Tablet-Based Site Surveys with AirMapper

Tablet-Based Site Surveys with AirMapper

By CWNP On 10/17/2012 - 31 Comments

Both AirMagnet and Ekahau provide a tablet-based product for performing site surveys. By focusing on AirMapper in this blog post, I can narrow my comments, but I am not suggesting that it is a superior product to Ekahau’s tool. However, AirMapper is less expensive (in the Pro edition) and also comes in a limited feature free version available through the company website at flukenetworks.com.

Tools like AirMapper allow you to generate heat maps of RF coverage on floor plan documents using a very simple process: walk around and touch the floor plan map where you are standing periodically. The software takes a reading of the RF signal at that location and documents it. From this information, it can generate a good coverage map for your WLAN. It can be used to test an existing WLAN for tablets or to perform an initial site survey with a tablet.

As tablets and Wi-Fi phones become more and more popular in the workplace, it becomes increasingly important that our WLANs support these devices. They tend to have radios with less power and may not support the ranges of the traditional WLAN clients: laptops. However, if a WLAN is optimized for VoWLAN handsets, it will likely work well with tablets too. Either way, using a tablet to perform the site survey is an excellent way to ensure that such devices will work well when the final WLAN is implemented.

NOTE: Using tablet-based site survey software does not replace the more advanced features of laptop-based software. However, it is for this reason that both AirMagnet and Ekahau support exporting the information to their full-featured software packages in the paid versions of their products.

The following image is taken using a county survey map of a property for an outdoor site survey where tablet and other mobile devices must be supported. The APs installed on the property include two meraki APs and one CradlePoint wireless router; however, the site survey is focused on a single SSID so the image shows only APs servicing that SSID. This is a post implementation analysis site survey showing that insufficient coverage (without even considering capacity) is provided on the property (see the darker yellow areas).

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Site Survey Results Site Survey Results[/caption]

When I touch each “read point” it provides me with detailed information about the readings at that point as shown in the following image:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Read Location Details Read Location Details[/caption]

The features of AirMapper and other such tablet-based site survey tools often include:

  • Android-based device support or iOS device support (someday, we may have proper cross-platform support)
  • Visual RF provided through heat map overlays on floor plan drawings
  • Filtering the view
    • By access point
    • By SSID
    • Exporting the results
    • Touch-and-go site surveying


The kind folks at AirMagnet provided me with a nice graphic showing the impact of BYOD and providing statistics that show why tablet-based analysis tools like AirMapper are useful for even enterprise WLAN engineers. The following image provides this overview:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="792"]BYOD Impact BYOD Impact[/caption]

I am still working on a good way to give you a video overview of the AirMapper software. When I figure that out I will post a video review of sorts on the CWNPTV channel at YouTube. For now, head over to the flukenetworks.com website to learn more.

Frames Are Food,
Tom

Tagged with: site survey, Android, tom carpenter, airmapper, tablet

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