School District’s Wireless Network Delivers Emergency Response System for Community


By Heather A. Johnson

With more than 13,000 K-12 students across 19 schools, Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD), roughly 40 miles east of San Francisco, had two goals in deploying a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). First, it wanted to bring the versatility of mobile computing to each classroom, student, teacher and faculty member. Second, it wanted to offer an emergency response system to the schools and community at large.

Students and faculty increasingly rely on computers as a day-to-day resource for learning and instruction, so the deployment of a wireless network was an efficient and easily managed way to meet the demand for mobile computing. “We wanted to get away from the traditional computer scenario,” says Geoff Warner, director of I.T. for LVJUSD.

Beginning with a pilot program at Granada High School in September 2007, LVJUSD turned to Trapeze Networks to install its Smart Mobile wireless solution. Noting its success, Warner says the district plans to deploy the same networking equipment and software to all of its schools by the end of March, at an estimated cost of $410,789. The full wireless network will contain approximately 550 access points and 22 controllers.

Trapeze’s Smart Mobile WiFi wireless local area network (WLAN) infrastructure optimizes network traffic based on the underlying application, says David Cohen, director of marketing for Trapeze Networks. Through innovative “intelligent switching,” Trapeze overcomes the limits of current-generation WLANs, which require all network traffic to pass through a central wireless controller. As users increase in number and more applications are deployed, the controller and core network start to break down, requiring forklift upgrades to keep up with demands, according to Cohen.

Eliminating these round trips to the central controller, Smart Mobile distributes switching functionality to access points throughout the network, allowing them to communicate directly. In turn, this optimizes traffic flow and reduces network load. School districts and other enterprises can mix and match distributed and centralized switching based on the needs of the underlying application, which enhances performance of the wireless network application, such as voice, video and data, according to Cohen.

Trapeze Networks’ RingMaster software preserves centralized management of the wireless network. The software distributes security policies, forwarding tables, and configuration information to access points throughout the network.

Livermore is one of the many K-12 school districts worldwide using WiFi technology to deliver network access in classrooms and other areas typically lacking coverage. But for LVJUSD, wireless management solutions and technologies also serve as an emergency response system that can support its schools and the Livermore community at large.

The district realized that a wireless network could be leveraged across multiple agencies during a crisis. Warner says the district recently held a technology-based emergency response demonstration in collaboration with local government agencies, including the Livermore police and fire departments. An earthquake was simulated to illustrate how broadband and wireless technologies, including Trapeze’s wireless network and location appliance, can be used in such an emergency for connectivity and real-time wireless tracking when all telecommunications and I.T. networks go down. 

 “These guys are doing some amazing stuff,” says Cohen. “Think of all the important communication that has to go on during an emergency. This can all happen over WiFi when everything else fails, [which] makes a huge difference, even in the worst of situations.” Hoping other schools are encouraged to follow suit, Cohen adds, “it is an extremely special way to use a WiFi network.”

“Schools are emerging as natural emergency gathering hubs in which communities can congregate during a crisis or disaster when all cellular, wireline phone, and I.T. networks may be severely compromised or down entirely,” says Jim Vogt, president and CEO of Trapeze Networks, in a company statement.  “In such critical situations, wireless connectivity is indispensable—and is perhaps the only method for enabling communication.”

Reader Alert! Keep an eye out for our March 2008 edition of Mobile Enterprise magazine for detailed articles on wireless deployments on campus and the latest on emergency alert systems.





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