UTS' Three-Pronged Mobility Effort

March 27, 2010

The driving force in today’s IT is mobility. Every new laptop, handheld device, and smartphone stresses the flexibility of completely wireless connectivity. In response to this communication evolution, University Technology Services (UTS) is in the midst of three significant improvements to Emory’s wireless experience: Emory Mobile, Next Gen Wireless, and the Distributed Antenna System (DAS).

Emory Mobile, a collection of smartphone apps, gives device-toting students, faculty, alumni, and campus visitors access to over 100 sources of data to enhance their Emory experience. UTS and Communications & Marketing partnered to develop Emory Mobile, which allows users to navigate campus maps, browse news and events, search campus contacts, follow Emory Eagles sports and more.

The Emory Mobile platform has been established to provide a common mobile space for future apps to be developed. While many data sources on campus can be included in one of the existing apps, having a standardized platform allows for seamless growth and expansion.

Emory Mobile is scheduled to be available in the Apple App Store in August. Blackberry and wireless application protocol (WAP) versions should also be available soon thereafter. Stay tuned for formal launch announcements.

Next Gen Wireless, which features the installation of the latest in wireless access point technology, is UTS’ response to the increased on-campus demand from laptops, iPads and other handheld devices. Placed strategically around campus, these devices project Emory’s network signal into areas occupied by students, faculty and staff who need access.

In much the same way that computer technology improved while becoming less expensive, the new wireless access points offer greater performance at a much lower cost. Specifically called 802.11n, these devices feature improved throughput and almost double the speed of Emory’s old wireless network.

All residence halls and several academic buildings were upgraded over the summer, with the remaining academic buildings, hospitals and clinics to follow.

DAS is a solution to the question, “Why does my cell phone quit working when I go into this building?” Emory has contracted with a third-party vendor to improve cellular coverage inside many of the structures on campus. Cellular coverage supplied by antennae is often not sufficient to provide reliable coverage for building interiors. A supplemental, in-building system (a distributed antenna system, or DAS) is often required to provide service. The use of these systems will allow Emory to spread cellular coverage into previously unreachable areas.

Interestingly, cellular dead zones have been more prevalent in newer buildings constructed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards. New construction uses thicker walls and Low-E glass windows to improve air-tightness and save energy, but they also block cellular signals from coming into the buildings. This presents greater challenges in receiving cellular service.
In addition to improved signal strength and capacity, the cellular carriers are also facilitating future upgrades to 4G, 5G and other future cellular technologies. Critical areas of need around Emory have been identified and phased plans are underway to implement improvements over the next several months.

“By taking a proactive approach to mobility growth,” said Alan Cattier, Director of Academic Technologies, “UTS has positioned Emory to successfully meet the challenges presented by users who want to access campus digital resources anytime, anywhere.”

Paul Petersen, Director, UTS Infrastructure Technology Services