We are now in the final stages of planning for the Showman’s Show 2010 and looking forward with meeting new and existing customers around the marquees and stands. This year our indoor stand (in the warm, number 68 ) is right on the main row whilst our outdoor stand (171) is at the end of avenue G. Whatever the weather it would be great to see you there.  

If you haven’t had the chance to make your way over to the Newbury show ground before, The Showman’s Show is the trade show of choice for the events industry. An eclectic mix of everything from portable toilets, stages, marquees, lighting companies and of course event technology suppliers (us!)  

Etherlive at the Showman's Show

The Showman's Show - Etherlive will be at stands 68 & 171

A little taster of some of the things we will be exhibiting:  

Reliable Connectivity – We’ll continue to talk about our passion delivering temporary connectivity – wired and wireless for any size and shape of event, from media centres to entire festivals.  

An Overview of Connectivity Options – From a phone line and broadband to high capacity fixed line and satellite services. We have a range of options to meet all needs.  

Mobile Phone Data Offload – Fed up with smartphone apps not working at events? Find out what we have been doing to resolve this problem.  

RFID Solutions – After successful trials in 2010 we will be demonstrating our Smartcard system for crew catering (no more paper vouchers!) and other authorisation aspects.  

That’s just a few of the things we will be talking about, along with some old favourites like the Communications Tower Light, CCTV, VoIP, network management & monitoring, flight-case based network hubs and more. Drop in for a chat, a coffee or a bottle of the finest Etherlive water.  

The Showman’s Show, Newbury Showground is open 20th and 21st October 9:30am – 4pm.

ADSL. Never before has one technology been responsible for liberating thousands and frustrating just as many at the same time. Some may think I’m overplaying its importance but this one implementation of technology has made huge changes to our lives. I’m not suggesting it’s the light bulb or the printing press but as we install temporary connectivity services for our event customers around the UK it astounds me how high expectations are with regards to connectivity. Even better (or worse – depending how you see the world) is how quickly everyone has forgotten the pain of the dial-up modem which, until a few years ago, was our only way onto the Internet!    

Everyone wants Wi-Fi (from compguy.co.za)

Broadband take-up in the UK currently stands at 73%, having more than doubled since 2005 when Facebook.com had only just been bought by Zuckerberg and friends for a mere £200,000. Fast broadband was something most people just didn’t have. I don’t mean people out in far flung corners of the country (that’s a generalisation I know…I’ll get to it shortly) but I mean people in towns and large villages where you were still stuck paying by the second for modems to squawk and shriek their way through six or seven emails at a time.    

Now we expect, nay demand, always on fast Internet. Fast enough we don’t have to wait for the download to finish or the web page to render. Even in my short time on the planet I struggle to think how I ever survived on a 33k dial up modem (yes I had one). I remember the first time I used my newly purchased snap on modem module for my Palm Pro PDA at other people’s houses. I literally got rounds of applause for checking the weather using my Freeserve account through an 0845 telephone number. Nowadays if someone hasn’t got “20 Mbit/s” (megabits per second) broadband with Wi-Fi connectivity prevalent within the house I don’t stop for coffee, let alone dinner.    

My point, I guess, is that broadband (now synonymously coupled with Wi-Fi) has become as ‘expected’ as the TV or the complimentary coffee. Not only does it mean companies like Etherlive exist to meet that expectation but, with or without technical partners like us on board, it’s expected to be provided and work, 100% of the time.    

So in this, the first of two articles, we go back to the basics a little – what is ADSL? What are its limitations?  

  1. First things first – ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, referring to the technology rather than ‘broadband’ which can be applied to other technologies such as cable modems. The term ‘asymmetric’ alludes to a very important point, ADSL is designed to offer better download speeds than upload speeds, no one had thought about all the content sharing that was possible when ADSL was conceived in the early 90’s!
  2. What flavours of ADSL can you get – Like any technology the only constant is change. Depending on the technology at your closest telephone exchange dictated which generation of ADSL you are stuck with. The original ADSL was approved in 1998 and has been superseded many times but you may still only be able to work with this technology because your local exchange hasn’t been upgraded. The latest forms of ADSL are ADSL2 (2002) with 12.0 Mbit/s download and 1.0 Mbit/s upload and now ADSL2+ (2003) supporting a maximum download of 24.0 Mbit/s and upload of 1.0 Mbit/s
  3. Don’t forget your filter – The little white box which should go on every phone socket that has broadband is a simple bit of hardware which blocks all signals above a certain frequency from entering the phone line. Without it your broadband will not work properly and you will probably have some unpleasant sounds when you make a phone call!
  4. It’s all about distance – Simple really, the further you are from the exchange the lower the speed you can expect. You only get the full ‘headline’ speed when you near enough live next door to the exchange. Also add on to that the fact that older wiring will tend to perform more poorly as cables deteriorate over time. Once you get to a couple of km from the exchange you may be lucky to get a 1Mbps connection.
  5. ‘Unbundled Exchanges’ – This refers to whether an exchange has been opened up to other telecommunications companies, currently it is still primarily cities and large towns that have unbundled exchanges. The advantage of unbundled exchanges is that other companies can provide and control the level of service, whereas in a standard exchange it all goes back to BT (no matter who you use). 
  6. Beware of the small print – I won’t go through the full technical details in this article (we’ll save the best for part two) however there any many ‘gotaches’ with ADSL which you should check before signing up with an Internet service provider. These include, but are not limited to, the contention ratio of the connection (how many people are sharing it, often up to 50), the ADSL technology (ADSL, ADSL2, ADSL2+ etc), download limits, throttling or blocking of certain protocols (important for peer to peer fans) and other terms of use. Not all providers are the same and on the whole the less you pay the lower the level of service you can expect.

That’s part one of our review. Even with other options (explored in the next part) ADSL is sometimes the only option. In the next article we’ll also look at some of the more technical aspects associated with ADSL and what you can do about squeezing every little bit of speed from your connection.

For further information contact:
Becky Martin-Jones / Mark Hook
www.ascentpr.co.uk
etherlive@ascentpr.co.uk
T. 01454 629 741

Reliable Connectivity Makes Hot Air of Balloon Fiesta Safety Concerns

27 September 2010 – Etherlive has helped organisers of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, which attracts over 500,000 attendees, to successfully manage their onsite telecommunications and broadband services.

Richmond Event Management (REM), lead contractor for Europe’s largest Hot Air Balloon event, had concerns over the communications systems used on the site. If disrupted this could raise security issues, or threaten communications between organisers and those working on balloons flights, posing possible public safety risks.

Chris Green, managing director at Etherlive says, “With the Balloon Fiesta attracting more and more people each year, the organisers wanted to safeguard their necessary communications to ensure the safety, security and organisation of the event. 

“We were able to do this through the provision of wireless internet access and VOIP handsets to the core crew managing the fiesta. We also installed a back-up service in case of a power outage, and remote phone lines so organisers could relocate to the event and not miss vital calls or messages.”

Ben Hardy of REM, explains, “Dependable comms has become crucial to the success of a large outdoor event like the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. In the past we tried a variety of solutions, like fully installed phone lines, but these were expensive.

“We approached Etherlive, and its guarantee of a trustworthy system proved accurate, enabling us to fully control operations and ensure reliable communications between staff and those at flight control and our media centre. Etherlive’s approach was also more cost effective than in years previous”.

Chris Green summarises, “We’re pleased to have been able to help the organisers manage security and communication issues successfully for the events duration, and that our efforts aided to the smooth running of this year’s Bristol Balloon Fiesta”.

ENDS

About Etherlive
A successful event depends on great performances. From WOMAD and The Green Man Festival to the Southampton Boat Show and the Three Counties Show, Etherlive is the one that makes IT work. Etherlive sits behind the scenes delivering reliable Wi-Fi internet, telephony, CCTV, laptops, PDQs and interactive messaging. Whether in a field or a building, Etherlive makes connectivity simple.

https://etherlive.co.uk

A well connected media centre goes a long way to keeping journalists happy at events, but all too often I see comments in blogs and on twitter about poor Wi-Fi, slow connections and network meltdown. We operate and support connectivity for many media centres during the year ranging from small rooms with only a few users to large centres catering for hundreds of simultaneous users, so I thought I would share our approach to delivering an excellent experience.

The Sky Media Centre had a main room and several breakout & broadcast rooms

One example I will drawn on is the media centre we operated for Sky News for the Election Debate Broadcast earlier this year which had some interesting requirements. It was an unusual event in that the centre was only to operate for about eight hours in total but during the peak hours around the debate it was expected that the room would be used by over 400 journalists, politicians, television and radio crews simultaneously. The brief also required that all access was to be wireless and that various ‘network throttles’ had to be used to block certain types of transfers and maintain fair usage across all users. Although this event was larger than the average media centre the same principles apply whatever the size, the main aspects of which are as follows:   

1. The Right Internet Connectivity   

This may sound obvious but the wrong connectivity lets down a significant number of media centres, you may have the best wireless on the planet but if the internet connectivity is not good enough the users will be frustrated. The most common problem is using a broadband/ADSL line for connectivity which for all but the smallest of centres is likely to be totally unsuitable. The usage in a media centre is different from typical internet usage in that uploading of data is more important than downloading data. Broadband/ADSL lines are designed primarily for downloading and have a very low upload speed, typically only about 400kbps. The second issue with broadband lines is that the vast majority of providers use a high contention ratio on their service, this means that even if the connection says it’s 8Mbps, at the exchange the connection typically is then shared with up to 50 other users. The busier the exchange the worse the experience becomes.   

So what options are available instead? There is no straight forward answer to that as it depends on location, requirements and budget but the key thing is there are different options and with some up front planning the right solution can be put in place which can make a huge difference to the users experience. For the Sky Election Debate we had a 1Gbps fibre link with a second diverse routed failover link providing a typical wireless upload experience of 20Mbps per user (this varied based on the client device, an 802.11n client typically had 80Mbps). I’m not suggesting that all media centres need to offer that sort of speed but it shows it can be done.   

2. Wi-Fi / Networking Equipment   

Connect up a wireless access point, put it in the corner and off we go…which leads to a favourite Dilbert cartoon of mine.   

Dilbert.com

Delivering a good wireless experience is not ‘plug and play’, but it is a lot less painful if the right approach is used. Firstly never use consumer or low-end business wireless products, they will not deal with the simultaneous usage and throughput required, it needs high-end business wireless products to deliver a good service and even then capacity planning is critical. Wi-Fi is a shared medium meaning that if your client is connected at 54Mbps (and unfortunately although 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi is promoted as having a speed of 54Mbps in reality this is closer to 20Mbps), that is a best case assuming no one else is using the network at the same time.  As soon as another user connects the available bandwidth is shared between them. Put 25 users onto one wireless access point and each user may only see 800kbps!   

Providing good bandwidth to lots of users therefore requires multiple wireless access points, which can be achieved in several ways, but it requires careful planning otherwise choas results with all of the wireless access points interfering with each other. This area is complex and will make this blog way too long but a truly managed environment is the only way to deliver this successfully and that requires:   

  • 2.4 GHz & 5GHz 802.11n Wireless Access Points – to maximise throughput and share load across the wireless spectrum
  • Air Time Fairness – to stop older wireless clients slowing down and hogging the network
  • Beam Forming – this is a technique that focuses wireless signals on the client that is ‘talking’ giving better performance and reducing the impact of interference.
  • Band Steering – to balance wireless clients between the available frequencies
  • Load Balancing & Roaming – to ensure wireless clients are evenly and seamlessly distributed across the wireless access points
  • User Throtling – the ability to limit the maximum speed of a client connection
  • Client Isolation – the ability to stop one wireless client ‘seeing’ another wireless client on the network

The wireless portion then needs to be backed up by good switching and routing, typically all running at gigabit speeds. For critical media centres redundancy in terms of network design and power backup also come into play. Other factors include authentication (username and password, shared key, etc) and breaking the network into mutliple ‘virtual networks’ so that different services can be offered to different user groups.   

3. Network Management   

Once the network is designed and implemented it would be nice if it looked after itself but in a busy media centre there are still more challenges. The most common issue is interference, particularly in the 2.4GHz frequency range (which is the most common one for wireless clients) as many other items use the Wi-Fi frequencies too – bluetooth, DECT phones, ad-hoc wireless networks, RADAR, microwave ovens (yes I’m serious, particularly industrial ones) and various pieces of broadcast equipment such as video senders. These sources of interference can wreak havoc on Wi-Fi networks. A managed Wi-Fi network can automatically deal with some interference by switching channels and power output but in a busy media centre there is often no option but to use a spectrum analyser to constantly scan and identify interference sources so that they can either be eliminated or avoided. During the Sky Election Debate 113 sources of interference were identified and dealt with!   

Spot the wireless cameras - always a concern for Wi-Fi

 Active monitoring of the network is also important, this gives real-time information on the status of all the devices such as the wireless access points, the data passing through the network and how much capacity is being used. This facilitates making tweaks to the network before problems occur. It also has the benefit of providing a post event report with lots of data on usage.   

4. Support   

Having people to provide good technical support to users in the media centre is one of the best ways of keeping  journalists happy. For example the Sky Election Debate happened not long after the launch of the Apple iPad in the US so a number of people had imported them from the US and hadn’t got to grips with them yet, the support staff not only helped them connect to the network but also gave some basic usage assistance. That level of support is highly appreciated and tends to lead to favourable comments in the articles they write.   

Delivering a good experience in a media centre is not without its challenges but those challenges can be overcome by using the right tools for the job, good planning and a technical team that know that they are doing. At the end of an event when journalists come over to specifically say “it was the best wireless experience I’ve ever had” then you know it was a job well done.

Etherlive approached C4L to provide a wireless leased line to support our backhaul connectivity for the Bournemouth Air Show where Etherlive provided free wi-fi access along the length of the beach to support an iPhone application launched for the air show this year. In addition Etherlive provided a number of organiser services such as VoIP telephony and internet access.

Extract from the C4L press release follows:

“C4L has set up a wireless point to point link between County Gates House and the Cumberland Hotel in Bournemouth in order to provide the Cumberland Hotel rooms, bar and pool area with Internet connectivity. Etherlive will be providing free Internet access to all attendees watching the Air Show from the beach, as well as giving the Air Show’s event organisers some key services, including a number of Wireless VoIP phones. This has been made possible by C4L’s Wireless Leased Line Service.

Matt Hawkins, Managing Director of C4L commented ‘When we were approached by Etherlive, we were more than happy to oblige to their request of our using our services to provide the Bournemouth Air Show with Internet connectivity. This is a fantastic opportunity for C4L to deploy our Wireless Leased Service to such a high calibre local event. The introduction of our Wireless Leased Line Service will provide the UK with an alternative connectivity option that can reach areas which traditionally have limited connectivity’.

C4L’s Wireless Leased Line service has been devised to address the ever increasing gap between broadband speeds in areas close to the telephone exchange, and those further away. The service has been developed via thorough research and by using C4L’s existing Internet Infrastructure. Wireless Leased Lines work by transmitting radio, microwave or laser technology frequencies to a receiver giving them a private, uncontended, high speed Internet connection. To provide a high speed wireless connection to the Air Show an antenna was deployed on the roof of the Bournemouth data centre which then links with another antenna on the Cumberland Hotel, allowing for connectivity within a three mile radius. C4L will be extending their wireless presence over the upcoming months to ensure maximum coverage across the UK.”

For further information contact:

Helen Stevens
www.ascentpr.co.uk
t
. 01454 629 741
etherlive@ascentpr.co.uk

For further information contact:

Mark Hook / Becky Martin-Jones
www.ascentpr.co.uk
etherlive@ascentpr.co.ukT. 01454 629 741

Free Wi-Fi at WOMAD

21 July 2010 – Festival-goers will have free access to Wi-Fi internet at the annual World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival in July,  thanks to event specialists Etherlive.

Etherlive has enabled WOMAD to lead the way with introducing mobile technology to improve people’s festival experience. Free internet access will allow visitors to download a range of content and apps that have been made available by the event organisers.

Chris Smith, Festival Director, at WOMAD says, “We are constantly looking for ways to improve the festival experience for people and free internet access does that. It allows people to stream Radio WOMAD, keep up with the latest events on Twitter and Facebook and means that smart phone applications can operate well on the festival site.

“We are also offering a free WOMAD iPhone app which is available for download and offers features such as line ups and timings, maps to help you find your way around and the ability to buy music from featured artists.”

ENDS

About Etherlive
A successful event depends on great performances. From WOMAD and The Green Man Festival to the Southampton Boat Show and the Three Counties Show, we are the ones that make IT work. Etherlive sits behind the scenes delivering reliable Wi-Fi internet, telephony, laptops, PDQs and interactive messaging. Whether in a field or a building, we make connectivity simple.

http://events.www.etherlive.co.uk

For further information contact:

Becky Martin-Jones / Mark Hook
www.ascentpr.co.uk
etherlive@ascentpr.co.ukT. 01454 629 741

Rock and wristbands beat paper at WOMAD festival

10 July 2010 – This month, Etherlive will be working with WOMAD festival organisers to provide the infrastructure for a pioneering pilot scheme that replaces paper-based crew meal tickets with electronic cards.

Based on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, each crew member at this year’s WOMAD festival will be provided with a smart card, which allows them to collect food from the canteen once their card has been placed on a special reader.

Chris Green, managing director at Etherlive says, “The WOMAD crew were previously given paper tickets to claim their meals. The problem with this was that they would get lost or ruined, were hard to track and were open to duplication.

“The implementation of RFID cards for crew members will help to combat these problems by enabling WOMAD organisers to know exactly how many staff have claimed meals and who they are. The system will also help WOMAD to better manage their costs.”

RFID technology has yet to be successfully deployed in volume at festivals and represents a first for this year’s WOMAD event.

Chris Smith, festival director, at WOMAD adds, “A lack of reliable technology has stalled the success of RFID at festivals, but Etherlive’s commitment to providing permanent, reliable connectivity will supply the basis for success at this year’s WOMAD event.

 “WOMAD is an exciting test case for the deployment of RFID at festivals, and I believe it could soon be rolled out in other ways. This is the first step in the journey towards cashless events where festival-goers use their wristbands to pay for their drinks, goods and food.”

ENDS

About Etherlive
A successful event depends on great performances. From WOMAD and The Green Man Festival to the Southampton Boat Show and the Three Counties Show, we are the ones that make IT work. Etherlive sits behind the scenes delivering reliable Wi-Fi internet, telephony, laptops, PDQs and interactive messaging. Whether in a field or a building, we make connectivity simple.

https://etherlive.co.uk

Good Wi-Fi delivery can be critical

At the recent launch of the iPhone 4 Steve Jobs, Chairman and CEO of Apple, was forced to ask the audience containing the world’s tech press, to turn off their Wi-Fi devices because the demonstration he was giving on stage kept failing. Later it was suggested after having a peek and visit GetFeatured website, that some 500 Wi-Fi networks were operating in the room, overloading the network.

Tom McInerney, from event technology company Etherlive, gives some tips on how to stop this happening at your next big event to make the network meets attendee requirements.

  1. In our experience any large press pool will require significant amounts of bandwidth and wireless connectivity. Importantly they will require download and more significantly high upload speeds so information can be posted quickly. Many want to post pictures immediately, live blog or video stream the event to their audience and expect a wireless network to be fast and available.
  2.  Asses the quality of any existing Wi-Fi network on site. Is it going to support the number of attendees at the event who may want access concurrently? You need to think about who is going to support it on the day, and how you can ensure your organisers and demonstrations get the internet speeds they require. Many permanent networks are designed for a specific purpose which is probably not hundreds of people in one room at one time, many also only operate to older wireless standards (such as 802.11b) which cannot provide as much access as newer faster protocols (802.11n). So to make sure you have the coverage you need, think about deploying a network specifically for the event which has onsite support and can provide multiple bandwidth controlled networks, for example ‘Organiser’ and ‘Event Press’.
  3.  Press who attended the Apple event where either not provided with a shared network or have learnt to distrust the in house service and instead opt to setup their own (typically linked to the cellular network repeated locally) Due to the amount of channels to play with in the 2.4Ghz spectrum setting up their own wireless hotspot only causes more issues for everyone else. Imagine everyone in the room with a set of speakers trying to broadcast their own radio station…eventually you can’t hear anything. So setting up a high quality centrally managed wireless network, which everyone can share (one broadcast), is a much better idea – but it will need to work first time otherwise attendees will find an alternative.
  4.  Several products are available on the market which can scan the relevant wireless spectrum to confirm how noisy it is. At least if you can see too much is going on in real time you can act (perhaps changing demos) instead of having to ask the audience.
  5.  The 5Ghz radio spectrum has a lot more channels available than 2.4Ghz and is therefore less congested. The most modern laptops can use 5Ghz networks and should be actively encouraged to use that instead of 2.4Ghz. Several technologies exist that can encourage devices that have 5Ghz radios to join that network instead of the 2.4Ghz.