Housing developer installs wireless roaming software

A Calgary-based real estate developer is using a combination of Wi-Fi and third-generation cellular technologies to give its workers access to corporate documents at job sites.

Carma Developers operates a land development business, a commercial real estate division and two home builders, Heartland Homes and Hawthorne Homes.

It has wireless networks in its offices and job shacks using the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 802.11 standard, said Randy Black, Carma’s IT operations manager.

Though five per cent of workers are using BlackBerries on Telus Mobility’s network, about 15 executives and 30 field workers use notebook PCs manufactured by Morrisville, N.C.-based Lenovo Inc. with wireless cards for the Bell Mobility Network.

The company uses software from Fort Lauderdale, Calif.-based Citrix Systems Inc. so they can get e-mail and shared documents, Black said. He added the company also has a portal with contract tools, document management software and other applications that give access to schedules and sales documents.

The total hardware cost was less than $50,000, he said, adding Bell Mobility gave them Mobility Platform software, made by Montreal-based Trellia Networks Inc.

Trellia’s Mobility Platform is comprised of Mobility Client and Policy Manager.

Policy Manager lets IT managers remotely configure Mobility Client, which enforces policies on notebook PCs, such as network access profiles, roaming restrictions, user groups, virtual private network policies and bridging policies.

“Using 3G has helped us become more mobile out in the field,” Black said. “We’re not tied down to the job shacks, we’re not tied down to just being in the office here. We can actually have guys visiting housing sites and doing inspections and things right in their trucks and updating all the documents.”

The Trellia software lets him enforce two different security policies, Black said.

“We’ve got one set of policies for our executive team that can use hot spots and things like that,” he said. “We’ve got a separate policy setup for our field personnel and we block them from being able to roam around on somebody else’s wireless network.”

Mobility Platform is designed to automatically connect users to either wireline, Wi-Fi or cellular networks, depending on both corporate policies and what’s available.

“If you’re out of range of any of our wireless networks then you use Bell Mobility’s 3G,” Black said. “We can drive from the job shack into the office and maintain those connections.”

He added some executives travel to places where the Bell Mobility network is not available, so they would instead rely on Wi-Fi networks.

Bell Mobility’s EVDO network covers most of Alberta, plus southern Ontario.

In October the carrier announced a partnership with Telus where the Bell and Telus would overlay their networks with High Speed Packet Access, which is compatible with GSM technology used by Rogers Wireless and most carriers outside the North America. Telus and Bell will continue to offer EVDO for the foreseeable future, the carriers said at the time.

Roaming between 3G and Wi-Fi networks is also an issue in the public sector.

For example, Export Development Canada uses wireless cards with Trellia Mobility platform to let its workers roam between the networks.

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