A healthy approach to 802.11n wireless

A health care agency in Peterborough, Ont. is using 802.11n Wi-Fi hardware to help case managers work from multiple offices.

The Central East Community Care Access Centre has bought one OriNOCO AP-8000 access point from Proxim Corp. The hardware is one of two APs announced by Milpitas, Calif.-based Proxim last week. The other model is the OriNOCO AP-800.

The AP-8000 provides transfer rates of up to 320 Megabits per second using the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11n specification, which has yet to be ratified.

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Central East community Care Access Centre – one of 14 agencies in Ontario – which places people in long-term health care centres and co-ordinates home care. The organization started using Proxim AP-4000s about a year ago, said Paul Scobie, the centre’s regional Mmanager for information systems.

They have been using an AP-8000 for about a month.

“One of the biggest things we noticed is we can probably get around 20 users on the new access point in ad hoc fashion,” Scobie said. “From their perspective it’s like they’re on the wired (local area network). There’s no real impact to them, they’ve got access to everything as if they’re on the wired LAN.”

The access centre employs nurses and other health professionals as case managers, who visit patients at home, in clinics or in hospitals. They work with the families, care givers and other providers (such as the Red Cross and Victorian Order of Nurses) to ensure the patients are treated in accordance with provincial standards.

“We do have provincial (software) tools to do electronic assessments of clients to make sure that everybody maintains the same standard of care in the province,” he said. “That’s really the driving force for the case managers having laptops.”

Because the centre has seven locations, he doesn’t want health workers or managers to have to look for RJ-14 jacks to plug their PCs into every time they change locations.

“If I’m on a laptop I just have to basically close my lid, I can take my laptop, drive across to another branch, open it up and still see the network and so on,” he said.

Though the 802.11n standard has not been ratified, that was not of concern to Scobie.

“It’s Wi-Fi alliance certified,” he said. “The laptops we have are Dell laptops that have (802.11) n built in and there seems to be no compatibility issues.”

The AP-8000 is dual radio and sells for US$1,099. The AP-800 has a single radio and costs US$799.

Both APs work on the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency ranges. They use the existing 802.3af Power over Ethernet standard a CPU from Freescale and a radio chipset from Atheros. They also support three streams using multiple input multiple output (MIMO).

“As a result of working with newer silicon they get support for full 3X3 (MIMO) over traditional PoE,” said Chris Silva, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

Scobie is hoping the bandwidth of the AP-8000 will support video, adding the Central East Community Care Access Centre uses high-definition video conferencing equipment from Andover, Mass.-based Polycom Inc.

“We’ve had some struggles in relocating equipment from room to room at times, so we were looking at testing that with the 8000 unit just because of the high bandwidth there,” Scobie said.

For security, the access centre uses Microsoft Active Directory and a RADIUS server, which requires user authentication before allowing access.

With files from John Cox and Matt Hamblen

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