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Educators Getting Smart About WLAN Solutions

Education customers looking to improve classroom efficiency and productivity are increasingly turning to WLAN solutions, solution providers said.

As WLAN equipment prices drop and vendors roll out features to help combat security concerns, both school districts and universities are giving the green light to wireless deployments, said Tim Gower, lead analyst at Datamonitor, identifying education as one of the top five vertical markets for wireless technology. WLAN sales in the North American education market are poised to hit $200 million by 2008, about double last year’s sales, according to the research firm. Activity between the United States and Canada is evenly split, Gower said.

For solution providers with wireless experience, opportunities in the education market are plentiful and growing quickly.
“We’re seeing quite a lot of wireless in the schools,” said Doug Bowlds, vice president of AAC Associates, a solution provider in Vienna, Va. One customer, the Fairfax County public school system in Virginia, has pushed out wireless technology to more than 200 schools, he said.

Some school districts are experimenting with wireless-enabled PDAs to dole out homework assignments to students, he said. In addition, some schools aim to improve communications by rolling out WLANs in concert with VoIP systems, giving staff members wireless phone access over the Wi-Fi network.

“If they send an engineer out to do work at the middle school, his phone number follows him as he goes from school to school,” Bowlds said.
Wireless networks integrated with VoIP systems are also being used to tackle safety concerns, said Steven Madick, director of engineering at Nexus Integration Services, a solution provider in Valencia, Calif., which has enabled several entire schools with WLANs.

“When teachers are out with the kids at the baseball field behind the school, they can launch a 911 call if there’s an emergency,” Madick said.
In other cases, schools are tapping WLANs to help them get more efficient use of teachers and classroom facilities, Gower said.

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