Who Uses Wireless Technology?
of the largest users of wireless technology can be seen in the
transportation and shipping industry; Federal Express and United Parcel
are good examples. Another area is that of automated vehicle location
systems that are supported through a combination of satellite and
landline systems coupled with the Internet.
19.8.1 Consumer Applications
A good example of a consumer-level system can be
seen in the OnStar product being offered as an option with some
high-end General Motors products, such as their Cadillac automobile
product line. The OnStar system is combined with a cellular service and
the GPS tracking system. The system provides a series of end-user
services that includes travel directions, emergency road services,
automobile enabling services, personal notification, and theft
The OnStar system uses a GPS tracking device that
is installed on the vehicle and allows the OnStar control center to
locate a subscriber's vehicle. Through a cellular link with an on-board
computer, the control center can detect if the car's airbags have been
deployed. If so, the control center detects a change, and a call to the
subscriber is made to determine if there is a need for assistance. The
control center also can remotely open the car doors if the subscriber
has locked himself out of the car.
Qualcomm offers a multilevel vehicle location and
monitoring service for large trucking and transport companies. This
service is supported through a combination of satellite, cellular, and
landline services. Trucks with special roof-mounted units can
be tracked and monitored anywhere within the United States and Canada.
Monitoring includes truck system performance, loading and unloading
events, as well as redirection of vehicles for new load pickups.
Drivers are able to communicate with the control center via messaging
or cellular wireless contact. Through landline contact with the
Qualcomm control center, dispatchers are able to dispatch and manage
all company assets deployed on the nation's highway network.
19.8.3 Health Care
A surprisingly large number of health care
service providers have taken advantage of wireless technology. Good
examples of the application of wireless technology can be seen at
Austin Regional Clinic, Indiana Methodist Hospital, St. Joseph
Hospital, Wausau Hospital, and Winthrop-University Hospital, to name a
few. All of these facilities have essentially the same problem: getting
to patient information, where and when needed. Many found that they had
to take handwritten notes to the nearest nurse station and enter the
information manually into a computer terminal. As a result,
administrators had to come up with a more-efficient way to operate.
Austin Regional Clinic elected to supply its
medical professionals with mobile handheld computers to record and
retrieve patient information in real-time. These terminals were linked
to the clinic's Novell Netware LAN using PCMCIA modem cards. A series
of wireless distributed access points located throughout the clinic
provided a direct link to the LAN via a corresponding link in the
clinic's communications server. The portable computers used were grid
pad, pen-based portables configured with application screens, and
allowed medical professionals simplified data entry and retrieval. This
system eliminated large amounts of paperwork, thus allowing the
professionals to function in a paperless environment.
In some manufacturing plants, sensors and
programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are used to control many of the
processes related to product manufacturing. In many places, these
devices are hardwired into high-maintenance networks that need frequent
attention. In many plants, these networks have been fitted with
Ethernet interfaces as part of a plantwide LAN. However, many plant
managers have found that they can refit with wireless adapter cards
that provide an RF link to wireless access points located around the
plant. These arrangements link the PLCs directly into the wired LAN and
the server, ensuring timely monitoring of all devices.
Avon Products, Inc. faced an expensive problem in
extending the LAN in a Chicago-area plant's factory floor. In this
facility, production lines were not static and subject to regular
reconfiguration. Furthermore, operator mobility required to support 50
production lines along 500 linear feet confounded the problem of
rewiring print stations to support the operators with barcode labels.
Instead of rewiring, a series of printers configured with wireless
modems were set up to receive barcode label files from print servers.
The plant has a series of distributed base stations (terminal servers)
that are linked to the LAN and a host system that supports the wireless
link between the wireless printers and the LAN. The print servers,
which are linked to the LAN
Ethernet, receive barcode files from a VAX computer. As product is
being manufactured, barcode information can be sent to the appropriate
print server, where it can then be routed to the proper remote wireless
The Pacific Exchange (on the West Coast) and Hull
Trading (headquartered in Chicago) both opted to deploy wireless
terminals on the trading floor to simplify the trading process. Instead
of walking to a static terminal to enter trade information, traders can
now do that from their handheld terminals. This innovation permits much
faster trades, while eliminating many manual steps and the reliance on