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^ Warehouse control and inventory tracking: Another group of business structures that tends to be large, spread-out, and unwired are warehouses, distribution centers, and the like. Many of the original vendors of wireless gear (folks like Symbol Technologies, www.symbol.com) specialize in things like wireless bar code scanners and ruggedized handheld devices for use in logistics operations. Take a look next time you
Chapter 1: Wireless Inside Everything!
get a package delivered: Chances are good that your delivery person is using a wirelessly-enabled handheld, and that many more were used as your box of CDs from Amazon.com made its way across the country.
Wireless voice and PBX: The next big thing in business wireless is the use of Wi-Fi wireless networks for voice communications (just as they are being adapted for this use in the home). With wirelessly networked handsets (or cellphones with additional Wi-Fi functionality built in), workers are able to access all of the functionality of a corporate PBX system, with its voicemail, extension dialing, conferencing, and the like, without cables.
Security monitoring: Wireless networks are also being used for security monitoring and alarm systems. Wireless cams are being installed in office buildings, warehouses, distribution centers, retail stores, and malls, and even in very distributed applications, such as alongside pipelines.
Hundreds of specialized applications: Almost nothing in the business world is not moving towards wireless. For example, hospitals are installing wireless networks that can provide Star Trek-like wireless voice communications via cool little “press to talk” lapel pins.
Our focus in this book is mainly on the home. We don’t have a separate section of chapters in the book that specifically talk about all of these business applications (but we do sprinkle in business-specific information where it’s appropriate). However, there’s not a lot of difference between, for example, wireless security monitoring in the home and in your small business. So you can pretty much directly translate WNH&M For Dummies to your business. If your business is bigger, work with your IT staff to implement wireless networks — that’s beyond our scope here.
Hot spots and beyond
Wireless networks don’t just end at the walls of a home, office, or factory — they extend to the outdoors as well. Wireless networks of various sorts blanket the globe, providing you with opportunities to be online without wires almost anywhere you go.
One particularly cool trend is the development of the Wi-Fi hot spots. If you’ve ever stepped foot in a Starbucks or Barnes & Noble (or one of several other retail locations who’ve gotten into wireless networking big-time), you’ve already been in a hot spot. Simply put (and we add in the details in Chapters 9 and 12), a hot spot is an area with publicly available high-speed Internet access via a Wi-Fi network.
Depending upon who’s counting and what exactly they are counting (some folks only count “for-pay” or “official” hot spots), anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of hot spots exist in the U.S., and more worldwide. Just as
Part I: Making Your World Wireless
Wi-Fi has become a common term that just about everyone knows, so too has the term hot spot become a part of the Zeitgeist.
Hot spots can be found in some of the most unusual places. (There’s one in Pat’s town at a beach on the San Diego coastline. Check out www.parks.ca. gov/?page_id=662 for pictures of San Elijo State Beach Park, where you can surf the Web and the waves!)
You might find hot spots in interesting locations near you as well. Here are some locations where you can commonly find hot spots:
Personal hot spots (open access points): Power to the people — seriously! A lot of folks are community-minded (or maybe they just want to stick it to the Man by helping other folks get online for free) and have opened up their personal wireless networks to all comers. In Chapter 9, we give you some tips for finding these networks — they can be anywhere that has power and a broadband connection!
Retail: This is your archetypal cafe/restaurant/bookstore hot spot location. When most people think of hot spots, they think of a room full of small round tables, an espresso machine hissing away in the background, and maybe some latter-day beatnik at the open mic. This is where the hot spot revolution gained steam (no latte pun intended) and became corporate (some really big companies got involved with the Starbucks hot spot deployments, which now number in the thousands).
Libraries: As you’re probably aware, many libraries have taken to the Internet age in a big way — providing Internet terminals for customers to use, putting their card catalogs online, and even digitiZing big chunks of their collections (wherever those pesky and annoying copyright lawyers don’t try to stop them). It should probably come as no surprise that many libraries have begun to offer free hot spots for their patrons.