DAS Technology Will Dominate The Future of In-Building Connectivity, Industry Experts Say
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At last month’s Wireless Tech Conference, a public sector IT manager, health system chief technology officer, airport manager, real estate developer and automotive program manager joined forces to discuss the future of wireless technology. They identified the challenges their industries are facing and shared their predictions for the future.
While each had different perspectives, there is one thing they all agreed on: Distributed antenna systems have come to define connectivity across industries.
The term DAS has become somewhat of a buzzword in the technology industry, and it is now making its way into commercial real estate. DAS, short for Distributed Antenna System, is a system of antennas that distributes cellular signals across a given area through a high-bandwidth, fiber-optic network. It is most commonly used in any space or venue where demand for connectivity is high and service providers need to enhance their coverage or network capacity. DAS technology provides dense spaces with coverage that is speedy and adaptable.
For Washington Holdings Manager Aaron Blankers, tenant expectations around connectivity are beginning to change. Commercial and residential tenants are not just making calls anymore; they are streaming more data than ever.
“Before now, the inconvenience of where your phone does and doesn’t work in the building was just accepted, and that’s totally starting to change,” Blankers said. “While we haven’t had any tenants propose to put it in their lease, I think that day is coming.”
DAS has become a critical component of not only traditional spaces like offices and apartment buildings, but also nontraditional ones. An increasingly mobile-first culture has prompted higher demand in several types of spaces. Buildings and venues have increased wireless connectivity options to meet the demand of a population on the go.
Airports have been pushing the boundaries for connectivity. John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, recently implemented a monthly survey program to better understand the level of satisfaction from customers. Through these surveys, the IT team at JW Airport discovered that wireless connectivity was the No. 1 complaint among its patrons.
The airport solved this problem by working with service providers to increase internet speed from 5 megabytes to 20 megabytes while providing four hours of free WiFi to customers. Improving the overall guest experience was just the beginning. Traveler safety also needed an upgrade.
“One area we really need to improve is our emergency response teams,” JW Airport IT Manager Jessica Miller said. “There are a lot of emerging technologies outside of the guest experience that we need to include and measure.”
John Wayne Airport plans to build an operations center that would use DAS to improve communication among first responders so they can respond to potential airport emergencies from active shooters to plane crashes.
Corporate heaquarters and manufacturing facilities are also beginning to implement DAS technology to improve worker safety. Automotive giant Toyota decided to incorporate DAS technology into its telecommunications infrastructure at its Plano, Texas, campus to improve in-building connectivity and access to public safety. Toyota implemented two DAS systems: one to support cellular connectivity, and one that could communicate with first responders.
For other sectors, the implementation of DAS technology is a little more complicated. In the healthcare industry, DAS strengthens existing networks to create advanced medical technology and improve communication between doctors, patients and families.
Connectivity is crucial to effective patient care. Hospitals need stronger communication technology that allows patients to communicate with doctors and practitioners so they can respond quickly and effectively. If these systems fail to operate effectively, it can delay service within a hospital. In the worst cases, it can be a matter of life and death.
In North Carolina, healthcare system Mission Health has implemented DAS to equip doctors and nurses with the tools to provide patients with fast and effective treatment.
“The alerts from our equipment all rely on wireless signal,” Mission Health Chief Technology Officer Joseph Wolfgram said. “We need to design these systems so that if an alert comes from a patient room, it goes to the nearest care member on that patient’s team. The reliability of those networks is extremely important.”
In the future, demand for connectivity will continue to increase. As IT managers and service providers brainstorm cost-effective ways to keep people connected, safety and reliability are a top-of-mind priority.
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