Monday, October 14, 2013

Three Wireless USB Adapters in Every Hub, and Omnipeek On Every Laptop #WFD5

Tim McCreery President and CEO of WildPackets presented the company history to the Wireless Field Day 5 delegates. Wildpackets was founded in 1990, and now their customer base spans 60+ countries and over 7,000 customers.

Jay Botelho Director of Product Management spoke next, and gave us the WildPackets technical history.
  • First to support data capture and analysis of 802.11ac traffic
  • The most comprehensive voice over wifi analysis
  • Only application to support remote data capture from commercial enterprise access points
  • Best application for distributed networks with remote 24x7 real-time analysis
Since the last time WildPackets presented at WFD4, they've since brought to market full 802.11ac support and data captures from locally-attached or remote access points.

The demonstration of the 802.11ac capture was interesting in that copies of OmniPeek and 802.11ac adapters were gifted to the delegates in order for them to generate 802.11ac traffic in the presentation room. OmniPeek only has drivers for the Ralink chipset wireless adapters at this time, but they should have a two stream adapter supported by the end of this year.

Per Jay Botelho, trusting RSSI reporting from access points is iffy since vendors apply RSSI values differently. WildPackets does some analysis work on the capture that is RSSI, and they have to do some work to convert that to dBi or a percentage value.

OmniPeek has new columns added to it to simplify analysis of an 802.11ac capture:
  • MCS value
  • Spatial streams
  • Bandwidth used
  • Data rate
Using multiple adapters to capture data is key in analyzing client roaming in any wireless network. When Jay listed the channels his test network was configured for (2, 6 and 10) I was concerned, since these are not non-overlapping channels. I do not know if this was just for testing purposes that these channels were used, but it isn't an optimal configuration.

  • Top pane = flows categorized by application
  • bottom pane = problems detected
WildPackets is currently running a special discount on their Mobile WLAN Analyzer bundle. The bundle includes OmniPeek Professional and 3 OmniWiFi USB WLAN (802.11a/b/g/n) adapters. The $900 discount is only good through 10/31/2013.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

MU-MIMO They're not calling you names, they're speeding up your Wi-Fi! #Aerohive #WFD5


The thing I always vividly remember from an Aerohive session at Wireless Field Day, is the presentation by Matthew Gast. I love how he intertwines fun facts and figures into a slide deck AND uses matrix math to explain things that are still (somewhat) theoretical in nature.

At the WFD5 eventMatthew Gast presented on MU-MIMO in 802.11ac. I tried to take notes, but the  information flow was more than my brain buffer can process in real-time.

802.11ac Wave-2 and its enablers
  • explicit beamforming in 802.11ac
  • matrix math
  • implementation
  • null steering
  • acknowledgement and queueing
4 features of 802.11ac
  • wider channels (80 & 160MHz)
  • more spatial streams (up to 8 in a single user tx, 4 in a multi-user tx)
  • 256-QAM
  • downlink MU-MIMO
null data packets
  • not even a L2 construct
  • it's a phy layer data plane to describe the way the energy will be steered
Multiple devices connected at the 64 QAM rates will be able to send/receive more data than a single 256 QAM device will tx/rx.

Several matrices are used in matrix math:
  • H is the channel matrix that describes the path between transmitter and receiver
  • Q is the steering matrix that alters the distribution of energy along a path
  • V is the feedback matrix, sent as part of the measurement process to derive Q
The feedback loop based on speeds now is "Did you get an ACK or not?", it's not a matrix describing the connectivity. You can mix data rates inside a feedback matrix data result.

The block ack protocol is used when transmitting to multiple devices at the same time. This is a layer on top of sending beamformed frames. Data rates within a beamformed frame can be mixed. Block ACKs get used as a distributed acknowledgment system along with the RTS-CTS mechanism.

Multi-user MIMO is trading total overall throughput for individual peak throughput, and only works downstream.

The GCMP encryption requires AES but has fewer trips through the AES block and is still only optional in 802.11ac. 

I know all of that is quite a mouthful of acronyms! If you haven't watched the Aerohive presentation series, you'd be doing yourself a favor if you did.

Aerohive ID Manager Demonstration at WFD5 from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Aerohive Client Management Demonstration from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Aerohive Application Visibility and Control Demonstration from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Aerohive Application Visibility and Control Presentation at WFD5 from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Surveying for Gigabit WiFi is no Fluke #WFD5

Fluke announced their new 802.11ac site survey capabilities with the latest version of AirMagnet Survey PRO at Wireless Field Day 5.

According to AirMagnet, the client cards they used to do the testing (Edimax & Trendnet) showed vast differences between the adapters, but there was no repeatable reason for why the testing was so different. 

Introduction to Fluke Networks Wi-Fi with Chia-Chee Kuan at WFD5 from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Fluke will be offering a free upgrade to the new 802.11ac software for Gold support customers, and AirMagnet Planner will have 802.11ac capabilities - but it will come after Survey PRO has been released to support 802.11ac. Beta testing of the Survey PRO is currently under way.

At the time of #WFD5 AirMagnet couldn't work in promiscuous mode with any 802.11ac adapters. There was no schedule that could be discussed in public, but it is a work in progress.

The RF coverage heat map is designed to show primary and secondary overlap of channel allocation. The heat map will show in yellow where the secondary channels overlap and this is where wireless speeds will fall back to slower data rates instead of the higher 802.11ac rates.

Fluke Networks Introduces Survey Pro with 802.11ac at Wireless Field Day 5 from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Their AirMapper tool hasn't been updated for use on any 801.11ac phones/devices yet. Some 802.11ac phones are already available in AsiaPac and the UK, but none are for sale stateside yet. These new devices will be migrated into Airmapper soon.

The thing I found most interesting about their WFD5 presentation was the off the record presentation about their not-yet-released (but it is now) product called AirMagnet Spectrum ES. This application takes the user interface you know from the AirMagnet Spectrum XT application and brings it into the world of cellular Wi-Fi. 

I put together a playlist of all the demo videos they've uploaded to YouTube. It's well worth checking out. From what I can find, it seems the retail price for ES will be around $6k which is a veritable bargain compared to the average cellular testing tool which can cost $14K!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Wait, What? #WFD5 is NEXT WEEK!

Where did all the time go?

Wait, I know exactly where all the time went! I've been cleaning, packing, cleaning some more and moving into a house where I'll have a dedicated room for a real lab!

Next week is going to be packed full of visits to interesting wireless companies.
Many of this events sponsors are brand new to #WFD and that's extra exciting! I'll be taking lots of notes as the presentations are unfolding and posting my takeaways once WFD has concluded and all the videos are posted on Vimeo/YouTube

I've read everyone's pre-event blog posts as they were published, here's the complete pre-list if you've not read them yet:
The delegates this time around are a gathering of new and familiar faces. I'm happy to be chosen as a delegate again! Wireless Field Day is always a whirlwind of places to be, tech to talk and brains to pick.

Blake Krone         @BlakeKrone
Chris Lyttle           @WiFiKiwi
Dale M. Rapp       @DaleRapp
Daniel Cybulskie @SimplyWiFi
George Stefanick @WirelesssGuru
Jake Snyder          @JSnyder81
Keith R. Parsons  @KeithRParsons
Lee Badman         @WiredNot
Ryan Adzima        @RAdzima
Sam Clements      @Samuel_Clements

The list of presenters is also a varied bunch!
Wednesday, Aug 708:00-10:00Fluke Networks Presents at Wireless Field Day 5
Wednesday, Aug 711:00-13:00Aerohive Networks Presents at Wireless Field Day 5
Wednesday, Aug 714:30-16:30WildPackets Presents at Wireless Field Day 5
Thursday, Aug 808:00-10:00AirTight Networks Presents at Wireless Field Day 5
Thursday, Aug 810:30-12:30MetaGeek Presents at Wireless Field Day 5
Thursday, Aug 814:30-16:30Motorola Solutions Presents at Wireless Field Day 5
Friday, Aug 908:00-10:007signal Presents at Wireless Field Day 5
Friday, Aug 910:30-12:30Xirrus Presents at Wireless Field Day 5
Friday, Aug 914:00-16:00Meru Networks Presents at Wireless Field Day 5

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Natalia Project: Civil Rights Defenders Using GSM SMS and CPRS to Send Distress Alerts

I read an interesting article in the May/June 2013 Wireless Design & Development magazine. The article was about the Natalia Project, which is named after a human rights worker Natalia Estemirova who was assassinated in 2009 as she was investigating the alleged kidnappings, torture and extrajudicial killings by Russian government troops or paramilitaries in Chechnya.

The Natalia Project is wireless alerting system (much like active RFID tags). The bracelets are able to send distress signals when activated by the wearer, or when the bracelet shows signs of tampering. The tampering sensor activates automatically if the bracelet is removed by force. If the wearer activates the alerting mechanism manually, the bracelet engages a patented locking mechanism to lock the bracelet onto the wearer's arm.

The technology used is a combination of Global System for Communications (GSM) and a Global Positioning System (GPS) chip. The GSM chip is used for sending alarms and location coordinates while Short Message Service (SMS) and other data is sent via General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). If GPS location signals are not available, locations are derived by GSM triangulation.

When a distress signal is triggered, a signal is sent via GPRS to the Civil Rights Defenders servers in Stockholm. There, the authenticity of the alarm is verified and decisions are made as to what information should be shared or posted on social media platforms. Notifying the local police is not a default action of the distress signal, since in many cases, the local police or government agencies could well be the source of the threat.

Volunteers to the Natalia Project can get involved by signing up to receive notifications of distress signals sent from human rights defenders through several social media networks. The hope is that if the public has more visibility into the continual well being of human rights workers, that those that would attack human rights workers would be aware that their actions are being watched. Knowing the exact time and location of an attack can also help catch the attacker(s) quicker and possibly prevent more killings of human rights workers around the globe.

Three years on, Natalya Estemirova's murder unsolved

The obvious caveat to the bracelet is that it must have cellular coverage in order to transmit an alert. I wonder if it's not possible to re-work the technology used in the bracelet to record periodic GPS coordinates. Then, if an alert had been triggered and the wearer was not in a cellular coverage area, the bracelet could send the last known GPS coordinates. That isn't a perfect solution, but it might be a helpful workaround.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Access Point Mounting Solutions for Warehouses and High Open Ceilings

Installation Using a Section of
Metal Conduit and an Electrical Junction Box
Recently I was asked about ways a customer could mount their access points lower than the 25 foot ceiling present in their building. The physical structure is occupied by AC ducts, electrical conduit and fluorescent lighting at the full height of the ceiling, making installation of access points at that height undesirable for many obvious reasons.

One option is to mount the access points to columns by using an Oberon 90 degree wall mounting bracket. This bracket retails for $80, which can quickly add to the overall cost of your project depending on how many access points need this installation option.

I asked the twitter-verse for input and received several good links to sites where DIY solutions are featured.
One recommendation uses what appears to be a metal book stop repurposed as an angle bracket, another uses common parts found at a hardware store to create a quick, inexpensive mounting solution (by Timothy Dennehy).

Other commercially available solutions involve suspension cables to literally hang the access point from the ceiling, or suspend it off of a threaded metal rod. A similar mounting structure can also be created from off the shelf parts by using threaded metal rods and toggle bolts to tighten the access point to an overhead I-beam in a warehouse environment. 

For every commercially available solution, there is a way to do it cheaper if you've got the time brainstorm a solution from the parts and pieces available from your local home improvement center. Not all mounting solutions are equally aesthetically pleasing and ultimately the aesthetics of the final installation could be the deciding factor in the mounting solution chosen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The WhoIS Podcast: You Have a Bigger Impact Than You Realize

I just finished listening to the fourth edition of Josh O'Brien's WhoIS interview series. If you're not familiar with this podcast series, it was created as a way to get to know more about people in IT who you've probably interacted with online and might have met in person. Josh asks each person the same questions, and the answers are often very different.

This time he was interviewing Tom Hollingsworth. I think a few things Tom said bear repeating. The question was "Should every engineer blog or be active in social media communities?" Tom's answer was an emphatic yes! He says everyone has at least one good blog post in them. Tom goes on to describe how the encouragement of his mentors helped him to achieve things he never thought possible for himself.

As a side note, we can never be fully aware of the impact we have on other peoples' lives. The words of encouragement you give someone today can have a far bigger impact than you might ever realize.

The third edition of the podcast was Josh's interview with me. We barely scratched the surface of the issue of women in IT, but I did touch on the uphill battles I've faced in my career. I got my start into IT by taking night classes from Mr. Vanderpool at Winter Park Tech, but the catalyst that got me there was the IT guy who acted like the information he had was a priceless gem he couldn't share. I thought "What could he possibly know that I can't learn?"

Episode two in the series was with Stephen Foskett of Gestalt IT. Stephen describes how he got his start in IT via salvaging Convergent Miniframes from the dumpster at his college. They'd been damaged in a fire but cleaned up nicely and still worked, so he and his roommates built their own Unix powered BBS in their dorm room with the salvaged gear! That experience helped Stephen land his first job as a Unix administrator.

I'm looking forward to the next episode of the WhoIS series. It is interesting to hear people tell the story of how they got their start in IT and hear them talk about what motivates them today. 

Josh's WhoIs podcast can be streamed/downloaded from his website.

Monday, May 27, 2013

MetaGeek InSSIDer for Office with the Wi-Spy mini adapter

I had the good fortune to be gifted a copy of inSSIDer along with a Wi-Spy mini adapter from the crew at the MetaGeek booth at Interop recently.

I ran the application through its paces and made a quick demonstration video to show the information the application gathers about the nearby wireless networks.

The application runs on Windows Vista, 7 and 8 so I had to try it out on my trusty site survey laptop. That laptop has a b/g only wireless card built in, so I used my USB hub to connect the Linksys AE6000 a/b/g/n/ac adapter and the Wi-Spy mini. 

The Wi-Spy mini is a new form factor for the Wi-Spy tool. The mini adapter is one of those tiny little tools that if you don't put it right back where you got it from, you'll lose it. I can easily see the Wi-Spy mini ending up in the washing machine because you left it in the pocket of your work pants. So put it back where you found it!

That being said, it is much nicer to have a teeny-tiny tool sticking out of the side of your laptop than a big honking thing with an attached antenna (now if only I had a survey laptop with more than one USB port).

The inSSIDer for Office has all of the features that you would need in order to identify all the nearby wireless networks and sources of interference affecting the 2.4GHz frequency. There are series of menu tabs LEARN, NETWORKS, CHANNELS and ANALYZE at the top of the screen. The application is well laid out and easy to navigate without having read the manual.

Sam Clements has also written a blog post about his hands-on experience with inSSIDer. I decided making a quick YouTube video was easier than me making a bunch of screen grabs. Sam already wrote a great post full of screen grabs!

The specs from the MetaGeek website list the features of inSSIDer for Office as:
  • Display table of surrounding networks
  • Trace Co-Channel and Overlapping Network strengths
  • Powerful Filtering Engine
  • Number of networks to “star” for optimization
  • Link score reflects actual RF congestion
  • Detailed breakdown of measurements per-channel
  • Expert tips tailored to your environment
  • Includes Wi-Spy Mini (coin-sized USB 2.4 GHz Spectrum Analyzer)
Thank you to the team at MetaGeek for being so kind to gift me the Wi-Spy mini adapter and a copy of inSSIDer for Office!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Aruba Model 220 Access Point new with 802.11ac!

This week was the official launch of Aruba's new 802.11ac access point. Blake Krone, Chris Lyttle, Daniel Cybulskie, Keith Parsons, Ryan Adzima and I attended the product launch announcement as a members of the Tech Field Day Roundtable group. The day's agenda for the kickoff event was to announce the technical aspects of the new access point, perform a live demonstration of its capabilities and then we met with key people from Microsoft, Netflix and Exafort to learn more about how Aruba has strategically partnered with vendors and customers to fine tune Aruba's own products and provide advanced support for enterprise customers.

Aruba 802.11ac Announcement with Keerti Melkote, Aruba CTO and Founder

Keerti Melkote took us through the history of Aruba Networks, describing the product features released since the company founding. He spoke about the Meridian acquisition. The acquisition of Meridian provides location based information, the ability interacting with exhibits in museums through the Meridian application, and push notifications to client devices.

The future goals of wireless networks are to enable the all wireless office
  • Move to 802.11ac
    • Aruba 220 series AP with ClientMatch
  • Unplug the desk phone
    • AppRF with Microsoft Lync Visibility
  • See the apps and the air
    • ArubaOS 6.3 and AirWave 7.7
The new Aruba 220 802.11ac access point has a $1295 list price, and is available as a controller managed and controller-less. 
  • Lifetime warranty
  • 3x3:3 dual radio (turbo QAM)
  • 2X GE link aggregation
  • 1Gbps TCP throughput
  • High availability 
  • Operates with 802.3af, requires 802.3at for full functionality.
  • Purpose built instead of modular
  • Power draw is 15w vs 25w
The enclosure design of the access point now has an iso plane to separate the antennas from the board as well as no ventilation holes. This solves the problem of not being able to install other Aruba access points with ventilation holes in environments where the access point might be exposed to moisture and dust.

Peter Lane then demonstrated the performance of the Aruba AP 220 802.11ac access point through a live demonstration.

Aruba's test results achieved 830 Mbps on a dual stream laptop, and 240 Mbps on a single stream smart phone.

The fastest 802.11ac rates drop down to 802.11n speeds at 50 ft from the access point. Maintaining this desired distance from the access point is how you can deliver the capacity of 802.11ac to mobile client devices.

The advancements that Aruba has made in ClientMatch allows this technology to work at several different layers of the OSI protocol stack.
  • ClientMatch (L1) for link optimization moves clients to APs that have better signal strengths for them to connect to. Simply link optimization for client devices.
  • ClientMatch (L2-L3) for traffic optimization takes AP load into consideration when moving clients to other APs. Uses signal strength and load of the AP.
  • ClientMatch for App Optimization (L4-L7) is a version of SDN to optimize the WLAN to the client/app information.
The client testing Aruba has performed uncovered that the Android software version 2.3 roams notoriously badly.

ClientMatch has device type identification built into it and helps ClientMatch make moving decisions. ClientMatch will stop steering clients for 2 months at a time to stop causing problems with a client device that doesn't want to roam. Aruba is optimizing the bottom 20% of the network instead of the top performing devices that could be improved a small percentage more.

VisualRF now shows the health of the client by the colored circle shown around the client device. Visual RF now integrates with Lync API via a diagnostics API. The QoS for all Lync apps, call admission control and Wi-Fi call quality stats can be shown through Visual RF. Aruba Networks is the only Lync qualified wireless LAN.

The visibility into the diagnostics API of Lync is new. Soon Aruba will be able to tie in Lync diagnostic information into ClientMatch to make more intelligent decisions on client roaming based on Lync application data.

Future of wireless networks
  • 2013+
    • Mobile
    • Personal LANs
    • Software-centric
    • L4-7 based
    • Open architecture
Microsoft Lync over Wi-Fi with Pascal Menezes, Sr. Program Manager at Microsoft

Pascal presented the history of the partnership between Lync and Aruba Networks.

Lync is the enterprise version of Skype. Lync can be an instant messaging platform which can determine presence across Lync and Skype platforms.

Lync 2013 Mobile Client Features don't support viewing shared Lync content on anything other than an iPad or a Windows 8 or Windows RT OS. I found this interesting since it was the only features line without all the check boxes checked. 

Microsoft started a Lync Wi-Fi Partner Program and Aruba was the first partner to work with them. The qualification program means Microsoft has done all the testing required to ensure interoperability with vendors' wifi networks. The Lync Network Diagnostic API is the forward looking portion towards Software Defined Networking (SDN) in wireless networks.

Aruba OS and higher is the firmware version Lync tested.

The Lync/Aruba interoperability testing environment

  • Two buildings were upgraded to support real-time media.
  • Testing facility was B30 and B31 in Redmond. Each building has 600 Lync users.
  • There are a total of 182 Aruba APs (about every 60 feet apart). Based on the trial results, MSIT is upgrading the entire global Wi-Fi infrastructure to 802.11n.
  • Spent two years tweaking the wireless network.
    • Signals -45Bm to -65dbn and snr better than 30db
    • OKC enabled (no 802.11r) fast BSS transition support
    • Enabled ARM
    • WPA2 in enterprise mode
  • Adjusted the DTIM timer to 3 for mobile devices to save on battery life
  • The sticky clients they saw would hang at -90dbm and then roam to an AP with -60dbm.
    • Client devices would experience seconds of audio outages during these roam times.
The rate adaption algorithms and TX retries may take up too much airtime in retries for UC real-time media traffic. Existing STAs rate adaption algorithms not well suited for UC.

The Microsoft Lync team has proposed for a Mobile Multimedia Over Wi-Fi WFA WG
Support of 18 Wi-Fi vendors. The goal of the proposal is to develop a certification that improves the Wi-Fi roaming and application performance in enterprise and public venues in a manner that is impelling for vendors. The ability to verify performance for real-time voice and video over Wi-Fi is the ultimate goal of this proposal, as QoS is difficult to deploy and is expensive and complex to manage. In most enterprise networks, QoS is not widely implemented end to end (from the wireless to the wired networks).

After the presentation from Pascal, we had our roundtable discussion about the Aruba announcement and our opinions on 802.11ac. We discussed sticky clients, antenna design of the Aruba 220 access point, the Lync diagnostic API and our wish for a portable tool which would allow wireless engineers to view the Lync diagnostic data without requiring a login to the Lync server.

Designing Wi-Fi for Voice & Video with Mike Kail, Netflix VP of IT

Mike D. Kail VP of IT Operations at Netflix described how 802.11ac affects their all-wireless office environment.

Netflix uses Wi-Fi for Voice and Video throughout their offices. Netflix has a 100% mobile office. This increases productivity to be able to work anywhere within wifi range. Some graphic designers have iMacs that are hardwired, but everyone else is wireless. The docking station may be used for Accounting people, but it's rare to be wired into the network. Netflix employees still have desk phones but most people use their cell phones. They are desk phone optional (internal recruiting team and the legal team probably use wired phones).

The ultimate goal of the Netflix network design is to achieve a Zero Trust Network
  • Goal is no perimeter firewall 'gate' 
  • Identity is the new perimeter
  • Moving all devices to EAP-TLS
  • Evaluating ClearPass
  • They use Google+ hangouts for collaboration
  • Telepresence and Lifesize are used for video conferencing.
Netflix prioritizes multimedia on the same SSID as data and all Android and iOS devices are allowed, no exceptions. Netflix is beta testing Aruba's 802.11ac access points and evaluating Aruba RAPs for remote locations to extend corporate networks to home users.

Netflix Content Operations does the QC streaming testing of the UI across wifi networks. The Los Gatos campus is 5 buildings with 280 APs, and at any given time, there are 1300 - 1400 people accessing the Internet. Typical Netflix upload/download speeds are 199 Mbps down / 174 Mbps up.

Netflix employees can use any device, as they've implemented security to access to the data, not the access to the device.

Netflix had some original access point placement issues, some areas have multiple SSIDs and there are a few roaming problems that are problems on the client side. Overall, Netflix has one main SSID and a couple others that give them presence into other countries. The additional SSIDs are locked down to specific floors for testing.

Smart TVs and Apple TVs (due to the authentication method used [EAP-TLS]) are wired.
100% EAP-TLS, no captive portals, but there is an open guest network that uses ClearPass. Netflix is also looking to implement their own open source certificate framework. Netflix uses CACTI and MRTG to monitor their wireless network in conjunction with AirWave. Netflix is also active in Github and uses open source software whenever possible. Netflix is also working to implement NAC on the wired ports to form the Zero Trust Network.

Next-gen Access Network Design with Arun Kanchi, Exafort CEO
Arun Kanchi CEO of Exafort
Exafort is a Cloud and Mobile Systems Integrator

Mobility needs summarized in three words:
  • Security
    • the security of corporate data
  • Privacy
    •  the personal privacy of workspace apps
  • Experience
    •   ease of use, self registration, content based access
Exafort manages the wireless infrastructure for Arista for site surveys, design and deployment as well as IT help desk as a service. Arista's IT infrastructure is 90% cloud based - Wi-Fi, tools, corporate business applications. Exafort has planned an AP deployment ratio of 75 access points to 1000 people. Exafort has planned a 100% redundant wireless LAN design. They've planned the access point placements so that there was bleed over between floors and this bleed through coverage would support users on that floor.

Exafort is pulling two cables to the APs, the additional expense is the physical cabling. They're not having to pull a new run. The second run is half the cost of the first run. The ports on the AP will only have one live at a time, but each access point is occupying two full switch ports. The new Arista building is going live in the fall of 2013 and will be the first wireless network for Arista. Exafort has been managing Arista's IT infrastructure since 2009.

Exafort used AirWave to do a predictive survey for the new building deployment. Exafort didn't use SNR or RSSI metrics within AirWave to design the predictive deployment, the used the coverage model to design so that all areas of the building were covered in signal strength shown in green in AirWave. Exafort is using a 20 MHz channel plan for 2.4GHz and 40 MHz for the 5 GHz, and they're relying on RRM to auto adjust the channels/and keep the noise floor low.

To wrap up: I was very excited to be invited to attend this launch in person! There are so many things happening in the wireless space: product launches, acquisitions, changes in RF design due to high density clients and the continual advancements of consumer devices. It was an honor to be invited and contributed my two cents worth to the discussion. Thank you to Aruba Networks and Gestalt IT for inviting me!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Smart Meters: Now With More Data and Less FUD

Recently I read a news article about two mothers who were arrested on their property as a result of them blocking access to their utility meters in order to prevent the utility company from replacing their analogue utility meter with a digital "smart meter". The mothers are members of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group (NSMA), and NSMA has a federal lawsuit pending against the City of Naperville regarding the installation of the smart meters in the city. NSMA is concerned that the smart meters will affect health, security and privacy.

NSMA also objects to the Naperville Department of Public Utilities referencing a document created by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) titled "Health Impacts of RadioFrequency from Smart Meters" as evidence that smart meters pose no threat to public health. They claim that the CCST document has numerous flaws and does not address whether the current FCC guidelines are sufficiently protective of health considering current levels of RF exposure (which includes ambient levels from other devices), and the cumulative effect over time. The NSMA group also cites nuclear physicist Daniel Hirsch's commentary on the CCST data as an indicator that the smart meter radiation levels could be 100 times more exposure than cell phones.

I began to do some research, starting with looking up the FCC ID of our smart meter [FCC ID: R7PER1R1S4]. The information I found states it is made by Landis+Gyr and is called the Focus-2. The data that I found on the L&G Focus-2 unit via the FCC testing data states the average RF output power is ~16dBm (which is equivalent to 40mW) when operating in the 902.1-927.9MHz frequencies. The L&G Focus-2 UtiliNet endpoint has an integrated loop antenna, located on the PCB surface layer on the reverse (non-component) side of the assembly. According to the FCC test report, the antenna has a typical gain of ~3dBi.
From the UtiliNet Endpoint User Guide:
UtiliNet is a comprehensive wireless data communications solution that utilizes spread-spectrum radios in the 902-928 MHz area of the radio spectrum to provide reliable network answers for remote telemetry or distributed control applications. UtiliNet radios combine three important technologies: a mesh architecture for peer-to-peer communications and true networking functionality, asynchronous spread spectrum frequency hopping for maximum use of bandwidth, and packet switching for guaranteed message transfer and automatic store-and-forward routing. 
The communication language/protocol used between the UtiliNet smart meters (mesh nodes) is the Device Control Word (DCW) language. Typical application information requests are radio configurations, radio queries, data collection, communication to end devices, protocol translation and peer-to-peer control.
I did my own research to verify the data for whole body SAR being used in these reports. Sometimes the SAR value was expressed in microwatts (μW/cm2), other times it was expressed in watts (W/cm2). Luckily there's a couple of handy websites that'll do the conversion for you. Microwatts to Watts and Watts to Microwatts.

The CCST report contains the following chart showing the values they've used to calculate the threat level of the smart meter radiation output:

The report by Daniel Hirsch commenting on the CCST report contains the following chart showing the numbers he's used to calculate the threat level of smart meter radiation output.

I have a few issues with the wording and the data used in Mr. Hirsch's report. These following two paragraphs precede the chart above in his report and the wording used strongly suggests his chart is not using definitive values.
It is strongly recommended that CCST revise its Draft Report and conduct actual measurements of cell phone, microwave oven, and SmartMeter RF cumulative whole body power densities. If measurements aren’t made, then rigorous calculations correcting for cell phone and microwave oven duty cycles and whole body exposures should be made. 
A summary figure below shows how rough estimates of the effect of those corrections suggest SmartMeters may produce cumulative whole body exposures far higher than that of cell phones or microwave ovens. 
His repeated use of qualifying words (summary, rough, suggest, may) gives the impression that he is not making a definitive conclusion with the data being displayed in the chart. The problem I have with this is that Mr. Hirsch's chart is being used as factual evidence to the risk of exposure to smart meters.

I took it upon myself to find neutral Internet sources documenting the radiation output for microwaves, the L&G Focus-2 smart meter (since this is the one installed outside my residence), the iPhone 5, Samsung GT-I9500 and the FCC limits for RF exposure. Below is the chart I've compiled presented on the left in microwatts and on the right in watts.

Here are the links to the sources I used for the data represented in my chart shown above:

iPhone 5 radiation testing 1.18W/cm2
Samsung GT-I9500 radiation testing 1.55W/cm2
L&G Focus-2 smart meter .000018W/cm2
Maximum microwave oven leakage data .0000005W/cm2
FCC limits for RF exposure (FCC 13-39 3/29/2013) .08W/cm- 1.6W/cm2

Mr. Hirsch also expressed concern that the duty cycle of the smart meters wasn't represented  accurately in the CCST report. His report assumes a 100% transmit duty cycle for the smart meter output (that is to say that the smart meter is transmitting/generating signal 100% of the time).

As I began to read about the L&G Focus-2 smart meter installed where I live, I realized I could use the Metageek WiSpy 900x to view the frequencies the smart meter operates (902-928 MHz). I made a few recordings indoors and outdoors in hopes of picking up the transmissions from the smart meter. I wanted to see if I could ascertain how often the smart meter was transmitting, and for how long. In this video clip, I start off with the outdoors recording. I was positioned at a distance of 6 inches from the plastic cover to the smart meter. There were intermittent bursts of RF energy detected, but there did not seem to be a predictable, repeatable pattern to the transmissions. The second half of the video is the recording that was taken indoors, approximately 10 feet from the wall where the smart meter is installed. The RF energy detected indoors was not as strong as the signals picked up when positioned closer to the smart meter.

The RF energy bursts detected by the Metageek Wi-Spy 900x were very brief and did not use up a large portion of the available spectrum. Duty cycle utilization was minimal, given the short transmission windows. It is clear that the L&G Focus-2 is continually powered on with electricity, but that the smart meter is not transmitting continuously, nor is it utilizing a 100% duty cycle.

The videos page of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness website features an Infowars segment where one of the ladies who was arrested for attempting to prevent the installation of the smart meter on her home is interviewed.

There are a lot of statements made in this video that I take issue with, but I'll keep this post focused on smart meters. This Infowars video segment references this article from Watchdog News Daily titled "Health Hazards Linked To Utility Meters". Personally, I'm dubious of any news site with pop-under advertisements, but I'll let it slide this time for sake of research. 
Joe Esposito from Owasso, Okla., had a smart meter installed on his home in 2011 as part of a pilot program developed by the Public Service Company of Oklahoma. Even though he asked that a meter not be installed on his home, Esposito found one mounted on the side of his house when he came home from work. 
It was then his health problems started. Esposito started experiencing dental problems, from aching teeth to a constant tingling sensation. He also started to experience aches in his leg which only got worse at night. 
After watching a video titled “Smart Meters & EMR: The Health Crisis of Our Time” by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, Esposito followed the advice in the video and installed some lead sheeting around the meter on the outside of his house. The results were dramatic. He had the first good night’s sleep in months and the pain in his leg was gone. Additional protection inside the home added later gave relief from many of his other symptoms. As an experiment, he would sometimes sleep without the protection and his pains would return.
This article features a correlation/causation between smart meters and health effects which references a video by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, but there is no link to the video in the article. I found a link to the video on under the title "Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt – Smart Meters & EMR: The Health Crisis Of Our Time"

Dr. Klinghard makes the case that the increase in chronic medical conditions is related to the increasing electromagnetic radiation exposure (at the 6 minute mark in the video), he then takes his correlation to using the estimated number of wireless subscribers and comparing those numbers to the rise in Autism statistics. Correlation does not indicate causation, and I caution everyone to dig a little deeper when absolute statements are made with little regard for documenting information sources. It would appear that Dr. Klinghard has a vested interest in finding EMF exposure as the cause for multiple health symptoms as his personal website sells products that claim to reduce your exposure to EMF radiation.

Alice / 
At this point I'm stopping my research into the FUD that is out there about smart meters. I could go down this rabbit hole for untold iterations and still get back to the same conclusion I made several paragraphs ago.

The data I gathered clearly indicates that the RF output of smart meters (at least the L&G Focus-2 meter) is well below the FCC limitations and does not use 100% of the duty cycle when the smart meter is transmitting. I saw nothing in the spectrum analysis capture I performed that caused me to be concerned about the RF energy being transmitted by the smart meter installed at my residence. If you're wondering what your smart meter is or isn't doing, you can see it for yourself with a Metageek Wi-Spy 900x.

P.S.     I wish that Dr. Klinghard would say how much data I could store on his Computer Harmonizer K. Dwell Stick. For just a few dollars more, I can get a Kingston 128GB USB 3.0 Data Traveler on Amazon. The Kingston might even work as a noise filter or a protective pendant, but I'm sure of one thing it'll do - store a lot of data.