CES mini-exhibit forgets to use technology to demonstrate technology

Secret to decent WiFi: more access points

In the giant, crowded, geek-infested center of the technology universe, the air is just not thick enough to support everyone.

WiFi and cellular networks are so overwhelmed on show floors and around the conference buildings that organizers are asking employees, some exhibitors and even attendees to turn off some of the wireless networking connections their devices carry.

Organizers of the ShowStoppers mega-PR event, at which a subset of "cool" companies are highlighted by promoters who lure reporters in with free food and other enticements (like chairs in which to sit after a long day on a big show floor) sent out an email asking people to shut off WiFi on their mobile devices and hotspots to leave spectrum available for exhibitors to demonstrate their products.

WiFi wasn't designed for large events at which thousands of people log in to access points all sharing a single frequency range, organizers argue (correctly). It was designed for smaller areas and smaller populations of users.

True, but cell networks were not, and they're often swamped at large events, even those far less thick with new phone products than CES.

Long term (which in the tech business means anything beyond six months) could this be a fly in the ointment of ubiquitous, wireless connectivity and computing?

Yes and no. Yes it is, and will continue to be. No it isn't because it will be solved before too long by adding frequency hopping, microfrequency selection and the ability for an AP to claim a microfrequency on which it can advertise its own services without bleeding into or swamping the signal of nearby WLANs.

" Perhaps the entrepreneurs, innovators and journalists attending ShowStoppers tonight can improve this?" the ShowStoppers email read.

Sure. How about this. ShowStoppers and mini-conferences like it hold their events in conference rooms or secondary halls separated from the main show floors (usually) by cinder-block walls. The kind that tend to block short-range, bandwidth-limited networking signals like WiFi's.

So, it should be possible -- with the right skills and cutting edge technology -- to add more access points inside the conference room and another Ethernet connection or two to ramp up the available bandwidth.

Just a thought.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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