Thursday, September 24, 2020
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Home Smart Buildings Building Management What Property Owners Really Need to Know About Planning In-Building Wireless Systems

What Property Owners Really Need to Know About Planning In-Building Wireless Systems

Featuring Connectivity Wireless’ VP of Project Management, Mark Power

INTERVIEWEE: Mark Power, Vice President of Project Management at Connectivity Wireless
TOPIC: Why planning is critical to the success of wireless system deployments

1. What is one thing you really wish property owners knew about successfully planning in-building wireless systems (IBW)?

It will take some time and coordination, but your early involvement during the discovery and planning phases can expedite the entire deployment process.

Gaining consensus on technologies, equipment locations, pathways and aesthetics takes time and iteration. Depending upon the technologies your system will include – Wi-Fi, public safety, private CBRS, or DAS – a host of potential stakeholders will need to provide input into the design and overall project. Further, different funding models add a layer of complexity that affects which stakeholders will be involved in the process.

Getting from discovery to project kick off can sometimes take longer than the construction phase. You can make the process go more efficiently simply by being actively involved from the beginning and making sure the right departments and those with the authority to support the efforts are included in the planning phase.

Once the right planning process is completed, the construction phase will go much smoother. Where the property owner or manager can have the most influence in maintaining the overall project timeline, without it affecting everyone’s bottom line, is during this essential planning phase.

2. What advice do you have for building management or owners to make the planning process go as smoothly as possible?

Having an experienced and specialized project manager for your IBW system deployment can make all the difference.

Because of the complexity of these projects, you should select an experienced integration partner that makes provision for a dedicated, industry-specialized project manager to oversee all tasks related to each stage in deployment process, not just construction. A seasoned project manager will detail and execute plans for all phases, including discovery, engineering design, carrier approvals, owner approvals, project kick-off, communication plans, permitting, materials procurement, contracting various trades, construction, inspections, system turn-up, optimization, acceptance, and close out, to name a few.

Each of the stages involve complex, interdependent subsidiary tasks that need to be coordinated and communicated in alignment with the overall project timeline to ensure that deadlines are met and the cost remains on budget. The more experience your project manager has with the process, technologies, and the trades involved, the more cohesive these teams will work together.

To drive this point home, let’s just take one point of discovery phase and see how it impacts all other aspects of the project plan:

Here is a list of a few of the decisions that require collaboration between building ownership and the building engineer, alone, when it comes to deciding on a location for the main equipment room (ER) to contain the Head End (HE) equipment.

• Pathways must be determined for the Head End ER:
o To adequate AC power
o To the Main Point of Entry (MPOE) for telco services
o To the riser closets for the signaling cables and remotes
• HVAC or ventilation needs for the ER must be reconciled. Will we utilize:
o A stand-alone independent HVAC system
o The building’s existing chiller system
o A simpler heat exchange ventilation system
• Matching capacity needs with locations in the building with adequate AC power
o This could mean utilizing a few circuits in an existing switch panel to the rare scenario of bringing in new service from the power company; meaning yet another party to coordinate with.

Again, this is just one project task, albeit an important one, where a diverse set of stakeholders, including the building manager the building engineer, and the building’s architect if a new building, and potentially the owner, should be involved in any of the above decisions. You can see how complicated the process quickly becomes assuming that there are several phases, each involving interdependent tasks, subtasks and multiple stakeholders. Any oversight or delay in a single task can potentially impact the timeframe for the overall project plan.

A good project manager will address potential problems and deliver solutions. Their aim should be to lighten the burden on the customer by guiding them through critical decisions and helping them make the best choices to align with their business needs today without sacrificing their long-term wireless goals.

All of this to say, any (experienced) integration partner you choose to work with should provision for a dedicated, industry-specialized project manager as part of a sound deployment plan.

3. How will the increasing interconnection of wireless systems over the next 5-10 years impact the planning process for property owners?

Property owners will not see a big change in the process of planning wireless systems, what will change for property owners is the number of stakeholders and opportunities to create value for tenants and visitors.

The planning and successful deployment of new technologies will require a deeper level of experience with new technologies and how to integrate them most efficiently.
A good wireless integrator and project management team will know how to ask the right questions, serve as subject matter experts, and minimize the iterations to develop an executable solution and facilitate its completion.

Some common examples of these newer technologies include 5G nodes, parking occupancy monitoring, robotic cleaning machines, and automated building controls. As we see these commonly adopted among most industries over the next 5-10 years, new discovery questions and checkpoints, that have not previously been applicable, will become critical.

For example: We had one customer who had Wi-Fi in their parking garage. A parking app company approached them with a digital solution for cloud-based transactions using sensor technology. Because sensitive information, credit cards, etc., was being transferred over the network, Wi-Fi in this case was not the best solution due to the lack of encryption and security; LTE was the preferred technology. But the customer’s capital was already spent on the Wi-Fi, so they were unable to adopt the parking app solution. As systems become more interdependent, it will become increasingly more important for customers to make these types of decisions on the front end of any wireless infrastructure or technology investment.

Here is another example of a simple question that was previously irrelevant: Do I need wireless coverage in storage closets? To date, the answer for the majority of properties is no, but as self-automated and digital devices become main stream in facility operations, this will change.

We have a customer who adopted a digital ticketing system. The scanners were kept in a storage closet to charge overnight and because the devices processed software updates when charging, they needed dependable internet connectivity. Robotic cleaning systems are another such driver for extending wireless coverage to previously unprioritized spaces, like storage closets.

In essence, the planning and discovery questions at the front-end of any project will be the most impactful phase in determining the type of wireless network that you need to support your property’s wireless goals in the long term as well as determine your ability to adopt new and emerging wireless-dependent devices and technologies

4. How long have you been in wireless?

26 years.

I was introduced to telecom via Fort Gordon, Georgia during my military service and got in the door with a wireless services company 26 years ago. Since then, I spent a few years with an OEM deploying smart antennas, then started, ran and sold my own services company after nine successful years. In 2014, I joined Connectivity Wireless and have led several groups including Deployment, Network Operations and currently Project Management.

5. Tell us about yourself

Jacksonville, Florida is where I called home through high school. I went to college, joined the National Guard, and most importantly, found my bride while living in Lynchburg, VA for just over 10 years. Telecom eventually drew me to north Texas 21 years ago where my wife and I raised two lovely daughters. Today, we enjoy watching the garden, pecans and poultry grow at our home just north of the Dallas area.

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