Wi-Fi Site Surveys — done FAST!

wifi icon lightningHow long does it take you to do a passive or post-validation Wi-Fi site survey?  Using the overused WLAN mantra:  It depends!   How big is the building?  How fast can you walk?  But seriously, are there some tips or tools WLAN professionals can use to help these large site surveys go faster?  Lace up your favorite running shoes site survey shoes, read on and let’s find out.  (“AP-on-a-Stick” planning is a topic for another blog).

I’ve recently done several passive surveys in factories (all over 200K square feet) and a co-worker at my VAR is doing a wireless warehouse assessment of close to 1M square feet!  That’s a lot of walking and clicking on heatmaps!  And, what about outdoor mesh site surveys–walking down several acres takes a long time as well.

What tools are there that can help in doing site surveys that cover large buildings and distances?  Here are a few tools and techniques I’ve seen that may help you for your next big site survey.


segwaySegway.   Keith Parsons has used a Segway in the past to do site surveys (outside and inside).  In a large open environment, a Segway might be just the tool a WLAN professional needs to cut some time off of the survey data collection and invest in analysis or troubleshooting.  Although I have not ridden a Segway, our city has a downtown Segway service where they will train you and then take you on a half-hour tour (OK, I need to add this training to my Wi-Fi skill set….).  Check out their website, especially business use, but be prepared to fork over from US$4500 (used) to $6200 (new).  (Caveat emptor:  You may need to get sign off permission from your client if you use a Segway or any of the tools listed below)

So, have you used a Segway for a site survey?  Did you like it or dislike it?  Did it save you time?  Other comments?



Two whetwo wheel scooter 2two wheel scooter 1el self-balancing scooter (a.k.a. Hands-free Segway).  Maybe you have seen these, in the mall or in your neighborhood.  Some are called SwegWays, MonoRovers, PhunkeeDucks or Chic Smarts  and they appear to be going viral.  Their prices vary almost as much as their brand names (from US$200 to $1700).  I was in a mall recently and saw a kiosk where the employee was riding this thing all over the place.  He could not let anyone try one out (‘liability’ was his reason), but he seemed to do pretty well on it.  After a while watching, it dawned on me that this might just be the tool needed by the Wi-Fi survey engineer!

Here’s a brief training video on learning to use one of these two wheeled scooters.

So, do you think a MonoRover or a Swegway will work as a site survey tool?  Comments and/or tips?  I have not tried one yet, but would do it, as long as I can safely protect my Macbook from any and all “sudden stops”. (Do they make an airbag for a Macbook?).

Some variations of these scooters include the Ninebot (which sports “knee-handlers”) and I’ve heard of a three wheel version of the self-balancing scooter (no image or link available).

And….if you can dance like these guys on one of these two wheel scooters, handling a laptop should be no problem!

Outdoor site surveys go faster by connecting a GPS tool to your laptop and Ekahau has a good video on using Ekahau Site Survey in an outdoor setting.

A Segway is a tool already listed, but what about using your car?  A co-worker (thanks to Nolan for testing this one out!) recently did an outdoor survey using his vehicle. Check out the pics below as he used his Ekahau Site Survey application, a GPS and Proxim adapter attached to the outside of his vehicle and drove around the neighborhood (about 5 MPH), collecting a very nice outdoor site survey.

ess gps setup

proxim gps adapters

outdoor pic with heatmap


However, you may not be able to drive your car everywhere in some outdoor areas, so are there other options?  How about a golf cart, an ATV, or a hand push cart (knobby rubber wheels for loose sand or terrain).  I have an outdoor survey coming up in the next few months and am definitely planning on asking the client to borrow a golf cart.  What vehicles or methods have you used to save time in doing an outdoor survey?  Tips or comments?

“Time is money” is the old adage we know so well.  Saving time doing site surveys will help all of us as WLAN professionals.

(Now, it’s time to check out Ebay for a used Segway….)


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