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Solving Wi-Fi Challenges in Smart Buildings

Intelligent buildings contain many IoT devices that depend on continuous data transfer over Wi-Fi. How can wireless networks continue to optimize connectivity in these spaces?

It's no secret that the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) has meant increasing pressure on wireless networks. Smart buildings are becoming the norm, where a host of devices and applications fight for a connection. But getting down to the why and how of the connectivity issues faced by smart buildings can help uncover solutions and tangible ways forward—since the trend isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

This article covers:

Wireless technology in smart buildings

Wireless technologies have adapted to the increase in IoT traffic and the demand for stronger, more consistent connections. Smart devices found in intelligent buildings are equipped with technologies like Bluetooth and Light Fidelity (LiFi), in addition to Wi-Fi.

LiFi uses light to send and receive data via Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). It's an example of a fast-emerging technology that aims to improve broadband access efficiency while providing the added benefit of more cost-efficient lighting.

Another wireless personal area network (PAN) technology is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). BLE's purpose is to provide coverage in smaller areas for benefits like better remote management, and it requires lower power to keep devices connected. BLE uses the underlying Bluetooth technology to better support IoT applications and devices, which typically transmit smaller amounts of data.

While technologies such as these help networks support the onslaught of new IoT devices that make smart buildings smart, it's still crucial that wireless networks are designed to adapt to the emerging equipment and applications to come.

Connectivity solutions for smart building Wi-Fi networks

The first place to start when structuring a solid wireless infrastructure in a smart building is the AP design. There are a few best practices and considerations for your APs:

  • They should be up-to-date; no more than five years old
  • New AP locations will need to be added as density increases
  • APs need to be able to handle increasing throughput
  • Power requirements for APs will also increase

To prepare the right design, it takes a mix of proper AP placement and cable positioning. A few tips for cables include:

  • Installing at least one Category 6A cable to each AP
  • Patching a cord from the equipment outlet with the horizontal cable to the AP
  • Make OM3 multimode fiber the minimum standard if using optical fiber
  • Ensuring each AP has at least one dedicated horizontal cable, preferably two
  • Ensuring cabling is regularly upgraded for better network performance

AP placement also has huge impacts on wireless network efficiency in a smart building. A successful deployment may require assistance from building designers and owners, in addition to network engineers, as certain architectural features will impact the Wi-Fi, and AP appearance considerations will arise in certain spaces.

Critical considerations for AP placement include:

  • Solutions for mounting that allow easy service access
  • A plan for future AP upgrades
  • Ensuring APs are secure and protected, especially when outside of the building
  • Ensuring AP antennae are oriented horizontally
  • Consistency in AP placement for uniformity in connectivity

It's also important to stay adaptable to trends and upgrades in APs caused by increases in IoT congestion. For example, APs now have more channels to receive and transmit information to keep up with the latest Wi-Fi standards, including 802.11ax (or Wi-Fi 6), and these devices are larger.

Another solution for maintaining an IoT-focused wireless network is to deploy sensors that can keep track of usage patterns throughout the smart building. This visibility gives designers the ability to optimize the infrastructure based on density and performance quality, including better AP placement.

Remaining adaptable to the demands of smart buildings

Network engineers know just how quickly standards and best practices can change with the introduction of new wireless technologies and IoT equipment. When designing or managing a smart building, part of the job is ensuring that applications and devices are continuously updated, and the infrastructure is redesigned to meet new demands.

Wireless network monitoring (WNM) helps ensure that smart building Wi-Fi continues to perform well through any obstacles. 7SIGNAL's platform gives staff continuous visibility into performance, granting the ability to respond to an issue before a user notices a drop or slowdown. WNM is a smart strategy for addressing new IoT challenges and the requirement for continuous data transmission among numerous connected devices.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise wireless experience monitoring. 7SIGNAL provides a cloud-based platform that continuously monitors wireless networks and identifies elusive performance issues impacting application performance and digital experience. By taking the "outside-in" approach to monitoring, 7SIGNAL has visibility into the edge of any enterprise or home Wi-Fi network where complex device interaction exists, and user experience matters most. The platform maximizes employee productivity, operational efficiency, and network ROI. Sapphire Eye® and Mobile Eye® are designed for and deployed at the world's most innovative organizations, educational institutions, healthcare systems, and government agencies. Learn more at www.7signal.com.