Wireless Network Benefits

People worldwide are learning of the benefits of wireless connectivity for checking e-mail, browsing the Internet, and accessing corporate applications. Ongoing advances in products that include wireless interfaces enable these people to unwire and reap the benefits of mobility and flexibility. The outcomes are higher efficiencies, accuracies, and reliability.

Increasing Efficiency and Accuracy

For compelling reasons to install a wireless network, strongly consider continual productivity benefits. If benefits result in enough savings to counter the costs associated with installing and supporting a wireless network, a wireless network is beneficial. A positive return on investment certainly motivates people to allocate money for new systems.

Office Example

As the basis for increasing productivity, consider purchasing 802.11-equipped laptops. This enables employees to read and respond to e-mail and browse the Internet during office meetings, assuming the users can be responsive when needed at the meeting while plunking away at their laptop. Even though this seems trivial, the productivity gains can be significant.

If a user attends meetings for 3 hours each day and spends approximately 15 minutes per hour responding to e-mail and performing other Internet-related tasks during each meeting, the user has 45 minutes more each day to do other tasks. This seems pretty reasonable, considering the average person and office setting.

A 45-minute productivity gain equates to company cost savings that depend on the person's cost per hour. At $50 per hour, the savings is $37.50 per person per day. A smaller company with 20 users will save $750 per day, $15,000 per month, $180,000 per year, and so on. After including wireless LAN hardware costs of $40,000, a positive return could result in approximately three months! Even after factoring in the cost of new laptops for everyone, a company should still see a positive return in less than one year in this simple example.

In addition to gains in productivity, wireless networks offer the following benefits in offices:

  • Users can continue networking when the company moves walls during facility remodeling, which frequently occurs in corporations.

  • Visiting employees can easily network with company servers and applications from anywhere within the facility.

  • The company can implement additional wireless applications, such as mobile phones, in order to save costs.

Warehouse Example

Mobility provides the basis for getting jobs done faster and with fewer people. Imagine a shipment of auto parts arriving at a distribution center. As clerks unload the trucks, they scan a bar code on each box with a wireless, handheld data collector. The bar code contains a unique tracking number that is automatically and immediately sent to a warehouse management system (WMS) to indicate the reception of the part. The WMS then instructs the clerks, through the data collector's display, whether to place the item in the warehouse or ship the item directly to a particular customer.

If the part is bound for the warehouse, the system prints a label for placement on the box identifying the intended storage position in the warehouse. The system prints route and shipping information on a label, which the clerks affix to the box for parts requiring shipment to a customer. The clerks can then deliver the box to the correct location, whether it's the warehouse or an outgoing delivery truck.

The use of this receiving system enables the company to reduce inventories by immediately redirecting received orders to customers. It also eliminates paper records and manual data entry. Most importantly, the company delivers orders to customers sooner. In general, the system enables a company to realize incredible gains in efficiency and accuracy over error-prone, paper-based processes. The tracking of items by paper and the entry of data to the WMS through a desktop terminal significantly increase the likelihood of errors and require larger staffs to accomplish.

Hospital Example

In a hospital, a wireless network can help save lives by improving the speed and accuracy of delivering drugs to patients. Because of government regulations, hospitals must maintain accurate records of narcotics, which prompts administrators to implement stringent, often paper-based, methods to account for the exact numbers of each narcotic. A wireless network, however, enables the use of handheld bar code scanners that make the picking and inventory process up to 300 percent faster and much more accurate.

In addition, a nurse can verify that the correct patient receives the medication by scanning both the drug and the patient's identification bracelet. This significantly reduces the chance of giving the drug to the wrong patient. In addition, the system can verify that the patient doesn't have any adverse allergies for the type of drug that she is receiving. The wireless network makes this application possible in a highly mobile hospital environment.

Many other applications result in enough gains in efficiencies and accuracies to make a wireless network worthwhile. The goal is to carefully quantify and compare the benefits to the system costs.

Improving Reliability

Cables are inherently unreliable because of corrosion and misuse. Improper installation and damage of cables are primary reasons that wired networks fail. A telephone technician, for example, might be repairing a problem with the telephone system and inadvertently cut network cables. This causes system downtime for a relatively long period while network administrators troubleshoot.

Adverse weather, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, can offer major harm to both aerial and underground copper connections between buildings. This type of damage frequently blocks an entire building from accessing important applications. Even though wired networks generally deliver higher performance than wireless counterparts, the susceptibility to outages results in unacceptable availability.

A wireless network appreciably reduces problems related to physical damage. The availability of the system increases, giving users connectivity a higher percentage of time. A wired network might be necessary if it's not possible to meet performance requirements with a wireless network, but a wireless network can provide a back-up link. The combination of wired and wireless communications linkage between buildings offers a reliable high-performance and system.