Tag Archives: Wireless

IEEE 802.11ax: The Game Changer

Why is there so much hype around the proposed IEEE standard? We can sum that up in three words; speed, agility, capacity.  But, three words may not do the new Wi-Fi standard justice, so read on for a more indepth look at why 802.11ax is a game changer.

802.11ax, the latest IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standard, is expected to be released in early 2019. Because of its speed (four to ten times faster than 802.11ac) and capacity it’s going to become a critical component of mobile-first strategies. While 802.11ax will be used everywhere, it’s especially intended to solve wireless connectivity problems in high-density edge environments such as transportation hubs, office buildings, sports venues, etc.

802.11ax is a game changer (literally) because it will be able to accommodate a large number of users and IoT devices accessing the network simultaneously. Think about going to the big game. Before it starts, you have no trouble accessing the internet. Then the big play happens and you have thousands of people trying to get online to tweet, snapchat, text and otherwise share the news with friends not lucky enough to snag a ticket to the game. The result? Spinning, spinning and more spinning. Frustrated, you give up. 802.11ax will end the frustration and get you online pronto.

Reduce network congestion
AX is expected to have a maximum data rate of 1.3 Gbps, will operate in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies and will be backward compatible with 802.11ac/n.

To achieve the significant speed and capacity increase, AX will layer MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output) with orthogonal frequency-division multiple access technology. This enables a large number of devices to use the same access point at the same time rather than sequentially. Imagine a cashier in a store being able to wait on four people at the same time. While customer one pulls out the credit card, customer two is being rung up, and so on.

Technologically, AX will provide more efficient spectrum utilisations as well. It creates broader channels and splits them into narrower subchannels, each with a different frequency. That enables eight simultaneous streams, which can then be split into four additional streams boosting the effective bandwidth per user by four times.

In addition, 802.11ax is truly next generation Wi-Fi with the ability to accommodate an equal amount of simultaneous uploads and downloads. Previous generations of Wi-Fi were based on the premise that there would be mostly downloads rather than uploads, which was true. Not anymore.

AX and IoT
802.11ax will be a boon for Internet of Things sensors and equipment in congested environments, such as hospitals and smart buildings where you’ll have tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of devices demanding simultaneous access. It won’t just increase the speed of the network, it will also quadruple the speeds of the individual wireless clients.

Extend battery life
A side benefit of 802.11ax is that it will improve battery life of devices. A time-wake feature enables access points to tell devices when to go to sleep and when to wake. Although these may be very short periods of time, seconds, it adds up over time and results in extended battery life. If you’re enabling hundreds of IoT sensors, that’s a big deal.

When to upgrade
The answer is upgrade when you need to, which could be now in terms of accommodating more users and improving wireless capacity. Although the IEEE 802.11 releases new standards approximately every five to six years (g in 2003, n in 2009 and ac in 2013), forward-thinking IT administrators typically upgrade their wireless networks every three years. It’s estimated that 802.11ax will have wide-spread adoption by 2020, but manufacturers are already producing equipment with ax chipsets. Once 802.11ax is ratified, compliance can be as simple as a firmware update. So if you need more speed, bandwidth and capacity, don’t wait.

If you’re thinking about your mobile-first strategy, talk to Black Box now. We can help you make mobility happen with the right intelligent edge foundational technology.  When you enable mobility, you enable connectivity at the digital edge.

Learn more at Blackbox.co.uk

Learn more about all the IEEE 802.11 standards here.

 

Five Benefits of the Smart Office

A smart office is most likely in your future whether you’re ready for it or not. Industry experts estimate that by 2020 one in five buildings will be smart offices and will need to support up to 50 billion connected devices.1  

Technology is driving digital transformation and changing our workplace behaviour and the work space itself. The smart office will enable your digital savvy employees to work whenever they want to and wherever they are. Millennials are an important force in driving this digital transformation. It’s estimated that by 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce2. Much of the smart office technology we’re seeing is a result of their cultural preferences.

Today’s smart offices are outfitted with technologies not possible so many years ago. Who would have thought that by driving into the parking garage at work, the building will act as a virtual secretary? Or that a sensor can recognise your license plate and tell your smart phone where there’s an open desk and when your next meeting is.

The smart office is one with unrestricted mobility, no assigned desks, anywhere connectivity, and IoT-enabled environmental elements such as doors, lights, shades, cooling and heat. It’s designed to help you increase productivity, reduce costs, streamline operations and improve end-user satisfaction across your enterprise. Here are five points to consider when evaluating your smart office evolution.

  1. Understand the opportunity 
    The smart office will enable your digital savvy employees to work whenever and wherever they want. A smart office will also help you optimise space and provide more dynamic, collaborative spaces designed to promote creativity and productivity.

2. Build on a robust foundation
A strong foundation is the bedrock upon which the smart office is built. An integrated wired and wireless network infrastructure will give you a flexible growth model and a way to implement the ever-evolving technologies of smart buildings and hundreds or even thousands of IoT sensors. It will also integrate existing equipment and new cloud-based applications.

3. A digital-ready network means smart business
63% of enterprises are still using manual or minimally enabled networks. But enterprises with digital-ready networks report two to three times the rate of growth in revenue, customer retention and profits compared to organisations with less mature networks.

4. Extend intelligence throughout the building
It’s estimated that 50% of all energy in a commercial building is wasted3. You can use smart building technologies to reduce costs, increase user comfort and monitor security. IoT sensors can close the shades on a sunny day; turn off the lights at night; regulate HVAC temperature/maintenance; and monitor building access and security.

5. Empower collaboration 
Provide communications capabilities that help employees and customers easily come together using a variety of devices and media such as interactive white boards, collaboration applications, and personalised customer communications.

Find the right partner
Implementing a smart office building requires a strategic partner that can guide you every step of the way from design, deployment and management. We can help with:
• Smart edge/IoT devices
• Unrestricted wireless connectivity
• Advanced network infrastructure
• Network switching and routing
• On-premises collaboration tools and cloud connectivity

For more information about Black Box smart office services, contact us

  1. Honeywell. Put Your Buildings to Work: A Smart Approach to Better Business Outcomes. 2015
  2. Social Chorus, Rethinking Communication for a Multigenerational Workforce. 2016.
  3. IBM, Energy and Environment. https://ibm.com/ibm/green/smarter_buildings

 

802.11 Wireless Standards Explained

The explosion of mobile devices continues to drive not only digital transformation of businesses, but also how those businesses’ employees work. According to Gartner, in 2017, 50% of employers required employees to supply their own devices for work and 89% of employees accessed business applications through personal mobile devices.

Think about it: what device do you have with you all the time? Your phone. But you probably also have a tablet and laptop that you use to access work applications. Most people have three mobile devices and Wi-Fi is a critical component of how we connect at the edge, whether that edge is the office, your car, the airport or even your kitchen table

Mobility is changing how we work and where we work. The base of that transformation has been the IEEE wireless standards: from the original standard, which left many of us looking at a spinning wheel and waiting for connectivity, to the latest proposed standard that will give us all simultaneous wireless access. End-users now demand anytime, anywhere, any device connectivity- fast and with high availability. The question is, can your wireless network provide that?

This tutorial will decipher the alphabet soup of the most common IEEE 802.11 standards and describe how they have evolved over the years and what standards your enterprise needs to enable digital transformation.

 

IEEE 802.11 Standards
Standard Released Frequency (GHz) Speed Range
IEEE 802.11 1997 2.4 2 Mbps Indoors: 20 m
Outdoors: 100 m
IEEE 802.11a 1999 5/3.7 54 Mbps Indoors: 35 m
Outdoors: 120/5000 m
IEEE 802.11b 1999 2.4 11 Mbps Indoors: 35 m
Outdoors: 120 m
IEEE 802.11g 2003 2.4 54 Mbps Indoors: 38 m
Outdoors: 140 m
IEEE 802.11n 2009 2.4/5 600 Mbps Indoors: 70 m
Outdoors: 250 m
IEEE 802.11ac 2013 2.4/5 450 Mbps/1300 Mbps Indoors: 35 m
IEEE 802.11ad (WiGig) 2012 60 6.7 Gbps 3.3 m
IEEE 802.11ah (HaLow) 2016 0.9 347 Mbps 1 km
IEEE 802.11ax 2019 est. 2.4/5 GHz 450 Mbps/10.53 Gbps TBD


802.11/a/b
. This was the original standard created in 1997. It only provided data throughput of 2 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz frequency, which was too slow for most applications. The A version (5 Ghz) boosted data rates to 54 Mbps. The B version (1999) went back to the 2.4 GHz frequency and boosted data rates to 11 Mbps. Your first home router was probably 802.11b.

802.11g. Released in 2003, this was the next significant wireless standard with speeds of 54 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz frequency making it backward compatible with 802.11b.

802.11n. Approved in 2009, 802.11n enables operation in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies, a game changer at the time. It was the first standard to use MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) and offered better speed, 300 Mbps, better range, more resistance to interference and backward compatibility with 802.11b/g.

802.11ac. This is what we use now for Wi-Fi connectivity. Introduced in 2013, AC provides speeds of 1300 Mbps in the 5 GHz frequency and 450 Mbps speeds in the 2.4 GHz frequency. 802.11ac access points are widely used in large enterprise networks to complement DAS and small cell wireless networks. 802.11ac access points also provide the primary wireless connectivity in smaller businesses, retail establishments, and most likely, your home.

802.11ax. Expected to be released in 2019, 802.11ax is a game changer in terms of Wi-Fi. AX is expected to be anywhere from four to ten times faster than 802.11ac, with a maximum data rate of 1.3 Gbps. AX operates in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies and is backward compatible with 802.11ac/n. To achieve the significant speed and capacity increase, AX will layer MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output) with orthogonal frequency-division multiple access technology. This enables a large number of devices to use the same access point at the same time rather than sequentially. AX is designed for high-density digital edge environments and will be able to accommodate large numbers of users and IoT devices.

Time to upgrade?
If you’re thinking about your mobile-first strategy, talk to us. We can help you make mobility happen with the right intelligent edge foundational technology that connect people and devices, drive collaboration and enable anytime, anywhere positive end-user experiences. When you enable mobility, you enable connectivity at the digital edge.

Learn more at BlackBox.co.uk

Edge Technologies Make Amazon Go

Amazon recently opened its revolutionary, no-check out convenience/grocery store, Amazon Go, at its headquarters in Seattle, WA. The store, announced in December 2016, opened to the public in January 2018 after beta testing for a year with employees.

We don’t know how the concept of a no-check out store will change the face of retail in the future. But for now, it’s truly marketing at the intelligent digital edge, the place where people and devices (and groceries) meet.

What is Amazon Go?

The Amazon Go concept is that customers can walk in, pick up items off the shelf and “Just Walk Out.” There are no baskets, no registers and no cashiers. But there are plenty of employees: shelf stockers, ID checkers in the wine and beer section and chefs making sandwiches and grab-and-go meals.

Here’s how it works. Customers download the Amazon Go app, which is linked to the customer’s Amazon account and the associated credit card. As they enter the 1800 square foot store, they scan their smartphone code at one of several glass security gates that are futuristic versions of subway turnstiles.

Shoppers then pick up the items they want. Once selected, the system adds the items to a virtual cart. If a shopper puts an item back on the shelf, it’s automatically deleted from the virtual cart. As customers leave the store, the app automatically charges the account and Amazon sends an electronic receipt logging what was purchased, how much it was and how long the customer was in the store.

Dilip Kumar, Amazon Go vice president of technology said “People are rushed. They’re in a hurry. People don’t like waiting in lines.” He added that the store concept is “to be respectful of your time as a customer.” The idea is to create an “effortless experience for customers.”

How Does it Work?

Amazon isn’t saying how the system works other than it combines computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion technologies, much like the technologies that guide self-driving cars. Kumar says the idea behind the technology is to “push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning.”

While the AI and machine-learning technology to make Amazon Go work was four years in the making, the foundational technology that enables the intelligence at the digital edge is based on wired and wireless connectivity.

Walk into Amazon Go and look up. You’ll see a hundred black, boxy cameras covering the ceiling. These cameras do the computer vision work, detect motion and see what interactions customers have with the shelves. (Amazon did say the cameras include infrared sensors, but that it is not employing facial recognition technology.) The cameras provide seamless detection as the shoppers move from area to area in the store. The computer vision enables computers to process the information and determine which items were selected.

The sensor fusion technology is embedded in the store shelves. It detects motion and registers when a customer picks something up or puts it back on the shelf. Because the system knows everything by its weight, customers can’t “accidentally” pick up two of an item. The last part of the technology is the artificial intelligence or the machine-learning algorithms, which enables the computers to determine what the item is and to learn by continuously collecting and analysing data.

What’s Next?

The entire concept of Amazon Go brings up some questions. Does Amazon plan to roll-out this technology to its recently acquired Whole Foods stores or to its current 13 brick-and-mortar bookstores? The company says there are no plans for a national rollout and it plans on using the no-register shopping technology only at this Amazon Go. There are no more Amazon Go stores planned at this point.

In addition, the data collection and tracking technology Amazon is using can raise some privacy concerns. The data Amazon is collecting from its customers will accumulate exponentially over time. How will Amazon use that data? What about Amazon Prime customers? Will Amazon Go purchases data be incorporated in regular Amazon shopping suggestions and recommendations? Every time an Amazon Go customer visits the store, the Go system learns more about their shopping behaviour and preferences. As a smart marketer, it’s a good guess that Amazon will use this data, tailor products and services for its customers and offer them a more engaging, personalised shopping experience at the digital edge in the store and online.

Foundational Edge Technology

Engineering the right foundational and enabling technologies for a smart store like Amazon Go is more than artificial intelligence and machine learning. It’s the right connectivity environment that makes it all possible. For instance, it’s the wired infrastructure that connects and powers the cameras. It’s the wireless capabilities that enable the system to talk to your smartphone. It’s the IT framework that provides 99.9% uptime. It’s a partner that understands the intelligent edge and can help you realise your digital transformation to some really cool technologies. Learn more at BlackBox.co.uk/Intelligent-Digital-Edge

 

A Guide to Mobility Technologies and Solutions

The explosion of mobile devices is propelling digital transformation in the workplace. 69% of organisations say they are more likely to provide mobile access to enterprise applications than they were last year. In addition, overall budgets for enterprise mobility are expected to grow by 10% over last year.

However, mobility is not a one size-fits-all-solution.

When planning your mobile-first strategy, the desired outcome is always unrestricted mobility and wireless uniformity within buildings and among geographically dispersed locations. But how you achieve that uniformity is different for every company and every vertical. A vital component of building out a successful mobile-first strategy is to consider all available wireless technologies, what will work best in each environment, and most importantly, to make sure they function in harmony.

At the foundational level, the first step is using intelligent networking that includes the basics of common structured cabling—fibre and copper CATx—plus carrier/internet connectivity. From there, you can layer on solutions for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE and 5G, small cells, DAS, public safety and two-way radio.

Let’s look at large building deployments with high user densities of 1,000 plus wireless devices, such as company headquarters, conference centres, large manufacturing sites, airports, etc. Large organisations, such as these, with the need for advanced applications and performance requirements, would do well with a DAS (Distributed Antenna System) and premises Wi-Fi solution.

For organisations with a large number of distributed buildings, say even 1,000 or more, a small cell and cloud Wi-Fi might be a better solutions. Examples include hotel chains, bank branch offices, retail outlets, restaurants and more. Because it’s unrealistic to expect to have a dedicated IT staff at each location, you want a system that requires minimal IT support and is easily managed. But you still need a system that provides uniform mobility, especially when it comes to the customer experience.

Matching different solutions to building types enables you to meet all wireless technology requirements in a strategic way. While these solutions may appear unique, common monitoring and management, analytics, and security tie all of the solutions together at an enterprise level.

Location-oriented applications can get optimal performance through Wi-Fi as long as it is done correctly.  By designing a network specifically for density, plus supplementing with BLE beacons, you can gain accuracy, particularly in hospitality, manufacturing and hospital applications.

Collaboration, Internet of Things and vertical-specific devices can leverage Wi-Fi, but can also include network and traffic segmentation techniques to ensure mission-critical performance requirements are not affected by other non-critical applications.

You also need to consider smartphone and tablet usage. The question here is whether to leverage Wi-Fi for smartphones or use a separate DAS/Small Cells solution. Smartphones can bring additional traffic, including voice calling, that can unnecessarily burden a Wi-Fi network, especially in hotels, hospitals and office buildings. Using a dedicated DAS/Small Cell solution spreads the traffic among the Wi-Fi and DAS/Small Cell networks. In addition, while enterprises may select a single wireless carrier, support for all carriers is typically required.

Finally, there are two-way radio and public safety considerations. These are implemented on DAS and Small Cells exclusively and requirements are often specified by national, state, and local governments prior to facility occupancy.

When considering mobility, talk to Black Box first. Leverage our experience and expertise to design, deploy and manage a comprehensive mobile-first strategy through a combination of technologies, solutions and partners, making sure they work together to provide critical performance.

Learn more about our mobility solutions at BlackBox.co.uk/Mobility or by speaking to a Black Box representative.

Discover how to enable everything wireless at your enterprise by downloading the Make Mobility Happen eBook.

 

Why a mobile-first strategy is a necessity at the Intelligent Digital Edge

We live in a world where mobile connectivity is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity. According to recent reports, 70% of businesses will be completely mobile by 2020. The need for reliable, quality connections anywhere spans from the consumer’s daily life to the business world and everywhere in-between. The companies that will succeed in the long run are the ones that create a mobile-first strategy that focuses on the underlying technologies that will enable the experiences expected by today’s mobile users.

Unfortunately for most organisations, the wireless infrastructure needed to meet user and business demands is lacking. It’s time to rethink mobility initiatives in the larger context of digital transformation. When it comes to digital transformation, mobility is top of mind for CIOs and their IT teams. There is a sole focus from these stakeholders to adapt to the proliferation of mobile devices and applications.

Whether you need to ensure more speed, capacity and reliability for your mobile business-critical applications, or accelerate your next-gen Wi-Fi deployment — or in most cases both — the intelligent digital edge is your answer.

The intelligent digital edge is that space in and around virtually any facility where people and devices meet. It’s where users are located, where data is created and consumed and where applications are shared. This is where the real opportunity is for digital transformation, and wireless is a fundamental capability in enabling the digital edge.

However, with great opportunity comes great challenges. Capacity has reached critical mass at the edge and it is no longer acceptable to provide simple connectivity.  Connectivity must be mobile with mission-critical performance that can be dialled up on demand driving efficient and uninterrupted operations.

Comprehensive wireless networking expertise is required to optimise Wi-Fi networks and integrate 4G LTE (5G) service accessibility and reliability. It is important to note that wireless requirements can vary across enterprises. For those markets that are truly mission-critical, such as first responders and military, there are also public safety communication solutions to consider. The key is a purpose-built, mobile-first solution for your organisation’s specific needs. Mobility is not a one size fits all solution. With the right mix of intelligent edge solutions and by leveraging different types of wireless technology, you can mobilise more people and devices, dial-up capacity as you need to and keep the information flowing in and out of your enterprise.

Find the right mobility solution at Black Box. We can optimise the design, streamline the deployment and deliver ongoing management to establish a wireless network that you can rely on now and well into the future. When you unlock the digital edge, you set the groundwork for secure, uniform, robust mobile experiences that are expected anywhere and everywhere people and devices meet in your facilities.

Learn how Black Box makes Mobility happen.