Advanced Wireless

Smart Buildings

Advanced Wireless for Smart Buildings

Wireless is a key component of a Smart Building. Every connection to the core building network, whether from a person, a sensor or a device, adds insight that can drive significant outcomes. These can include building better user engagement, enhanced user experiences, safer and more productive workplaces, as well as insights to better utilise space and save on resources such as energy.

Using WiredScore terms, wireless enables both the Technological Foundation, by being a core element of the Converged Network System, and User Functionality by providing coverage in common building areas and as a platform supporting building apps etc.

We assist building owners and managers in two separate but related areas:

  • Wireless infrastructure as a component of the Converged Network System
  • Wireless as a platform for advanced building and user applications

Optimising your Wireless Infrastructure

Wireless is a key element of any network, but maximising the scope and performance of wireless presents challenges, especially in a shared building.

The Concept Challenge

Wi-Fi has evolved over the past 2 decades from a “nice to have” utility, that can be deployed based on a set of common assumptions, to a mission critical service. Employees and visitors expect a positive Wi-Fi experience in every location they work at or visit and expect it to be fast and reliable, with good coverage everywhere in the building. But that experience need to be secure, not just for the individuals connecting, but also to ensure that the building network remains secure from external threats.

In the case of smart buildings, WiFi has become an even more critical platform, and each building and site will have it’s own specific requirements and use cases e.g. an indoor arena is very different to a commercial building. The need to track assets or generate analytics in a dynamic environment all impact the optimum concept, as well as the design and layout of a building.

As such, the days of basic site surveys and simply placing an access point here or there are long gone. True enterprise Wi-Fi design needs to understand every element to provide the best possible user and owner experience. Factors include:

  • Number and types of users and devices
  • Device types and standards to be supported
  • Applications using the Wi-Fi network
  • Secure Guest Authentication and logging
  • High-Density and Ultra High-Density areas
  • Environment types, indoor and outdoor locations
  • Real-time spectrum utilisation
All of these feed into designing optimal models of access points and antennas for each given situation, including integration with existing LAN infrastructure and security services such as Active Directory, PKI Infrastructure, Authentication Servers, Firewalls, etc. Ideal provides top-of-class Wi-Fi consultancy, design, and deployment, placing the customers’ needs, Wi-Fi use cases, and security at the forefront of the design process. By applying our extensive experience via an iterative discovery process, combined with the appropriate site surveys, we help you identify the right concept for you.

The Coverage Challenge

One of the most frustrating experiences for occupants of commercial buildings is when users lose wireless signal as they leave their office areas and go into common areas e.g. lift lobbies, catering areas etc. The design of modern buildings with low-emission glass, energy-efficient construction materials, as well as evolving building regulations means that often there is no mobile coverage. This is because 5G operates at higher frequencies than 4G or 3G so does not penetrate as far into a large building.

Ideal designs wireless networks that can deal with this and other coverage challenges such as the number of users and guests, the scale of wireless devices, application usage, network traffic, use cases, customer engagement, user journeys, and required user experience.

The Construction Phase Challenge

Many of our construction clients are at the forefront of establishing industry standards for smarter construction projects. One thing that is not often understood is that the construction phase, with sites operational over several years, requires wireless connectivity early. To put this in context, this phase may last longer than some office leases. Increasingly therefore, WiFi is seen as a standard requirement on Smart Building projects, often aligned with the CNS deployment. This facilitates best practice as the people working on-site have access to the required digital tools.

A wireless consultancy project presents many site-specific challenges, and our ability to execute the appropriate wireless survey at the right time is critical. The three main categories are:

  • Predictive Survey: Using software to simulate the buildings and environments, Ideal can plan optimal access point placement to provide the required coverage and meet any specific customer requirements.
  • Active Survey: Conducted on-site (greenfield site or existing Wi-Fi network), Ideal maps the coverage and capacity of current Wi-Fi networks, identifying sources of interference or potential problem areas, and informing the Wi-Fi design accordingly.
  • Post-Installation Survey: Conducted once the Wi-Fi network has been deployed, this survey seeks to validate the design, identify any areas for optimisation, identify any potential issues, and offer remediation to get the best possible experience from the Wi-Fi network.

Wi-Fi 6

As more and more devices begin to support Wi-Fi 6, and the technology becomes more prevalent, existing deployments will see an improvement in wireless network performance, as more and more clients are able to leverage the improvements to wireless capability in Wi-Fi 6.

The specific models of hardware, such as access points and antennas, are chosen to meet these requirements. Using Wi-Fi 6 hardware enables us to future proof the network, and leveraging the improvements in Wi-Fi 6 allows us to provide more optimal designs.

Wi-Fi 6E

This emerging standard creates many possibilities for reimaging the scope for using wireless in a Smart Building. With higher throughput and capacity allied to lower latency and better security, it creates a platform for innovative applications. It offers increased coverage as well, up to 4 times within a building and up to 10 times for outdoor, offering the potential to include outside spaces ‘within’ the Smart Building.

However it is not backwards compatible so needs to be planned for as part of the CNS design.

Cisco Spaces

Cisco Spaces is a location platform that provides our Cisco customers with the ability to take their wireless networks beyond connectivity to drive the digitisation of their physical environments.

Cisco Spaces captures location signals from people and things within your buildings. It provides a vital link between the data available in a physical environment and the insights that data provides. This helps manage density and proximity, and building users can be communicated with about the current environment, including helping them find their way through the building. These engagements help strengthen a sense of personal safety and improve the user experience of the building.

By leveraging Spaces and the CNS, which includes the WiFi access points, core switches, cameras and third-party IoT sensors, Ideal enables the building to be smarter at scale. Use cases include asset management, environmental monitoring, space utilisation, and indoor wayfinding.

Why Cisco Spaces and Ideal?

  • Ability to discover, deploy, and monitor IoT devices and activate partner apps from Cisco DNA Spaces as a single cloud dashboard.
  • 24/7 Monitoring – Full-stack visibility across the platform, devices and apps. 24/7 use case monitoring and SLAs
  • Native Apps – Location-powered apps built by Cisco to help derive quick value
  • App Center – Ready-to-install apps, built by industry-leading app developers
  • Meta API – A multi-sensor, location firehose API designed for high-volume data streaming

Speak to us today if you want to jointly explore the potential of how a better wireless infrastructure can, when combined with the power of the Cisco Spaces platform, solve your particular use cases.

Key Enabler – Open Roaming

OpenRoaming is a federation of Wi-Fi access network providers and identity providers connected by a Public Key Infrastructure based trust model and led by the Wireless Broadband Alliance. Ideal’s preferred solution is Cisco Spaces, as it uses OpenRoaming for authentication.

Open Roaming Benefits

  • Simplify Wi-Fi guest access for building occupants and visitors
  • Significantly increase the Wi-Fi attach rate on site
  • Increased security for Wi-Fi guest access
  • Provide a better user experience via seamless connectivity to Wi-Fi and seamless roaming between Wi-Fi and LTE/5G Use WiFI to generate analytics data an insights

Wayfinding and Location Services

Locations with high footfall and/or high volumes of visitors face challenges in helping building users get to where they want to be. Equally, high-value assets need to be tracked so users can locate them when required. This extends to functions such as Facilities Management, where there is a constant flow of consumables and a need to manage inventory. Enterprises generally have access to two types of maps – IT or network maps and facilities maps. But neither delivers the required user functionality on their own. This requires high-performing building wireless infrastructure combined with the power of Cisco Spaces.

Ideal has deployed Cisco Spaces on several high-profile projects – contact us today to explore how we can help you maximise the impact of wireless within your building.