August 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August 2000 Current Issue
August 2000 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:




How wireless technology can turn a barn into a high-tech center for any event

Sometimes a venue is just too perfect for a planner to pass up, even if the building does not have the technological infrastructure required for many of today’s meetings. Advances in wireless capabilities allow planners to bring the World Wide Web into just about any gathering place.

Take, for instance, Grand Central Terminal in New York City. A restaurant on the north balcony of the terminal, called Métrazur, recently hosted the launch of Internet bank The challenge was to provide high-speed Internet connectivity in the historic terminal; it was accomplished using the latest in high-speed wireless technology.

The most important starting point is still a wire, since wireless access still needs to be connected somewhere. Two days before the Grand Central event, the meeting planners realized that the location could not support high-speed connectivity over standard phone lines. Yet live Internet access was essential to demonstrate the new Web site properly. The answer: A neighboring venue had a permanent T-1 connection to the Internet. An Ethernet connection was run via CAT-5 wiring from the T-1 to an 11-Mbps wireless local area network (LAN) access point in Grand Central Terminal. This solution provided Web access throughout the entire terminal, not just to the north balcony.

This was the quick answer for one event, but in most cases, planners and their production companies, working months in advance, have time to run the appropriate phone line to the property, whether it is a barn, a VFW hall or an outdated ballroom.

Once the wireless access point is in place, it transmits and receives in the 2-gigahertz range. Another event used two wireless LAN access points between two buildings; they transmitted and received information to each other through the windows.

At the event, one access point can bridge as many as 200 “clients” (PCs, laptops and hand-held devices) at a time, translating wireless information into standard Ethernet data. To communicate inside the building, laptops need a wireless LAN network card plugged into the PC slot. For computers with standard Ethernet connectors already installed, a wireless converter does the job.

It is possible to create just a wireless network (without Internet access) in a facility by using the LAN access point. This works very well for interactive training and other instances that don’t require an outside telephone line.

Wireless access also can be provided to a corporate office network. Create the wireless network in the meeting room, and then connect the LAN access point to an ISDN line that dials up the corporation’s proprietary network.

Sometimes, more than one LAN access point is needed to make sure everyone in all corners of the facility can connect to the Internet.

The easy way to check coverage once the first access point is in place is simply to walk around the room with a wireless-equipped laptop and see if you can connect to the Web everywhere. Special software can more accurately measure the signal strength in the room and allow you to tweak the service.

Even in state-of-the-art convention centers and exhibit halls, a wireless LAN can come in handy. Once all preparations are made and the carpets are down for a show, adding last-minute connections can be a hassle. The wireless option is an easy way to accommodate exhibitors who suddenly realize they need Internet access.

Pamela Borst is director of marketing for New York City-based Show Digital Inc. (, a broadband Internet service provider for the hospitality and convention industries.

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