Reaching New Heights

Old school though they are, walkie-talkies still have their place in providing quick communication between two moving people. As workers began construction on the Burj Dubai, expected to be the world’s tallest building when it’s completed at the end of 2008, they used walkie-talkies to exchange information between people separated by an increasing number of stories of unfinished building. But around the time the building stretched up over 60 floors, voices no longer carried adequately over the radio frequencies the walkie-talkies were counting on, according to Firetide Vice President for Marketing Pamela Valentine.

“They couldn’t communicate, or communication was very, very spotty,” she says. Information as fundamental to safety as where workers were located at any given time needed to be conveyed reliably. That’s when Samsung, the South Korea-based builders of the Burj Dubai, sought a Wi-Fi solution, she says.

With a Firetide wireless mesh network installed, she says, the walkie-talkies convert radio transmission to IP—using Radio over IP (RoIP)—and the utility of walkie-talkies is revived.

Obviously, a major construction project isn’t going to install mesh just to revitalize an aging technology. The network supports real-time video streaming, Internet access, VoIP, and data. Valentine says workers can now also use Wi-Fi-enabled cell phones in addition to the walkie-talkies.

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Firetide doesn’t know whether Samsung is currently using the data transmission capabilities but Valentine says any company installing a mesh network should be thinking long-term.

“When you’re going to deploy a mesh infrastructure, deploy it for the most bandwidth-intensive use first, even if you’re not going to use it,” she advises.

The Burj Dubai is currently 156 floors high. At least one of Firetide’s HotPort Nodes and HotPoint APs can be found every ten floors, from the 60th on up. Valentine says whether you’re installing a mesh network across a horizontal distance or a vertical one doesn’t have an impact on how it works, how readily it can be deployed (the Burj mesh got installed in two weeks), or how easily it can be moved.

“Deploying mesh, whether you’re deploying it across land or whether you’re deploying it up a building, especially one like this one in excess of 2000 feet, it’s very similar,” she says. “The beautiful part about Firetide mesh, and mesh networks, is that they are multi-hop.”

Valentine says Firetide has been used successfully on other skyscraper construction projects.

“You’re dealing with a tower that is under construction, a lot of open beams, construction equipment, construction supplies, constant movement of people and supplies—that’s why mesh works so well,” she says. “Data is never stopped by anything.”

Firetide, which is based in Los Gatos, California, has an office in Seoul, South Korea. The company made early contact with Samsung and the relationship has paid off with a successful deployment, Valentine says.

“They’re so pleased with the improved communication,” she says. She adds that Firetide is increasingly being deployed in similar environments.

“Where you have a difficult challenge, where you have a mission that’s critical, where life depends on your wireless connectivity, that’s where I see Firetide being deployed more and more and more.”

Amy Mayer is a freelance writer and independent radio producer based in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Read and listen to her work at her website.

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