Testing Wi-Fi Coverage and Channels at Clients’ Locations

David Engebretson by David Engebretson | 09.25.2013

One of the many advantages of using the Honeywell Total Connect IP cameras is that whether you choose the indoor or outdoor versions, the cameras can be connected to a client’s network using either wired network cabling (such as Cat5e) or by having the camera(s) communicate using wireless networking or Wi-Fi.

Most all clients will have Wi-Fi connectivity in their networks, because all of the newer hand-held devices such as smart phones, tablet computers, and book readers can only connect to a LAN and the Internet via Wi-Fi.  This massive utilization of wireless network connectivity can make the installation of Honeywell Total Connect cameras very quick; just program the camera properly to communicate with either the client’s existing Wi-Fi or use the inexpensive WAP-PLUS from Honeywell.  The latter device provides a quick push button setup once the WAP-PLUS is plugged into the client’s existing network.

While wireless networking is very common, security dealers need to take a couple of steps to ensure that Wi-Fi Honeywell Total Connect cameras will work in the locations where the clients want them.  A couple of tests using a netbook/laptop and a freeware software set can provide installation personnel with important information about the Wi-Fi coverage and channels being used, whether you are testing the client’s existing Wi-Fi access point or using the WAP-PLUS.

Freeware software such as “Netstumbler” will provide a rapid test of Wi-Fi coverage.  Once the program is turned on, a technician can simply place their netbook/laptop at the proposed location for a wireless Honeywell Total Connect camera and check for Wi-Fi connectivity. Netstumbler will show every Wi-Fi access point that the PC that is performing the test is “seeing” at the time of the test. 

Here’s the Netstumbler output when testing at my house in Chicago:

The Wi-Fi access point in my house is the one with the SSID (System Set Identifier – this is the broadcast name of an access point of “sni2005.”  As you can see, from where the laptop was located when this test was run, of all of the access points that invade my living room, the one with the highest “SNR+” value (right hand column) is sni2005 with a 66.  In this case, the higher number means a better signal.

Another thing to notice is the column with the “Chan(nel)” numbers.  Of the 15 access points reporting, five of the access points are programmed to work on Wi-Fi channel 11.  Having multiple access points on the same channel will degrade the performance of all devices connecting to those access points.  This means that to achieve the best quality and reliability of Wi-Fi communications, it is wise to set the Wi-Fi access points onto channels that are otherwise unused in the immediate area.

The WAP-PLUS from Honeywell provides the capability of changing the defaulted Wi-Fi channel to any one of the 11 available.  Smart technicians will test a client’s Wi-Fi environment using a program like Netstumbler, then set the WAP-PLUS to an unused channel and retest for the coverage in the locations where the wireless Honeywell Total Connect cameras are to be located.

I’ve been compensated to contribute to this blog, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent Honeywell’s positions, strategies or opinions.