Mellon: Major University Provides Platform for Wireless Research
Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is ranked among the nation's top 20 private research universities. Its Information Networking Institute, the first research and education center devoted to information networking, received an endowment from the National Science Foundation to create an experimental high-speed wireless network. Dubbed "Wireless Andrew," the network is now in the testing stage.
Application: Linking Wired and Wireless Networks Wireless Andrew is a 2-megabit-per-second wireless local area network connected through access points to the wired Andrew network, a high-speed Ethernet backbone linking buildings across the Carnegie Mellon campus. The combination of networks gives high-speed access to any user with a portable computer and a wireless LAN card from any building covered by access points. In addition, a low-bandwidth wide area network that covers the greater Pittsburgh area provides researchers and others with off-campus wired access to campus networks.
Campus network services include e-mail and file transfer, access to audio and image data, access to the library and other databases, and full Internet access.
Benefits: Increased Access to Campus Networks and Creation of Leading Research Platform The Institute's wireless initiative not only serves the campus community by increasing high-speed access to campus networks. It also provides an infrastructure for research in wireless communication. As the university's Dr. Ben Bennington points out, "What makes us different from other wireless technology customers is that we're not implementing an application; we're implementing infrastructure, a kind of 'honey pot' to attract people to mobility research."
In the area of infrastructure, Carnegie Mellon has anticipated the need for the next generation of systems to integrate wired and wireless networks by giving researchers a platform for developing and testing "middleware" - software that allows seamless access to the various wired and wireless networks which a roaming computer encounters.
As for mobility research, the system will provide a major test bed for Carnegie Mellon and its sponsors, giving researchers in many fields, inside and outside the university, a way to explore the uses of mobile computing. Programs include systems research, development of computer platforms for mobile use, compression research, and research on the human factors of mobile computing. The Institute's ongoing development is resulting in numerous innovative uses of wireless LANs, including emergency response, health care, and vehicle maintenance. One project involves communication with trains to download diagnostic data. Another involves "wearable computers" - a project for developing innovative maintenance systems that free technicians' hands while still giving them access to engineering drawings and other information.
Installation Size Wireless Andrew consists of 100 access points covering six buildings on the Carnegie Mellon campus. The university tested the current setup with over 40 mobile units before allowing general use by reseachers and students in February 1997.