Meru says wireless solution tailored for hospitals

Many Canadian hospitals have built Wi-Fi networks to augment their wired networks to cope with an ever-expanding demand for broadband.

With an increasing number of medical devices spewing out digital data, clinical staff toting smart phones and tablets and patients wishing to have Internet access, adding wireless has become a cost-effective solution.

However, all that swelling wireless traffic may have a price: The risk that a patient streaming video could slow data flow from a heart monitor.

To meet that possibility Meru Networks, which makes wireless LAN systems, says the latest version of its LAN controller software has the ability to create up to three separate traffic layers so IT administrators can segment applications and prevent interference.

Dubbed the Uninterrupted Care Network (UCN), Meru is showing off the technology at a health care conference in New Orleans this week.

Although designed for hospitals, Kamal Anand, vice-president and general manager of Meru’s healthcare business unit, said in an interview that UCN could also be used in other verticals such as education (think, he said, of segmenting a channel for students to use for exams), or retail (having one channel for store staff, another for the general public).

However, the healthcare field, where the potential for causing a life-threatening slowdown in data, is where Meru is focusing now.
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UCN lets network administrators segment traffic streams into life critical (for example, real-time data from equipment measuring body vitals), mission critical (voice, electronic health records) and everything else. Among the advantages, the company says, is that it ensures that no matter how many patients and visitors are on the wireless LAN, medical-related traffic isn’t affected.

While IT can set up separate SSIDs or virtual LANs with quality of service, Meru says traffic still runs across a single channel.

UCN needs Meru [Nasdaq: MERU] wireless controller running version 5.3 of its System Director operating system. Anand said almost any Meru access point can be used, but the company recommends the AP332, a dual-radio, dual-band unit with three antennas.

UCN can be added to a non-Meru network, Anand said, but as an overlay which still needs a Meru controller and access points.

There is no additional software charge to customers for setting up UCN.