How Heat Mapping Helps to Identify Wireless Connectivity Gaps
Reliable enterprise wireless connectivity can make or break a business, particularly those that rely on mobile devices. As companies become more and more dependent on this connectivity, they’re finding value in partnering with third-party suppliers to perform regular wireless site surveys to ensure their network is performing at optimal levels.
One of the best ways third-party partners can assist companies dealing with wireless connectivity issues is through heat mapping. Heat maps are software-generated during a wireless site survey and can be configured to show a variety of data, including signal strength, signal-to-noise ratios, and channel coverage. A diagram of the facility floor plan is overlaid with color-coded visual data, helping network operators see where access points need to be adjusted, added, or removed.
Contrary to common belief, more wireless is not always better. Often, an overabundance of access points results in co-channel interference — when the tuning circuit of a wireless receive becomes confused due to a second wireless signal detected with the same frequency. Heat mapping reveals when the interference is from the company network, and the engineer or operator can then determine how to solve the issue.
The Heat Mapping Process
When a company hires a supplier to perform the survey, they provide the supplier with facility maps. The engineer then walks the entire facility, making each pass about 15 to 20 feet apart. Data gathered is graphed into a heat map and overlaid onto the facility maps, which the engineer reviews with the company network operator to begin troubleshooting any problems on-site.
If the company chooses to hire a supplier only to diagnose the problem, the supplier will give a report, make recommendations, and predict results if those recommendations are implemented. If the supplier is hired to fix the problem, they’ll implement the changes immediately, rewalk the facility again, and retest to make sure the issue was resolved. Suppliers such as TRG give custom reports to their customers for each specific job.
A Practical Example
TRG was recently hired to perform a wireless site survey at a 200,000-square-foot warehouse. Employees had reported an increase in dropped connections on their mobile devices, and initial troubleshooting efforts had been unsuccessful.
TRG’s site survey showed that coverage and signal-to-noise ratio was adequate — but channel coverage was not. The heat map showed that more than 60 percent of the facility was using one particular channel, resulting in improper, uneven channelization through existing co-channel overlap.
The general rule is to not have more than three channels — at best, two – individual access points broadcasting the same channel in the same geography. Visualizing the data provided by the heat map, TRG was able to make accurate recommendations for change.
Prior to hiring TRG, the company had performed a virtual site survey and hadn’t engaged anyone to evaluate the network on-site. The virtual site survey had recommended the purchase of 26 access points (and the labor to install them, the materials to run the cable, and the licenses to support the infrastructure). TRG’s analysis suggested the company should disable approximately half the access points to optimize performance.
To validate the recommendation, TRG sent the company a tablet to do a remote survey/test in which they turned off 13 access points. The result was ample coverage. The heat maps were used not only to show data on current performance, but also to test recommended measures and prove predicted outcomes.
Want a good visual of what your wireless connectivity looks like? Contact us using the form below, and we’ll be happy to discuss a site survey with you.