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8 Cool Ways To Leverage Wireless Tech

  • By now, wireless networks are a standard fixture in enterprise IT. Employees simply take it for granted that they'll be able to connect their laptops, smartphones and tablets to the organization's WLAN in order to get their work done.

    But some organizations are realizing that they can use wireless capabilities to do much more than just connect their office workers to the Internet and corporate network. As they look to upgrade their wireless hardware, they are investigating ways to improve service and expand their wireless into places that haven't had connectivity before.

    Enterprises are beginning to deploy Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities that are made possible by their Wi-Fi networks. They are improving security and rethinking their office infrastructure. Some are applying big data analytics techniques to their wireless data, and some are investigating new ways to interact with and learn from customers through wireless networks.

    For this slide show, we went looking for case studies that showcased enterprises leveraging wireless technology to do new things. While these examples might not apply to every industry, most of them could be adapted to a multitude of settings. And all offer interesting or innovative ways to turn wireless capabilities into a business advantage.

    (Image: audioundwerbung/iStockphoto)

  • Track customers

    Online retailers have a big advantage over brick-and-mortar stores in that they can always tell where their customers are and what they are doing while they are navigating their websites. But the Centrum Riviera mall in Poland solved this problem by installing a free WiFi network for customers. Shoppers appreciated the Internet access, and when they accepted the network's terms of use, they also gave the mall permission to track their movements. Now the company can tell when visitors arrive at the mall, where they go, how long they stay and when they leave. That information has been invaluable from a marketing perspective, helping them to acquire a better mix of tenants and provide more personalized offers for shoppers.

  • Monitor emotions

    A company called Shimmer is helping organizations leverage their wireless networks to track people's emotional states. This is particularly useful in healthcare settings and for media and advertising firms that are interested in understanding audience responses to content. The shimmer sensors can track a wearer's galvanic skin response (a measure of how much sweat is on the skin) and heart rate. Applying analytics to that data allows organizations to understand how people are feeling emotionally without having to rely on people to report their emotions themselves. This could help organizations learn more about their customers or patients and better align their products and services with needs.

  • Keep an eye on perishables

    In many industries, supplies and equipment must be kept in very specific environmental conditions. One dairy product manufacturer was driven to look for a better solution than manual temperature monitoring after an unsealed door led to the loss of $30,000 worth of product in a very short amount of time. They decided to leverage their existing wireless network and add Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that could constantly monitor the temperature of the milk and other perishables in their production facilities. Now staff members receive an alert on their smartphones instantly when something isn't right, and within the first month alone they headed off three incidents that could have cost them $45,000.

  • Improve physical security

    For organizations that already have a robust wireless network in place, adding high-definition wireless video cameras can be a simple task that improves safety and security. These types of solutions have been installed in locations around the world, including the Statue of Liberty and Dubai Investments Park.

    At the Statue of Liberty, installing wireless cameras allowed the park to obtain surveillance of areas that previously could not be seen. The new cameras have HDTV quality and are particularly good in low light, when security incidents are most likely to occur. In addition, the new system has the ability to push video to mobile devices carried by first responders.

    The solution at the Dubai facility secures a multi-use complex spread over 2,300 hectares. It aggregates live feeds from 40 closed-circuit television cameras and 6 license-plate recognition cameras to help secure the entire facility.

  • Improve customer experiences

    The Denver Museum of Nature and Science hosts more than 1.4 million visitors a year, so when the museum decided to upgrade its wireless network, it wanted to be able to provide new services to its customers as well as to the office staff who work in the building. The new wireless network has allowed it to add interactive elements to exhibits and has improved its research capabilities. The WiFi extends outside the building as well, which allows staff to check in children who are attending day camps right from their parents' cars. In the future, the museum hopes to add more features for its customers, like proximity-aware interactivity, offering turn-by-turn directions to exhibits or amenities, or helping move traffic from congested areas of the museum to under-utilized places.

  • Build a wireless foundation

    In the past, network connectivity was typically added to a facility near the end of the construction process, but today enterprises find it more productive to make wireless one of the first things they install on a new construction site. For example, when North West Redwater was building a new oil refinery, it opted to install a wireless network near the beginning of the project. The construction site was huge — 2.5 square miles — and more than 100 different contractors would be involved. Using solutions from Cisco and Redline, the firm was able to set up a private WLAN that all of its contractors could use while on the site. That helped to improve communications, protect worker safety and reduce costs.

  • Take It outside

    For many enterprises, wireless connectivity is no longer something that is only provided in indoor office spaces -- wireless has uses outdoors as well. For example, a South African transportation firm called Bidvest Panalpina Logistics (BPL) rolled out a wireless LAN for a 61,000-square-meter outdoor storage and distribution center. Complicating the deployment was the fact that the site houses a huge quantity of metal shipping containers that can block wireless signals. In addition, they needed to provide connectivity to crane operators located high above the rest of the facility, and power was a challenge across the site. To solve these problems, the company installed a wireless mesh solution powered by solar energy built with hardware from Ruckus.

  • Cut the phone cords

    Like most businesses, Aruba Networks invested in a traditional wired PBX telephone system in its early days of its existence. But when it became clear that the legacy PBX system was nearing the end of its usefulness, the company decided to leverage its wireless infrastructure and unified communications and collaboration (UCC) technology to eliminate the wires to desktop phones. Using its own products and Microsoft Lync, it was able to move to a wireless solution for desktop telephony and conference calls, which the company says resulted in $2 million in savings in capital and operating expenses.

    (Image: vitranc/iStockphoto)