A Tablet PC-based WLAN Design Option

By Ed Sutherland

August 24, 2004

PDA screens are too small, and laptops aren't meant to be carried around and worked on... what's a site surveyor to do? The answer: use a tablet bundled with Wi-Fi network design software.

Hardware developer Motion Computing and WLAN design software maker Wireless Valley are teaming up to create a new way of plotting out an enterprise WLAN infrastructure. The two companies are bundling design and measurement software with a new Wi-Fi-enabled Tablet PC to better serve system integrators.

The M1400 Tablet PC is "the perfect platform for RF and IT professionals working with wireless networks," said Wireless Valley CEO Jim Welch. Windows XP-based, the unit has a 12-inch screen and can display full CAD drawings, says David Altounian, Motion's chief product officer.

The tablet computer is also available with the standard display or one designed for outdoor use.

Wi-Fi network designers "now have the prospect of full-function mobile computing power in the crook of their arm," said the companies.

The partnership with Wireless Valley "showcases an important new computing application made possible by the innovative features and the thin and light design of our slate tablet PC," said Altounian in a prepared statement. The product is being bundled with Wireless Valley's software package, including design program LANPlanner and WLAN measurement application InFielder.

By using a Tablet PC rather than a PDA or laptop computer, Wi-Fi hotspot planners or enterprise WLAN architects gain an edge in productivity, claims Wireless Valley's Welch.

A tablet PC "is a great platform for rich graphics -- you really cannot visualize" the entire design and measurement process from a PDA or laptop, according to Welch. A PDA just doesn't have the screen space to accommodate the software, along with floor plans and other graphics used during the process, believes Motion. And, unlike laptop computers, put into 'sleep' mode whenever moved, tablet PCs allow Wi-Fi designers to roam around a location, say the two companies.

The tablet-sized computer running the bundled software allowed Altounian's company to manipulate complex CAD drawings when Motion installed a WLAN in their two-story, 35,000-square-foot office building.

Using the LANPlanner and InFielder software, Altounian was able to measure the buildings, forecast where best to place access points (APs), then audit the planned placements, moving APs to different locations and including additional ones.

The Wireless Valley software allows companies to "build a 3D RF model of a facility, dragging APs around the screen," says Jacobs of Wireless Valley.

A trend toward wireless networks taking on more mission-critical tasks is now appearing, according to Welch. The Wireless Valley CEO describes previous Wi-Fi design attempts as "hit and miss."

The tablet PC "complements our strategy of simplifying the design and management of complex, mission-critical wireless solutions," said Welch.

The new partnership between Motion Computing and Wireless Valley Communications is a major opportunity to "provide a unique service in each of our targeted vertical markets," said Altounian. Those markets include healthcare, field automation, government and education.

The Motion Computing M1400 Tablet PC, along with the InFielder WLAN measurement software from Wireless Valley, is available for $4995 at the Motion Computing Web site.

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