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Using an indoor wireless mesh for client-network computing

Learn more about using an indoor wireless mesh to manage logistically-challenging client-network configurations.

My customer wants to connect the registration terminals used outside various halls at an exhibition center to a completely independent network that the company will set up. They are working with a rather outsized convention center.

They need to operate up to nine workgroups of up to 70 laptops in total that will register visitors as they go through the entrances to the exhibition halls.

Currently those workgroups have one access point each so that during the day it's possible to walk from one end of the exhibition center to the other and manually connect to each AP in each workgroup to retrieve data from it. Distances between workgroups can be up to 300 meters.

Though this is better than the old method of having to visit every terminal individually, it falls far short of being able to sit in one place (the onsite office) and be able to collect the data from every terminal regardless of distance. This solution would also allow me to introduce a server to the operation of events, which would have further benefits still, like real time visitor reporting.

The reason this must be independent of the exhibition center's wired LAN is to remove a link in the chain relating to network stability. We know from experience that the center doesn't have a great Ethernet backbone in the exhibition halls. Additionally, there are no LAN sockets mounted where registration takes place, so if we can provide our own wireless network it would be managed by me/them only and would remove the need to talk to another body should anything go wrong. It would also mean the customer could set up the registration terminals anywhere with power sockets.

I was going down the route of WDS at first, but believe that when about six WDS bridges are connected together, network performance gets too low to be viable.

What solution do you recommend?

I'd suggest you look at an indoor wireless mesh. The mesh nodes will self-organize and create a virtual wire interconnecting all of them, and thus all of the client devices connected to them. I'm a little concerned about the distance between nodes, but you should be able to crank up the RF power a little and make a connection even over 300 meters, assuming a mostly line-of-sight topology. But check with your vendor to make sure this is possible. There are a large number of indoor mesh systems available; you might start with Firetide and Strix Systems .

This was last published in June 2007

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