Wireless Project Nears Completion

February 12, 2002

Mark Miester
Phone: 865-5714

For the last six weeks, facilities services has been using the university's partially completed wireless network to issue work tickets and process jobs electronically. Wielding personal digital assistants (PDAs) equipped with wireless hardware, maintenance staff workers can connect to the TMA management software package to receive work orders and, once a job is completed, file their paperwork electronically.

A process that used to involve multiple trips to and from the office as well as the additional task of entering the work ticket information can now be handled on the fly. Facilities Services PDA initiative is just one example of how departments on campus are using the new wireless network. Tim Deeves hopes to hear more stories like that in the coming months.

Deeves, director of network services, is overseeing the installation of the campus-wide wireless network that will enable notebook-computer and PDA users in virtually any building on campus to access the network, check their e-mail and surf the Net without plugging in. The Wireless Tulane Project kicked off last winter with a $1.7 million gift from Netscape founder and Tulane board member Jim Clark.

Late last spring, after comparing the various products on the market, Technology Services chose Enterasys Networks to provide the access points, which are ceiling-mounted radio receivers that enable computers with the appropriate hardware to connect wirelessly to the network.

The installation, spanning the uptown and downtown campuses, was initially slated to be finished by December 2001, but the expanded scope of the project has delayed completion. The medical school in particular, with its labyrinthine layout, required more access points than had been initially projected.

"The scope of work is probably 30 percent more than we had anticipated," Deeves says. "We have gone from a little over 700 access points to, now, over 1,000."

Deeves says the cost of installing more access points was offset by savings realized through choosing the Enterasys access points, which did not require the installation of electrical outlets that had been projected in the original budget. The Enterasys access points also have the advantage of being easily upgradable, which other products didn't offer.

As of Feb. 1, access points have been installed in Bruff Commons, the Central Building, the Howard-Tilton Library, McAlister Auditorium, the University Center, Weinmann Hall, and the Diboll Complex, as well as Irby, Monroe, Paterson, Phelps, Sharp and Zemurray residence halls.

This month, Aron, Butler, Mayer, New Doris, Rosen and Warren residence halls are scheduled to come on line. Work in the Deming Pavilion and the Tidewater Building remains in progress. Deeves says that all installations should be completed on the uptown campus by the end of May and downtown by the end of June. For more information about the wireless project, visit wireless_tulane.cfm.

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