivity!!
GuestManager from CloudRuckus is a new Cloud Guest WiFi solution for the various Ruckus Wireless controllers and Cloud offerings.
GuestManager has been designed to fit the gap that exists between what Ruckus Wireless currently offers on its controllers and what the industry requires for secure public WiFi access. Its native support is for ZoneManager from CloudRuckus but also supports Ruckus’s ZoneDirectors, SCG 200, vSCG and the SmartZone 100.
Licensing has a simple model of 1, 2 or 3 years per AP and no additional site or AP capacity license as seen on other solutions.
Some of the core features of GuestManager are:
Branded Captive Portal
Customise the user landing page experience using an intuitive administrative interface to effortlessly setup and edit branded captive portals. Standard templates are available for Click-through, Username/Password, Prepaid/Access Codes, Social Login, Survey-based and Ad-based portals.
Custom User Journey
The User Journey defines the step-by-step process that a WiFi user walks through to attain access. The User Journey menu is designed to be configured by someone with zero IT experience. The modular based configuration can be setup with zero web development knowledge, HTML coding, or background in configuring web sites. Designing the user journey is simple with a drag and drop customisable module. Venues can monetise WiFi with promotional branding or advertisement.
GuestManager provides easy monetisation through customisable customer facing guest portals with the option for social login, a customisable user journey for advertising and specialised messaging, as well as powerful analytics. With advanced user data capturing features, it enables owners the capability to export collected data into third party CRM systems. Using the data, venue owners can create marketing activity and advertisements based on the demographic information of their customer base and publish activity using email or even SMS from GuestManager.
WiFi Monetisation & Billing
Provides multiple billing options for guest access owners to monetise their wireless. Options include credit card billing, PayPal, prepaid vouchers, PMS/Folio integration. Flexible plans can be integrated into a single splash page to restrict users with bandwidth usage, time based restrictions or even data allowance. Multiple options can be integrated within a single captive portal.
If you would like a free trial of GuestManager then please get in touch with CloudRuckus or reach out to one of our distributors http://www.cloudruckus.com/where-to-buy
Until now if you were wanting a Cloud WiFi solution from a WiFi manufacturer your choices were limited to mainly Aerohive or Meraki to date.
But now there is another option to throw into the technical analisys – Ruckus Wireless. Everyone knows Ruckus for the great performance that you get from their access points
CloudRuckus ( www.CloudRuckus.net ) is a new solution for Ruckus Wireless resellers to offer their customers as a cloud enabled solution. The solution is built from Ruckus Wireless’s “Smart Wireless Services” portfolio and offers the following as part of the solution.
Ruckus Wireless SAMS – Smart Access Management Service
Ruckus Wireless SPoT – Smart Positioning Technology
Ruckus Wireless SCI – Smart Cell Insight
It will be interesting to see what impact CloudRuckus has on the Cloud WiFi manufacturers now that they have the No3 WiFi manufacturer breathing down their neck!
Ruckus Wireless SAMS – Smart Access Management Service
Ruckus Wireless have just launched their cloud-based “WiFi Public Access” Service. This new service provides resellers the oportunity to offer a cloud-hosted fully managed hotspot solution.
Targeted clearly at “Wi-Fi Public Access” the new service brings together an industry first for Ruckus Wireless. This will be their first step into a cloud-based WiFi offering, following the footsteps of other cloud WiFi manufacturers.
The solution will be delivered in two flavours; Complete management of your Ruckus access point and the public access service or just the public access service.
The management of your Ruckus access points will be managed in the cloud by the Ruckus Small Cell Gateway allowing resellers to simply drop access points into a clients network with no local controller!!
Once more information is available i will update this post and also provide a quick step guide to its setup..
Ruckus Wireless have just launched their “Location Based” solution to the market… finally. Whilst other WLAN manufacturers have had LBS for several years now it has taken Ruckus until now to bring something to the market.
As it happens i personally think that by either sheer luck or good business timing their entry into this market is perfectly timed. Not only has the there been an explosion in public Wi-Fi networks but leaving it this late to develop a solution has meant that their offering does not carry any of the old baggage that other solutions do. SPoT has been designed with what today’s customers want from LBS not what manufacturers think that they require, which is what other LBS solutions deliver.
What is the most unique feature to SPoT? Mostly the fact that it is cloud-based and requires no additional hardware on the customers premises! This alone will mean that there will be many more deployments of “Location Enabled” networks than previously seen before. No more having to persuade the customer to invest in expensive hardware to sit in their server/data room.
So what do Ruckus say about the new solution? This is taken from their website.
Ruckus SPoT™ Smart Positioning Technology the industry’s first cloud-based Smart Wi-Fi location-based services (LBS) user positioning technology suite that gives both carriers/service providers and enterprises the ability to deliver a wide-range of value added services that can help them increase their profitability while enhancing users’ online experiences.
Ruckus SPoT combines unique advantages, such as being completely cloud-based, and offering higher accuracy and performance more cost-effectively. Since Ruckus SPoT is completely cloud-based and offers APIs for third party usage, venues with Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi installed do not need any additional hardware to be “Location Intelligent” and can take advantage of third party analytics offerings if preferred.
Ruckus SPoT includes the following components:
- SPoT Location Engine — accurately pinpoints in real time a user’s location in any indoor environment
- SPoT Location Analytics Dashboard — analogous to “Google Analytics for the physical world”
- SPoT Engagement API — a set of APIs to power a new generation of mobile apps, giving them “Location Intelligent” features such as the ability to locate users and engage or send them highly targeted messages in any venue with Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi installed and Ruckus SPoT enable
So how does SPoT work?
Ruckus BeamFlex technology is combined with a variety of advanced location techniques such as RSSI trilateration, RTT (round trip time), RF fingerprinting and techniques that take advantage of the constant travelling speed of radio waves and packets. As a result, Ruckus SPoT is capable of better pinpointing the location of users, depending on the number and density of access points used.
Ruckus Wireless SPoT – Benefits
Analyze marketing and merchandising effectiveness, shopper trending, improve customer engagement, Q buster features such as real-time heat-map views for floor managers.
Improve loyal customers’ satisfaction with on-device features such as auto check-in, way-finding, and instant coupons for amenities.
Enhance traveller experience with intuitive on-mobile engagements; improve efficiency of the entire venue or sub-zones with real-time heat maps, statistical footfall and dwell-time data.
Identify areas of heavy usage, improve traffic flow, engage customers with way-finding and contextual coupon serving.
Accurate location data provides asset tracking, indoor navigation, and personnel locations.
Tracks assets such as tablets, navigate guests and students around campus.
Additionally, Ruckus is introducing the SPoT Location Ecosystem, a program for third party mobile and analytics application developers, including service provider, enterprise, education and consumer applications Ruckus SPoT provides an open API set for the delivery of comprehensive, accurate and up to near-real-time location information to enable services such as Location Analytics for better customer insights, and enhanced user engagement and experiences on mobile apps. The first Ruckus SPoT Location Ecosystem partners include location analytic companies such as Euclid and SkyRove, and mobile application development partners including companies such as FrontPorch, Sanginfo, PurpleWi-Fi, TechStudio and ITC Infotech.
If you would like more information about Ruckus SPoT or would like a demo of the system please contact DigitalAir Wireless on 0800 310 20 50 – http://www.digitalairwireless.com
Mobility Services Advertisement Protocol
I seem to have a fascination about this little unknown protocol called msap. Ive blogged a little about this previously in my Cisco Connected Mobile Experience post but i thought that i would dive deeper into it to see how it actually works and try and understand the real benefits for enterprise.
So what i am posting here is what i have managed to research and discover, so please do not think that all that say is correct as i am only finding my way with this.!! I have listed my sources of information at the bottom of my post.
Summery of MSAP
MSAP is a Cisco proprietary protocol that provides service advertisements to mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets.
It seems that MSAP is derived from 802.11u and GAS (Generic Advertisement Service) and ANQP (Access Network Query Protocol). These two protocols are used in 802.11u for discovery of services from various service providers, authentication methods and details of the WiFi network itself. MSAP seems to use these protocols in its discovery for services.
GAS, provides for Layer 2 transport of an advertisement protocol’s frames between a mobile device and a server in the network prior to authentication. The access point is responsible for the relay of a mobile device’s query to a server in the carrier’s network and for delivering the server’s response back to the mobile.
ANQP, which is a query and response protocol used by a mobile device to discover a range of information.
A mobile device uses GAS to post an ANQP query to an access point for each of the SSIDs that is being broadcasted.
The following are the main components and explanation of MSAP
MSAP Server – The Cisco Mobility Services Engine runs the MSAP server as it is embedded in Cisco MSE software version 7.4.100. It is managed in Cisco Prime Infrastructure.
MSAP End Points – The MSAP client is integrated with the latest phones that are built with Qualcomm’s SnapDragon client.
The MSAP client software could also be integrated into a mobile app.
Configuration of the MSAP is through the Cisco Prime Network Control System. These “Services” are either applications that the customer has developed or a URL. The protocol provides links to these URL’s or the APP where the applications can be downloaded.
So how does MSAP actually work?
What i like about MSAP is the fact that it operates over the link layer (like EAP) where the client does not need to be associated to the access point, does not need to go through authentication or even need an IP.
In the Cisco solution MSAP is configured per SSID (next to where mobility anchors are configured) which advertises in its 802.11 beacon frame that services are available.
When a complaint MSAP client receives such a frame it then queries the MSAP server for the services that are available.
Depending on what as been configured in the Cisco MSE will depend on what is presented to the client. But this is typically links to a URL or application on an APP store.
So to summarise the above;
A user will walk into a venue which supports MSAP, the users device will detect MSAP and query it for the local services that have been configured. The user will then be notified on their device from an icon (and maybe a vibration) that local services are available.
The user will then click on the icon and will be presented with a list of services. For this example lets say that its a shopping mall that the user has walked into and one of the services is their customer service APP. The APP is then able to be downloaded and installed onto the clients device.
Has Samsung Rebadged The Cisco WLAN Solution?
Today i received an email from a BDM at Samsung’s Wireless Enterprise division. This was news to me that Samsung had moved into the WLAN Enterprise market so i thought that i would do a little digging around to workout how they had come to market and surprised most of the WLAN industry.
Having spoken to a few peeps on twitter (you know who you are) it seems that their announcement Q4 last year had gone under the radar.
So i thought that i would try and summarise their offering here to make things a little simpler for folk.
Link to Samsung WLAN portfolio can be found here : http://www.samsung.com/global/business/enterprise-communications/enterprise-communications/wireless-enterprise-solution
Samsung WLAN Controller
Samsung seem to be only offering the one WLAN controller, the Samsung WEC8500. This to me seems to be very similar in features to the Cisco 8500 WLC. Their data sheet also talks about RRM for example.
This is from their website:
The WEC8500 is a high-performance WLAN controller that is specifically designed for mission-critical wireless networking in mid-sized to large enterprises. This high-performing controller is able to simultaneously manage up to 500 access points and operates at 20Gbps, offering a fast and reliable network. In addition, the WEC8500 represents a cost-effective network solution for businesses, with features such as L3 routing, firewalls, 10G interfaces as well as system redundancy to enhance security and minimize downtime. With integrated handover and automatic cell optimazation applying LTE technology, the controller provides optimal wireless connections for both notebook PCs and smartphones.
Key Features are:
- High-performance WLAN controller for mission-critical wireless networking
- Management of up to 500 access points
- Highly scalable and Powerful platform with 10 GE connectivity
- High availability with redundant systems and power supplies
- Seamless handover by AirMove with LTE Technology
- SON (Self organizing network) for auto cell optimization technology in voice & data environment
Samsung Access Points
Samsung have two access points, an integrated and external model.
This is from their website:
“The WEA300 Series is a small but powerful access point (AP) for Wireless Enterprise. Reaching well beyond the limits of existing wireless networks, our Wireless Enterprise systems, along with our antenna technology, improve the AP coverage. As this technology also ensures airtime fairness, it provides equivalent service to anyone. The WEA300 Series automatically optimizes RF cell configuration and size, adapting to the characteristics of the mobile device for wireless network in mixed data and voice environments.”
Whats interesting is that both access points come with a separate radio for dedicated monitoring, so there is a 3×3:3 for client access and a 2×2:2 for WIPS/WIDS/Spectrum maybe?
Both access points look extreamly nice and are very low profile so i personally think that Samsung have designed these themselves and they are not a rebadged AP from Cisco, although inside they could be!
There are a couple of features that are talked about, Intelligent Beam Selectable Antenna is one of them and this very much looks like transmit beamforming or Cisco’s ClientLink. This is from their site:
“The AP uses Intelligent Beam Selectable Antenna (IBSA) technology to further facilitate networks where multiple devices are requiring concurrent access. The feature is able to minimize the coverage holes by optimizing its radio frequency (RF) pattern with a number of physical antennas. This serves to extend the coverage, improve receive sensitivity and maintain speed and reliability. As a result, mobile device can always receive the correct signals to avoid downtime, even from long distances.”
Dedicated Security Monitoring Module
This is interesting as Cisco does not have an AP with a dedicated set of radios for monitoring unless you count their latest 3600 and their security module. Manufacturers often rebadge others WLAN controllers and use their own AP’s. Netgear did this when they rebadged Aruba’s controller a few years ago.
This is what Samsung say on their site about their Dedicated Security Monitoring Module
“ia its dedicated monotoring module and antennas, this AP ensures a secure wireless service across its network. It is built in to the WEA300 Series, making it ideally suited to use in business environments where potentially confidential data needs to be handled and to avoide. Accordingly, the WEA300 Series maximizes sensing efficiency as it is possible to monitor real-time RF at the same time as reducing capital expenditure by eliminating the requirement for separate sensor APs that ensures WLAN security.”
Samsung WLAN Manager
Samsung seems to of done a good job of redesigning Cisco PRIME (old WCS) but the obvious giveaway for me has to be the “CleanAir” tab
Their main features are stated as:
- Management of multiple WLAN controllers
- An Intuitive and easy user Interface
- Management of wired and wireless networks
- Remote Monitoring for Improved Troubleshooting
- Convenient configuration, change, and compliance management
This is from their website:
“The Wireless Enterprise WLAN Manager (WEM) monitors access points (APs) and access point controllers (APCs), ensuring that users get the best network capabilities out of their products. It also tracks the status of the wireless environment, granting operators fast and reliable WLAN access. The WEM helps to manage the wireless network efficiently without any problems relating to the configuration and troubleshooting of the AP or AP controller. Furthermore, the WEM provides operational convenience that enables the monitoring of service disruptions and resolves the problems whatever the circumstances.”
What is interesting is that Samsung is offering a mobile APP that offers remote monitoring, It even seems to show AP locations:
This is from Samsung’s website:
“As the WEM can remotely monitor the status of wireless networks at anytime, it is possible to control from anywhere via a smartphone or another mobile device. It is able to identify and troubleshoot faults, minimizing network downtime and enhancing reliability. When the fault occurs, operators will be able to access real-time status reports and solve problems by sending error messages to the smartphone of the IT administrator”
It also looks as though Samsung has taken on a range of Cisco switches as well, as their WLAN manager states that it supports their “iES Ethernet Switches”. This is from their website:
“The WEM is capable of managing the Samsung iES Ethernet switches. In the case of AP failure, this manager can turn off the PoE port remotely via Samsung Ethernet Switch, rebooting instantly to minimize potential downtime. As a result, this solution serves to provide users with a more reliable network connection, making it even more suitable for applications in a wide variety of business and mission-critical environments.”
So has Samsung Rebadged Cisco’s WLAN Solution?
Well from the outside i would say for sure. Their controller the WEC8500 is similar to Cisco’s 8500 and Samsung’s WLAN manager is clearly Cisco PRIME.
Is this a bad thing? No i don’t think so.. manufacturers often rebadge anthers manufacturers solution to “Test the Waters” before they bring our their own offering. And you have to say that maybe only Samsung could pull of a deal with Cisco for their kit!
Do i think that they we gain much market share? Well that will depend on price i would say. They don’t have any depth within their portfolio so their penetration will only be so deep.
To me they are lacking an outdoor AP and maybe a smaller sized controller if they are going to market to the SMB market, which they say they are going to do.
So its going to get more interesting in the WLAN market and don’t be surprised if you see offerings from the likes of APPLE and GOOGLE in the near future!