We live in a world where everything is going wireless. Having a solid, interference-free WLAN is essential for happy co-existence.  This is especially true in the automation and A/V world,…

We live in a world where everything is going wireless. Having a solid, interference-free WLAN is essential for happy co-existence.  This is especially true in the automation and A/V world, where the newest, coolest wireless gear is only as good as the network it runs on.

Year after year, a few of our friends in automation and A/V encouraged us to exhibit at CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association). We decided to take their advice to get a booth at the 2011 Expo – and had a great experience!

We found that CEDIA attendees were very intrigued by our intuitive, affordable and highly portable wireless networking tools, Wi-Spy and Chanalyzer.

The MetaGeek booth was immediately recognized as the “inSSIDer“s. We’ve definitely noticed how popular our open-source Wi-Fi scanner is, and it was cool to talk face-to-face with so many people that rely on it day-in and day-out.  Also, discovering the number of people that consistently use Wi-Spy and Chanalyzer in their wireless control and automation installs was impressive as well.

Speaking of Wi-Spy and RF interference – we were able to clearly illustrate how many different kinds of wireless technologies can be used in the same frequency ranges as 802.11 Wi-Fi networks.  ZigBee, Z-Wave, and other proprietary wireless audio streams were very prevalent on the show floor, and MetaGeek was able to illustrate that with our visualization software, Chanalyzer.

What’s really remarkable is that often installers deploy three or four different wireless systems for things such as audio speakers, lighting controls or security systems in the same swath of spectrum in the *same* house or building. It’s not hard to see why our tools are relied on so much in this space – without visibility into what’s happening in the 2.4, 5 GHz and 900 MHz bands, how would you know which channels to deploy on to avoid interference and make everything all work together? Couple that with the ability to quickly educate home owners about how their new or existing equipment impacts their installation-wide wireless communications – a MetaGeek solution is very attractive. Even those few that didn’t know about inSSIDer walked away excited about what the tools could do for them, and at such affordable price points.

We also walked the expo floor and did a quick capture with Ekahau Site Survey. As with most tradeshows, we found a huge number of Wi-Fi access points (524 in total!). Since the hall was wide-open with very few walls, receiving good signal strength from many of these APs was quite easy, even if it was far away. (See ESS heatmap below)

However, actually staying connected to an AP and getting any kind of throughput was a different story. Since the floor area was so dense with 2.4 GHz noise from the 500+ Wi-Fi APs, ZigBee nodes, and everything else that was transmitting, it was almost impossible to get on a WLAN and use it.

We grabbed many Chanalyzer recordings while we were there to document the overwhelming wireless landscape to share with others. Check out the screen shot below.. is it any surprise that Wi-Fi usage is knocked out for everybody? 🙂

Thanks to MetaGeek friend and CEDIA volunteer, Shawn Lemay, we were able to be a part of the CEDIA University Learning Labs. Our resident training geek, Trent Cutler, was invited to conduct the spectrum analysis section of their WLAN course, earning a great response from the attendees.  We appreciated this opportunity to share our experience with wireless troubleshooting, and how to use spectrum analyzers to diagnose interference issues.

We thoroughly enjoyed meeting and getting feedback from so many of the attendees in Wireless Automation and A/V Installation.  We’ll be seeing you at CEDIA Expo 2012 for sure!