When 5G Radio Goes Silent

When 5G Radio Goes Silent

How 7SIGNAL uncovered buggy code and averted potentially life-threatening problems at a hospital

When patient safety is on the line, a spotty Wi-Fi connection can literally be a matter of life or death.

So, when a 7SIGNAL audit uncovered a previously-undetected bug in Cisco Aironet 3500 and 3700 Series access points at a major California hospital, hospital administrators knew a serious problem had been narrowly averted. The buggy code drastically reduced connectivity by causing 5G radio located outside an operating room to go silent.

7SIGNAL, a leader in Wireless Network Monitoring, had been brought in after hospital employees complained about poor connectivity with wireless devices in the OR. Once 7SIGNAL identified the bug, Cisco quickly released a patch that put the hospital’s Wi-Fi performance back on track.

But lost connection to mission-critical devices and the data they provide during an operation could have had catastrophic results if 7SIGNAL’s patented SaaS Sapphire Eye and Mobile Eye modules hadn’t discovered the bug.

The exploding market for wireless medical devices

As demand grows for wireless medical devices – and the clinical Internet of Things (IoT) market continues to explode – the unique performance management capabilities of 7SIGNAL are critical to ensuring that connection to life-saving devices doesn’t fail when it’s needed most. A Wi-Fi disruption of even a tenth of a second can cause a data transmission to be lost that sparks a life-threatening situation at a hospital.

HIT Infrastructure estimates that a large hospital now relies on about 85,000 connected devices in addition to its standard computer system, from mobile devices to Workstations on Wheels (WoWs). At the same time, the IoT healthcare market is expected to reach $163.2 billion worldwide by 2020 – a 403 percent increase in five years.

The mind-boggling number of devices demanding access to a hospital’s wireless network can overwhelm legacy Wi-Fi systems, leading to outages, faulty connections, equipment malfunctions, and lost messages. More than half of hospitals spend up to 500 hours per year on Wi-Fi maintenance – an alarming statistic as reliance on connected devices directly links the health of a hospital’s network to the health of its patients.

How 7SIGNAL cured an unhealthy hospital network

So how did 7SIGNAL help the California hospital? Our platform runs continuously in the background of any enterprise it services, troubleshooting the Wi-Fi network and alerting the IT team to issues that arise before helpdesk calls are ever made.

The hospital’s issue boiled down to problems with its access point outside the OR. Access points bridge traffic between mobile stations and other devices on a Wi-Fi network. Before a mobile station can send traffic through an access point, it must be in an authenticated and associated connection state. To achieve this, the mobile station and access point exchange a series of 802.11 management frames.

But if the access point isn’t beaconing – and the mobile station can’t achieve the proper state – data transfers can’t occur. The mobile station might connect with another access point located farther away, but the distance is likely to cause a poor connection.

Let’s take a closer look at 7SIGNAL’s unique products that enabled it to detect the Cisco bug and solve the hospital’s problem.

Sapphire Eye Module

Sapphire Eyes are state-of-the-art Wi-Fi sensors developed and patented by 7SIGNAL. They measure network connectivity and the quality of the end-user experience on networks.

Here’s how they work: with the help of a powerful directional sector antenna board, the Sapphire Eye acts as a high-performance client device on a Wi-Fi network, constantly testing Wi-Fi performance by connecting to as many as six access points deployed in the vicinity. Beam steering technology enables it to take highly accurate measurements from a single location by amplifying the target direction and suppressing interference from other directions.

Sapphire Eyes execute active, cyclic end-user synthetic test traffic and perform 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum analysis, as a well as a comprehensive passive analysis where they “listen” to interactions taking place between clients and access points and measure the quality of their experience.

An automated test profile is customized to fit each enterprise’s situation that can include communication with premises and cloud servers. Other key performance indicators that can be measured and tracked 24/7 include throughput, packet loss, jitter, voice quality, beacon availability, and success rates. Wi-Fi data is analyzed within the Eye and results are stored in the cloud. Sapphire Eyes also employ Power over Ethernet to ensure wireless communications are encrypted.

Mobile Eye Module

Whether it’s used in concert with Sapphire Eye or on its own, Mobile Eye gives organizations the power to continuously monitor the wireless network from any Windows, Android, Mac OS, or IOS device. It provides global visibility of Wi-Fi performance and device roaming behavior no matter where employees go. That’s an extra boon for distributed organizations with large numbers of sites that struggle to gain real-time visibility of Wi-Fi user experience at remote locations.

IT teams can instantly identify devices, buildings, floors, stores, or campuses that are out of compliance with service-level targets for Wi-Fi performance – understanding in seconds if issues are wired, wireless, or device-related. They are then able to take proactive and corrective action before users ever notice or complain.

Mobile Eye Wi-Fi performance tests run discretely in the background, so they are never noticed by employees or customers. Results are uploaded to the cloud, including trending data, comparison analytics, and device data such as WLAN drivers and signal strength.

Mobile Eye is equipped to handle wireless networks of any size and is completely client and access point agnostic – meaning it can work with any type. It can store three months of detailed historical performance data in the cloud, so organizations don’t need to worry about storage, backups, or feature upgrades.

Other major benefits include:

  • User experience data that can’t be provided by your WLAN vendor
  • System-wide WLAN visibility
  • ROI visibility into your IoT investments
  • Exporting data to existing dashboards and applications that includes wireless network details into current processes

The healthcare IoT market alone is expected to quintuple in size by 2020. While advancements in wireless medical devices hold tremendous promise for the quality of patient care, they also threaten to put patient safety at risk if legacy Wi-Fi networks can’t handle the exploding amount of traffic. 7SIGNAL’s unique and patented products keep hospitals – and any enterprise – running smoothly by spotting Wi-Fi issues and ensuring they are quickly resolved.

7SIGNAL offers a Wireless Network Monitoring Solutions that ensure connectivity issues don’t prevent hospitals from delivering exceptional patient care. Contact us to learn about becoming a 7SIGNAL Connected Hospital.