Case Study: Balancing Out 'Too Much Wi-Fi' at Large Auto Dealership

Integrator uses Pakedge C36 Controller as backbone for secure, reliable wireless network for new expansive auto dealership. By Jason Knott

Gateway Toyota in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, built a new 130,000-square-foot showroom and office building that needed reliable Wi-Fi to ensure the entire dealership runs efficiently. Having a powerful and reliable Internet connection is vital to just about any type of business, even an automobile dealership.

As an example, nearly the entire operation at Gateway Toyota in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, depends on the reliability of the Wi-Fi signal at the facility. And we're not just talking about using email. The dealership uses a fluid management system that automatically tracks, monitors and dispenses motor oil, along with brake, transmission and radiator fluid down to the milliliter. The system saves time, gains billable hours and maximizes profitability. So without a wireless signal, mechanics are not able to pump fluids into cars.

Gateway Toyota's sales and service teams also all carry Windows tablets that sync automatically to the dealership's network when docked. The system can then automatically generate a service work order, for example, with minimal chance for error. If there's no connectivity, the whole process defaults back to inefficient pencil and paper with clipboards.

Both systems depend heavily on a reliable, secure network backbone. Without Wi-Fi, Gateway Toyota would be running on proverbial fumes. That's where integrator Showcase AV comes in. Showcase deployed a wireless network at Gateway Toyota using the Pakedge C36 Wireless Controller as the base.

"They needed a bulletproof system," recalls Justin Gingras, field supervisor and senior technician at Showcase AV. The company first arrived on-site back in spring 2013 as Gateway was in the middle of constructing its new 130,000-square-foot showroom and office building sitting on an 8-acre lot.

"There was a lot of planning," says Gingras. "We needed to create a wireless network that was the easiest for us to deploy and for everyone at Gateway, from their programmer to their sales staff to their service department. Pakedge's C36 was really the easiest way to manage that."

'Too Much Wi-Fi'
The award-winning C36 simplifies wireless set-ups by detecting access points automatically. With it, installers can configure up to 30 access points on a single network. The C36 is simple to deploy because it automatically discovers networked access points, updates them with the latest firmware available, and configures them with the rest of the network. The C36 also balances power, channel settings and data rates.
Designed with a slim, sleek exterior, the C36 possesses a comprehensive suite of centralized features, including logging, monitoring, and centralized configuration. The C36 was voted the 2013 winner of CE Pro's Best Electronic Systems Technologies (BEST) in the Whole House Control category by a panel of industry experts.

At Gateway, Showcase AV needed the system to cover the entire interior and exterior of the property. The initial design called for 10 Pakedge W6 wireless access points inside the showroom and offices, and 14 W6O outdoor units.

"Our initial design actually had too many WAPs," admits Gingras. "I never knew that you can have too much Wi-Fi, but you can. Based on where we had placed the wireless access points, the system was getting drops during the handshake as the signal was passed between too many wireless access points. They could have lost work orders."

Fortunately, the reporting functionality of the C36 helped identify the design problem because of its ability to allow the wireless access points to work together within a single network. So, the design was scaled back to just five indoor WAPs and nine outdoor. Four of the indoor W6s are mounted in the main floor, which has 35-foot-high ceilings, and one more is located in the second floor office area. A few of the units were even moved to wall locations inside the showroom for proper spacing. Outside, five of the W6Os are on the rooftop and four more are on light poles in the car lot. Those remote units had to be PoE injected because they were too remote to run Cat 5 or Cat 6 cable to, says Gingras.

"They are all set to repeat mode. You can even take a two-minute walk off the property and get a strong Wi-Fi signal," he adds. But there is no need to worry about unauthorized access to the network due to the advanced encryption embedded in the C36 Controller. The system suppresses unauthorized devices from detecting the network.

$100,000 Total Project
Using the full capabilities of the C36, the system has remote management and monitoring capability for Gateway's IT person and for Showcase AV to use in case they need to do service. That comes in handy, since Showcase AV is based in Calgary, three hours away from the jobsite in Edmonton. Since completion of the job, Gingras says they have only had to log in once.

The Wi-Fi network was only part of the job. Showcase AV also installed eight flat-panel TVs in the facility, from the multiple waiting rooms, boardroom, owner's office, and lunch rooms. The waiting rooms and boardroom also included in-wall speakers for audio. In the showroom, the company installed 19 hanging pendant speakers from NEAR. The project's initial budget was around $70,000 but it expanded to $100,000, says Gingras, who estimates Showcase AV spent 200 total manhours on the job.

"We have been using Pakedge for more than 10 years because they are simply second to none in everything they do, from products to tech support to customer services. They are just amazing," says Gingras. "I once even even called the president, Victor Pak, directly and he helped me with their tech support team in less than 15 minutes."

This article was originally published by our content partner CE Pro

About the Author