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A Pervasive Wireless Vision


The Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami facility includes 770 faculty physicians and some 6,000 employees and, in addition to the 76-acre complex in Miami, it operates a dozen other facilities throughout Southern Florida. Chris Bogue, the institution’s IT Director at, has a vision: To enable appropriate access to any network or information resource for anyone, anywhere, at any time.

To execute his ambitious plan, Chris has become one of the medical IT community’s leading proponents of wireless technology, and he has been among the first IT executives in North America to address the challenges of truly pervasive wireless access that supports a full range of applications across a large and geographically dispersed facility.

Today, Meru Networks is helping him realize his vision. With millions of square feet of classroom, hospital, clinic, laboratory, and administrative space to cover, it was clear to Bogue from the beginning that wireless LAN technology would be the only feasible approach.

While his vision of pervasive connectivity includes general wireless access to e-mail and Internet, it is primarily driven by the convergence of biomedical technology and IT technology in applications, like wireless patient charting systems, EKG machines that travel with patients, beds that monitor patient vital statistics and relay them to nurse stations, and wireless video transmissions that educate patients about their health issues.

“As the lines between biomedical and IT disciplines begin to blur,” observes Bogue, “a lot of biomedical devices will eventually connect to wireless infrastructures in hospitals. We want to make UM School of Medicine one of the leading organizations for leveraging wireless technology in healthcare.”

Bogue’s team began executing his vision in 2002 by deploying wireless access points for student use in the cellular biology classrooms and in hospital operating rooms at the University’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. Since then, Bogue’s team has continued to expand wireless coverage and applications with a series of initiatives, including:

• Deployment of mobile wireless carts in other hospital areas to support registration, medical records access, patient scheduling, and clinical information applications;

• Additional classroom coverage throughout the medical school;

• IP voice communication badges that link staff and physicians between clinics in Naples, West Palm Beach, Deerfield Beach, and the main campus via a secure private WAN to enable immediate communications and eliminate long distance telephone charges;

• A facilities work order management system that allows employees to use wireless barcode readers to look up preventive maintenance schedules or maintenance histories or to order parts for heating, cooling, and other systems;

• A “Community Cloud” providing 1.5 square miles of outdoor wireless coverage.

However, with the expansion of its wireless LAN deployment, the IT team began to encounter rogue access points set up by students or others who wanted to jump on the wireless bandwagon more quickly than specified in the IT department’s rollout plans. A far more difficult problem, however, was the need for rapid scalability. “This is a pretty large organization, and there are a lot of departmental moves and changes from one facility to the next,” says Bogue.

Meru’s WLAN system was the answer for Bogue:

• It coordinates all traffic on the network and eliminates co-channel interference by placing all APs on a single channel;

• Meru’s Virtual Cell Technology eliminates handoff delays and creates seamless access;

• Over-the-air Quality of Service (QoS) for both downstream and upstream traffic ensures high quality voice and data service to all Wi-Fi clients;

• It supplements existing APs with the Meru WLAN System while preserving existing investments in other products, such as the outdoor WLAN product;

• It allows for easy scalability to meet the dynamic requirements of the medical center by automatically optimizing coverage and compensating for shifting user density and application loads

• The institution derives significant ROI by eliminating costs associated with site surveys or RF planning and by leveraging a single infrastructure to deliver voice and data applications. To date, UM has spent approximately $800,000 on its wireless implementation, with an expected return on investment in less than 24 months.

The return on investment comes predominantly from the efficiencies gained in mobilizing the workforce while being able to tools to get the right information to the right people at the right time. In the last four months, there has been a 26% increase in the number of wireless devices using the network and it continues to rise. Within the next two years, it is estimated that the network will sustain between 700 and 2200 concurrent wireless connections. Given the millions of square feet for this deployment, the ability to provide seamless pervasive coverage would have been virtually impossible with any other product. IT

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