The Technology of Sleep

A woman sleeps clutching a smart phone.I have written before about what I call the examined or quantified life. We try to measure aspects of our life such as heart rate or calorie consumption or number of steps taken. This is often part of an attempt to adjust various aspects of our life to bring more control and meaning to our existence. One of the areas that we may not focus on enough is sleep. If done right it should represent a third of our 24 hour day. This blog post highlights various ideas, technologies, and methods to help quantify, and hopefully improve, sleep.

A Measure of Success

It used to be that lack of sleep was a positive sign that we were too busy and important to take such a long break. A recent New York Times article titled “Sleep Is the New Status Symbol” suggests just the opposite is in vogue. The author cites studies that show lost productivity and health crises attributed to lack of sleep. Now, it is more desirable and advantageous to get enough sleep, whether it be in one block or augmented with a short nap during the day. Quality sleep is the new gold.

There have been studies and articles suggesting smartphones and other devices are disrupting our sleep through bright light and mental stimulation. But there are also devices and apps for measuring sleep quality and duration. Apple’s iOS 10 has a sleep timer built right into the clock that reminds you when it is time to go to bed and then gently wakes you. In addition, it tracks your sleep and makes that available to iOS Health for logging. Also available is the SleepCycle app for Apple devices and SleepBot for Android smartphones. These all encourage you to go to bed and wake up on time through an audible alarm and then track the time that your phone is motionless so that you can modify your patterns if necessary.

Sleep Aids

Pharmaceutical sleep aids sometimes cause addictions or even interrupt sleep that they are supposed to protect. However, there are new technologies that are promising to bring deep, uninterrupted rest. While light on details, the Dreem headband promises to bring a restorative sleep. Due out this summer, the device uses electroencephalogram (EEG) technology to monitor brain patterns and produce soothing sounds at just the right moments. Like the apps mentioned above and wearable devices, it also tracks your duration and quality of sleep.

The Thim device, previewed in the above-mentioned New York Times article, will also debut this summer. Thim trains you to get to sleep faster, thus leading to a better quality sleep. It does this by waking you every three minutes after you first fall asleep in the evening. This is intended to condition your body to go to sleep faster. Personally, I think it would drive me crazy but it may work for some. It also tracks your sleep duration and patterns.

Thoughts

There are some medical issues that prevent sleep and should be dealt with, but for those of us with overactive minds or poor scheduling habits, technology can help. Personally I can go to sleep in five minutes but my brain reengages about 3:00 a.m. and it is not always easy to get back to sleep. I follow all of the standard wisdom, but to no avail. Perhaps one of these monitors or trackers might be just the thing I need. I actually sleep better in a sleeping bag in the woods than in my own bed, which may say something about me.

Have you had success with a sleep app or wearable or other technology? How has it made a difference in your life? Please share your experiences so maybe the rest of us can learn better sleep practices from you.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Powering the Internet of Things with Clean Energy

Image of the planet imbedded with an electrical socket and a cord plugged into it.Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow as emerging technologies and devices are constantly being developed and added to the internet. I’ve looked at how information produced by IoT is communicated and considered how to process the data. But what powers all those devices and sensors? In some situations, such as agricultural technologies, extension cords are out of the question as is regularly changing batteries. In response, researchers are working to harvest energy to power these devices.

Mechanical Energy

A 2015 IEEE article highlighted three promising areas for harvesting energy—mechanical energy, heat, and electromagnetic emissions. In terms of mechanical energy, they highlighted a small conformable piezoelectric device developed at the University of Illinois to power a pacemaker from a heartbeat. The heart’s own contractions would power a device that helps keep itself beating regularly. This would eliminate the need to surgically replace batteries.

The article also highlighted a small device that harvests energy from the vibration of trains, created by Perpetuum. The harvester is installed near the wheels and captures energy from the travel motion to power sensors that can monitor wheel bearings and wheel travel on the rail. This is in production now and helps to prevent rail accidents by detecting problems early. The harvester has a 100 year life expectancy.

Heat

South Korea’s KAIST university has developed a thermoelectric generator that is embedded in glass fabric and generates power from body heat. This could power wearable devices or be embedded in the device itself, thus providing its own power source.

Here is what I am thinking: what if we can print these thermoelectric materials on our 3-D printers and create our own generators? I may be on to something. I probably create enough heat while riding my bicycle to power my smart phone and computer.

Electromagnetic Emissions

In Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged,” the hero invented a method for harvesting electrostatic energy from the atmosphere and eventually powered a small village. I suspect that we have been thinking about it even longer than that, but our efforts are still in their infancy. Researchers at the University of Waterloo have been working to improve collection antennas and hope to be able to capture emissions on a large scale. They are working on materials to more efficiently capture energy.

Thoughts

It is an exciting time for research in this area with breakthroughs in physics, material science, and microelectronics all converging on the singular problem of how to replace fossil fuels with clean energy capture. We have a lot of new devices coming that will need to be powered, hopefully with a sustainable energy source. Are we close to solving this mystery? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Telecommuting vs. Colocation: Changing Attitudes and Trends

This week I would like to start a conversation about the merits of working remotely versus colocation. IBM announced in January that all North American marketing employees will be called into one of six offices around the country, thus ending remote work for that department. This follows other IBM departments that recently called in the troops. Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer made a similar move for all employees in 2013 and she was not the first to reverse the trend toward remote work.

My question is this: does colocation make sense in a global workforce, or does innovation flourish when workers are sitting shoulder to shoulder discussing the next breakthrough product or process?

History of Telework

As early as the 1600s, some people were acting as independent contractors by receiving raw materials and producing finished product, all from their home. This was most prevalent in fields such as ironwork or sewing. Often, members of the family would help. Thus was born what we know as the cottage industry and also the first remote workers.

In subsequent years, non-farming jobs moved primarily to cities where factories powered by a growing workforce turned out an array of goods. Offices soon followed, where knowledge workers specializing in accounting or marketing or programming worked. Having everyone together helped with communications and coordination of a large group of people.

With the oil crisis of the 1970s and high gas prices, employers and researchers started to look for ways to keep some employees at home and productive. Improved telecommunications and computing allowed more people to work from home or remote locations. The Clean Air Act of 1990 only accelerated the need to reduce commuting and increase telework. AT&T celebrated the first Telecommuting Day on September 20, 1994 which is befitting of the telecommunication giant. Telework picked up in the 1990s and grew, but by the time Yahoo called back their remote employees in 2013 the pendulum had begun to shift the other way.

A Case for Colocation

The pitch for everyone located in the same office or a limited series of offices has mostly to do with innovation. The argument is that teams can be more innovative when everyone can physically see their coworkers and spontaneous conversations ensue. There is some evidence that this is true. Google encourages employees to come into the office through perks such as transportation via the GBus and free meals on campus. They believe that dining with fellow Googlers will spur innovation. They can meet with other teams around the country and the globe via teleconferencing when necessary, thus promoting their green agenda.

The Argument

I have telecommuted in the past when working with global teams. I had days that opened with phone calls to Europe at 6:00 a.m. and ended with 6:00 p.m. calls to Asia. It was convenient and efficient to work from home. It was also much more efficient than traveling around the globe, although there were times when that was necessary.

I can see the argument for having teams in a central office, but the transition may mean moving families or leaving jobs if a move is not feasible. It also means more commuters clogging roads and more time spent in traffic. Perhaps the self-driving car equipped with wi-fi will be the answer. In the meantime, I think organizations should proceed with caution as they call workers back into the office. They may be trading efficiency for innovation.

Thoughts

Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Are you a telecommuter, and does it work for you? Do you find that you work less or more than if you commuted to an office every day? Do you miss the personal interaction with a physical work team? Perhaps together we can come up with the ideal solution.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Nurturing the Seeds of Innovation

I have been preparing to teach the summer AIM Program course on creating business solutions and have been thinking about the seeds of innovation. Where exactly do these seeds come from and what helps them to germinate? What forces stifle them, preventing them from growing and maturing? We will explore all of these points in the course and this post reveals some of my thoughts on the early stages of the innovation process.

Nature vs. Nurture

Ideas can come from many places but I have found they sprout from well-cultivated soil. Nineteenth century chemist Louis Pasteur said, “chance favors only the prepared mind.” Innovation may seem to spring up in unexpected ways and in unique places but it comes as a result of preparation, observation, and hard work. It comes from days, months, or even years of thinking, pondering, and studying a problem.

Are innovators born or made? A 1973 study of fraternal and identical twins showed that while there is some genetic predisposition toward creativity, most of it is learned. That is good news for people who don’t think they are natural innovators.

Creative Ecosystem

How does an organization foster creativity and innovation? How do they build an ecosystem that allows and encourages everyone to think beyond the immediate issues? Companies such as 3M and Google allow employees time to explore ideas outside the scope of their job. But it takes more than time to foster creativity, it takes an atmosphere or ecosystem that encourages experimentation and allows failures. Thomas Edison is purported to have said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It is not easy for an organization to allow time and effort for “ways that won’t work” but this is part of the preparation necessary for that big breakthrough idea.

Barriers to Creativity

We often place barriers to innovation and creativity. These may come in the form of hardened ideas about “how we do things around here” or inflexible rules and regulations. Examples of companies fighting barriers are Tesla and Uber. In March 2014, New Jersey, among other states, banned direct sales of Tesla automobiles in the state because they did not comply with the decades old “dealership” model. Tesla traditionally sells cars directly through small storefronts and not through the conventional dealer and service center model. New Jersey reversed that ban a year later. Uber faces similar barriers. Traditionally, taxi companies are highly regulated and limited by municipalities. Drivers work for a taxi company that pays franchise fees to the city. Uber drivers are not full-time employees, they are only contractors, so the whole regulation and fee structure begins to fall apart. Several cities initially banned Uber from operating in their area because its business model did not conform to the traditional standard. Tradition can often be the greatest enemy of innovation.

Thoughts

To those who will join me in the business solutions course this summer, I look forward to an exchange of ideas on ways to promote and stimulate innovation for individuals and organizations. With proper preparation and dismantling of barriers, creativity can flourish and can lead to invention and new revenue sources. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Preventing Crime Using Predictive Analytics

In the 2002 futuristic movie “Minority Report,” Tom Cruise heads up a police division called PreCrime. This unit uses predictive analysis collected from mutants to arrest the would-be criminal before the crime is committed. The movie is set in 2054 and while I don’t think we have crime fighting mutants among us, we do have computers that make predictive analysis in police work a reality in 2017.

Predictive Analysis

Predictive analysis uses data mining, statistics, computer modeling, and machine learning to predict future events. This can help companies or agencies to better position a product launch or develop a business continuity plan. It can also help them forecast demand for products or services. Retail stores have used this science for years to plan for resources based on a number of factors such as the day of the week, day of the year, weather, and other data points. Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, uses same day sales for the last year as a factor in deciding how many donuts to start on any given day. This helps to reduce waste from too much product and ensures that a customer can always get a French cruller at the end of a busy day.

PredPol

This same predictive analysis is being applied to crime prevention. Predpol is an advanced analytics application that police agencies in California, Maryland, Florida, Georgia, Washington and elsewhere are using. The software collects three historical data points: past type of crime, place of crime, and time of crime.

Through historical analysis, Predpol developers have discovered that there is a pattern to crime and criminals and by mining for those three data points the application can predict where crime is likely to occur in the future. There is no personally identifiable information collected or used so as to prevent biases or profiling. Once the predictive analysis is complete, police assign extra patrols to discourage crime where it is expected. Police report this application does indeed help reduce crime in their jurisdictions. This is a case of advanced analytics being used for positive results in communities.

Counterpoint

To be fair, the output is only as good as the data entered. Information analysts often refer to this as “garbage in, garbage out.” Software such as Predpol and other applications rely on clean, accurate data to predict future hotspots. In a recent blog post from the Council On Foreign Relations, the authors argue that not all crimes are reported so these tools are limited because they start with an incomplete data set, which results in inaccurate or limited information about future crimes. Police go back to the areas where crimes were reported but miss other obvious opportunities because they lack a full data picture. It is important to factor in other data points in order to understand the full picture.

Thoughts

There will most likely be some pushback from people concerned about profiling of a particular neighborhood or audience, but with reasonably clean and unbiased data collection tools such as these can aid law enforcement agencies in fighting crime and creating safer communities.

Do you have other examples of data analytics that is helping to solve real world problems? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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STEAM: Adding Arts to STEM Education

I have written in the past about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education for young people. I am a big advocate of STEM learning and participate in events when possible. I think it is important for everyone to be grounded in the sciences and math to be able to work in our increasingly complex world. It is nice to know how to use an app or a particular software but it is even better to know how it works, especially when it mysteriously fails and you need to try to fix it.

Lately, I have been seeing the term STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. In other words, arts inserted into STEM. To be honest, I was skeptical when I first started seeing this term because it felt like the arts were jumping on a bandwagon they were not supposed to be part of. In this post I will explore the origins of STEM and how we got from STEM to STEAM and the value of adding arts education.

Origins of STEM

The Russian satellite Sputnik launch in 1957 started a rivalry with America for technical superiority on earth and in space. America thought that it should be first in terms of smart scientists and mathematicians. The U.S. developed plans to place a man on the moon and in July, 1969, realized that vision and regained superiority in the space race. Growing up in the 1960s, we all wanted to be astronauts and we studied the necessary disciplines to get us into space. Science and math were fundamental. Computer development in the ‘80s and ‘90s kept technical subjects in the forefront. Programming, math, and electronics were important and exciting.

The National Science Foundation coined the term STEM in 2001 to refer to a renewed emphasis in teaching technical disciplines. Surveys showed that American education was slipping compared to other countries and we were losing that superiority we fought so hard to gain in the 1960s. STEM renewed the emphasis on science education in order to stay on top.

STEM to STEAM

The Rhode Island School of Design championed the term STEAM in an attempt to include art and design with the traditional STEM subjects. They are working to promote this transition with educational institutions around the country. A recent article in the Tech Edvocate did a good job of advocating for this move. Traditional STEM subjects are analytical or left-brained by nature whereas art and design and creativity and spatial awareness all come from the right hemisphere of the brain. In order to create a holistic or whole brained approach to teaching STEM subjects, we need to call on our powers of analysis and visualization. This makes sense to me. A recent conversation with school-age youth brought up the same points. Instead of arts trying to tag along with STEM, this is a way to actively incorporate other methods of learning into technical subjects.

Thoughts

If we are deliberate and thoughtful about adding art, design, and visualization exercises into traditional STEM curriculum, then I think it can be a plus for the student. It will help them navigate both hemispheres of the brain in order to turn out a more creative product. What are your thoughts? Is STEAM a good idea or will it detract from the STEM emphasis.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Robot Companions for Seniors

Photograph of smiling elderly woman using a tablet computer.Medical technology is allowing us to live longer but increased longevity also means more of us will live alone. Our average life expectancy is rising but we will not all live to be 100 or older. For seniors living alone, there are now solutions to help with basic living, scheduling, and social tasks that can help keep them independent.

Robot Companions

Isolation is a problem for many people living alone. They may be unable to get out to interact with other people or they simply may have no desire to do so. This is where robots could help. Intuition Robotics has recently introduced ElliQ, an artificial intelligence (AI) robot that interacts with seniors. While this robot does not have traditional arms and legs it is designed to keep seniors in touch with others and help them track appointments and even suggest activities. Most importantly, it works through a natural speech interface. It communicates through a combination of lights and sounds and voice. Because it incorporates machine learning, or AI, it learns habits and preferences and helps set and remember daily schedules and routines.

ElliQ is designed to be a fixed robot but other robots, such as Softbank’s Pepper, are mobile. At this time it can only carry the built-in tablet which acts as its interface, but it can follow or get to people who are less mobile. This is a relatively new device that is starting to be used in retail shops to interact with customers.

Robokind has developed Milo, which is a combination of ElliQ and Pepper but with more humanlike limbs and facial expressions. It accepts voice input and interacts with people through natural voice output and body language. Milo is being touted for seniors and those living alone and for people on the autism spectrum who can benefit from his personal interaction.

Possibilities

I can think of other benefits of these robots. They could aid and encourage music practice. For example, they could be programmed to be a metronome while I practice an instrument. Better yet, they could provide another part of the music that I am playing. For example, if I play the guitar, perhaps the robot could play bass violin or another part to accompany me. Another use could be practicing or learning a foreign language. With the right programming, the robot could provide many components of good language learning courses—lessons, immersion, repetitive practice, immediate feedback and correction.

All of these things keep the mind active and hopefully slow the inevitable aging process. Repetitive tasks such as music or language lessons can increase brain activity and general life satisfaction. With the aid of technology, those extra years can be rich and rewarding.

Thoughts

Can you think of other applications that would help seniors, particularly those living alone? Will robot apps become a new industry? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Academic Research: Benefits of Collaboration

I have been researching technology collaboration between research universities and corporations. There are brilliant students and professors in university research programs but limited funding. Companies are hungry for innovations to fill their pipeline and generally have substantial resources. This week we’ll take a look at the practice of technology transfer and point out some of the successes of the last few years.

Innovation

In my AIM innovations course we debate potential sources of ideas. Sometimes it seems as if companies are pulling from a dry well or merely creating extensions of existing technologies because that is what they are most familiar with. Psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” This is true when trying to diagnose psychological issues or developing breakthrough technology solutions. Student scientists, researchers and inventors often have no knowledge of what has or has not worked in the past. They ask “what if” as if there were no barriers and proceed to develop new products and applications.

Applications

Here at the University of Oregon there have been several technology transfers in recent years, both to existing companies and new companies spun off for the purpose of commercializing research. One of the most recent start-ups is Suprasensor which focuses on precision agriculture or what they call “the introduction of science and technology to farm management.” They have developed green farming practices by using sensors which enable growers to use less water and fertilizer while enjoying a greater yield.

On the UO campus, the new Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact seeks to turn laboratory discoveries into tangible innovations that improve lives. This program is just getting off the ground thanks to a generous donation and promises to work with other universities and corporations in breakthrough solutions. Also here at home, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) was formed to coordinate research and commercialization work done by companies and academics in the state and help create new products.

From Research To Application

The nicotine patch came out of research from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). The technology was developed and patented by UCLA and licensed by Ciba-Geigy as a commercial product. This is a great example of university research that led to a beneficial and potentially lifesaving product for millions.

The Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) grew out of the early University of Oregon Medical School in order to expand education and research and to include new focus areas such as biotechnology and biomedicine. A search of the OHSU license portfolio reveals new drugs, devices, and therapies that benefit people worldwide but also helps the university through revenue that can be put back into research for breakthrough treatments. It is a cycle for the university and an example of a profitable collaboration that can save or improve lives for patients.

Thoughts

Research and development is not as efficient or effective when done by one cloistered group. It pays to collaborate with others and reach outside of the traditional walls of development to discover new ideas. That graduate researcher may have just the answer you have been looking for.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Value of Real and Virtual Communities

A couple of weeks ago I learned some lessons on community while in a small rural ranching valley. I learned how a community can come together in an emergency and how they support each other and watch out for one another.

 Perfect Storm

I arrived in this valley at just the right time, or just the wrong time depending on your perspective. Earlier this winter there had been one to two feet of snow and sub-zero temperatures, but when I arrived the daytime temperatures were in the high forties with occasional rain and it barely got below freezing at night. Mountains surround this narrow valley with a river running sometimes close to homes and through ranches. The warmth was melting the snow in the hills and valley but because of the prolonged sub-zero temperatures the ground was still frozen, so it couldn’t absorb the melt. This turned the normally placid river into a quarter-mile-wide path of running water that could not sink into the ground. The creeks coming out of the hills were seeking drainage anywhere they could, which meant flooding over roads and fields.

Life Lessons

During this flooding, I helped position straw bales in front of one home to keep water from entering it. Shortly afterwards, some community volunteers came with sandbags and helped us stack them around the house. After they left a group of at least twenty high school youth arrived and stacked a few more sandbags. I was so impressed by the community response that I asked one of the youth why they were not in school today. His response was classic, “Today is a life lesson day.” It turns out this was their third life lesson day since they spent the previous days filling sandbags and preparing for distribution. This caravan moved up and down the valley helping community members prepare for rising water. What a great lesson indeed for the students.

Physical and Virtual

In the case of potential physical danger it is nice to know we can rely on community to help us, but what value do we get from our virtual networks? There are no virtual sandbags, but it would be shortsighted to say our virtual friends cannot come together to support us. A number of years ago I was surprised to see a friend’s Facebook post asking for prayers for her husband who had just had a stroke and was on his way to the hospital. I would have been focused solely on the physical problems at hand, but her virtual community meant enough to her that she reached out in that moment. The requested prayers were her sandbags against the coming storm.

A recent article highlighted people with disabilities who have built a community in Second Life. They cannot always participate in their local physical communities so they have built a virtual space where they can make friends and get and give support. This is their community and support network.

Thoughts

Since my recent experiences with community support, I have been thinking about the differences and similarities between virtual and physical networks. I value each community differently. My social media friends around the world cannot come to my aid in the event of a physical problem, but they provide me with different support that I value just as much. At the end of the day, I think it is important to maintain both groups. Let me know what you value about your communities, virtual or physical.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Planning for the Wireless Future

A recent article in my local paper showcased a new solar powered phone charger and wi-fi hotspot built into a park bench. Apparently these are coming to cities such as Boston and New York, but they are already in a park in my own town. This got me thinking about the ubiquity of wireless connections and the expectations that there should be access almost everywhere. Vehicles are becoming personal internet access points, and I suspect that I could even turn my bicycle into a hot spot. With this expectation of widespread and growing wireless access, how is a network architect supposed to plan for the future? In this post I hope to synthesize best practices of corporate and campus planners to help you plan your own infrastructure.

 Greenfield or Incremental?

Unless you are moving into a brand new building you don’t have the luxury of the greenfield approach, or starting from scratch. The folks at Cisco and other network component providers recommend developing a master plan and then tackling the project in stages. A wireless network consists of routers and switches in the back end and access points at the front end. If you have not been performing periodic upgrades then the entire infrastructure may need to be replaced.

When replacing the system components, look to the future in terms of technology and capacity. There is still a lot of equipment running on the old 802.11b/g standard but 802.11n is a better solution. Even better is 802.11ac but there are not many current devices that can access this standard, although they are coming fast. When developing a plan, look out at least five years to estimate the wireless devices that will be accessing your network. Don’t forget about bring your own devices (BYOD) and Internet of Things (IoT) introducing devices that we may not even have thought of yet.

Appetite for Bandwidth

A December 2015 Educause survey found that 61% of undergraduates in a typical college or university are trying to connect at least two wireless devices to the network at the same time. Some are trying to connect up to four devices at once. University of Oregon enrolled 23,634 students for fall 2016 so using the average of two devices, that is over 47,000 devices potentially hitting the network. That is a lot of access points and switches that need to be working right. Particularly for colleges, but also for businesses, it is important to have the right mix of access, speed, and reliability.

In the article mentioned above, Michael Spande, director of Enterprise Services at Bethel University, says “People pick their colleges based on factors like how good the wireless network is. They share their experiences online, and we can either look good or have a big black eye.” Quality wireless access has become a competitive differentiator.

Refresh, Refresh, Refresh

Whether you are managing a university, corporate, or hospital network, it is important to keep refreshing the hardware and software to ensure high performance. It is hard to predict what the future will hold, so network architects need to be part seers and part engineers. Just like PCs, the technology changes so quickly that a planned refresh cycle is critical to keep up with demand and with newer devices trying to access the network. Some recommend replacing one-quarter of the components every year while others stretch that out to a five-to-six-year refresh cycle. It depends a lot on demand and requirements of the devices accessing the network.

Thoughts

I remember when we installed the first wireless access points, they truly were a novelty. We targeted conference rooms because all of the offices were already hard-wired so wi-fi in those areas would have been redundant. Times have changed and wireless access is the future. Whether sitting on a park bench or in a restaurant, or playing golf on the front nine, our “always on” society is quickly adjusting to internet access anytime, anywhere. Are you ready?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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