Did you miss it? Aircraft manufacturer Boeing made headlines this season with an insightful announcement about how potatoes had been used to test WiFi strength inside airplanes.
Using 20,000 lbs. of potatoes in human-like sacks, Boeing pumped signal through a decommissioned aircraft and measured its properties. Potatoes share similar “physical interactions with electronic signals” with humans. The assessment produced data Boeing will use to build safer, more robust wireless signal capabilities for in-flight entertainment and communication.
If you’ve used in-flight WiFi over the last year, you know its capabilities don’t live up ground standards. In most cases, that experience is forgiven, given the immature technology and obvious limitations of satellite-based Internet. But on terra firma, within enterprise corporations and SMBs, WiFi quality and signal strength are not so easily overlooked: They are mission-critical.
Most solution providers that have worked on wireless infrastructure will be familiar with network assessment capabilities. Often, these abilities are centered on security, as is the case with Rapid7′s Metasploit solution and WhiteHat Security Inc.’s MDM/app security tools. Cisco Systems Inc. focuses on network security capabilities, with tools to ensure bandwidth and device load capabilities in wide-scaled deployments. Often overlooked is the quality of service assessment, which is primarily driven by signal strength.
Like airplanes, corporate campuses are full of people and building material, all of which can impact service quality. The most advanced wireless deployment is worthless if devices can’t connect to it. Thus, solution providers have a unique opportunity to build and expand signal-based assessments that can be rolled into existing or new service level agreements.
Partners can package these solution using a variety of vendor options, but they will require a combination of access point technology, consultative planning and an on-site assessment. ADTRAN, for example, has been focused on delivering manageable access points with its Bluesocket technology. Partners already working with Cisco will be happy to know it offers wireless LAN assessment services, as does Rapid7.
Once vendor choices are ironed out and a customer is on board, providers must employ technicians to assess a campus, determine where signal quality can fail and build an access point deployment plan. This service can be advertised as part of an SLA, garnering customers that have struggled to address wireless challenges. Likewise, maintaining SLAs like these have the opportunity for value-added attach, from network repeaters to data center optimization technology.
The payoff: the ability to differentiate in the market, play the trusted advisor role and secure a space in a market that’s still relatively nascent. As smart devices become the regular platform for everyday work, wireless infrastructure quality will be more important. Partners should capitalize now — today’s fast-paced world of hosted solutions and sophisticated consultation will make it difficult to catch up once major providers are already in play.
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