Since I’ve been on a bit of a blog kick this week, it seems time to introduce the concept of “fisking.” Named after an infamous BBC reporter, Robert Fisk, fisking
is the act of refuting or correcting a previous piece of writing, point
by point. Usually done in a direct no nonsense way, fisking is setting
the record straight. So, let’s have a little fun. The target, er,
subject is today’s InnerWireless press release (at 600+ words).

InnerWireless, Inc., announced today that it has established a healthcare business unit to deliver the Medical-Grade Wireless Utility™.

The term “medical-grade network” was first hyped by Cisco
and seems to mean about as much as it does here, nothing. I do like the
term “utility” as it implies what InnerWireless really offers –
something that is installed and used like a piece of a building’s
infrastructure. I'm sure a lot of vendors are disappointed they put a
TM on that term and can't use it themselves.

The utility includes a unifying wireless platform and portfolio of
services to facilitate the development of an adaptive mobile enterprise
strategy.

In reality the platform
is unified because it is one very long antenna that is snaked
throughout a building. The platform is also the wiring closets where
other vendor’s equipment is connected to the InnerWireless antenna.
This is all adaptable by adding or removing this third party equipment
to the network; the very infrastructure nature of the antenna makes
changing the antenna problematic.

Today’s healthcare providers are sophisticated and highly mobile
workers requiring real-time communication and reliable access to
mission- and life-critical data for Point-of-Decision Care™.

I would have added “good looking” here as well. The antenna is not a
network, but a medium upon which networks are deployed. As such,
performance (real-time) and reliability (life-critical) are much more a
function of the third party equipment hung on InnerWireless’ antenna
(the network design) than the deployment of the antenna itself. I can’t
quite see how “Point-of-Decision Care” fits with antennas, but it
sounds like something sophisticated (and good looking) highly mobile
workers would like. If you listen closely you can hear the gnashing of
teeth at the fact that this marketing nugget is also trade marked. The
URL however, is available.

Accelerated by the recent closing of a $15 million Series C
investment, InnerWireless has completed the first phase and launch of a
dedicated healthcare team. The newly formed business unit includes
marketing and corporate development staff, and additional regional
sales offices.

So, they consider health care a significant wireless market
opportunity, and since they have some cash, they’re setting up a
separate sales, marketing and service team to address the market.
That's actually nice to know and somewhat clearly stated -- its also
the only news in this press release. Here comes a good bit.

Until now, wireless installations in hospitals have required
separate and often dedicated infrastructures, leading to redundant
costs, disruptions to patient care, and inadequate wireless coverage
resulting in a difficult-to-manage environment that does not easily
adapt to demands for future technologies and applications.

Wow, that is one very heavily freighted sentence. In the data world,
the biggest network infrastructure in hospitals is the local area
network (LAN). Wireless stuff just hangs off the LAN, so there’s really
only one infrastructure (the rest is just layers). The cost of APs,
especially today’s power-over-Ethernet “thin” APs, are a relatively
minor cost.

Now you’d think from this sentence that you won’t need APs with the
InnerWireless Medical-Grade Wireless Utility. Not true, you just don’t
need the antennas that poke out of the APs since the APs are connected
to the InnerWireless antenna from wiring closes rather than the
ceiling. The ability to put all the receivers/transmitters in wiring
closets makes deployment and servicing significantly easier.

WLAN management however, is done over the network using software;
the number of antennas used does not impact management. I don’t see any
meaningful redundant antenna costs here, or the dreaded disruptions to
patient care (antenna failures are rare). The failure modes of a WLAN
deployed over a master antenna do differ in how wireless devices
associate to the APs. Because there's one antenna, a wireless device
could associate with any AP connected to the antenna. All of this adds
an interesting wrinkle to WLAN design and AP vendor selection. I
welcome any WLAN rocket scientists to comment on this. Wireless
coverage is a function of a good site survey and proper placement of
either the antenna or APs with antennas – InnerWireless has no real
advantage here either.

There are multiple wireless networks in hospitals now (for a variety
of good and not so good reasons), and there will still be multiple
networks with InnerWireless. I would imagine that the more networks there are, the greater value delivered by InnerWireless.

The Medical-Grade Wireless Utility architecture allows hospitals to
deploy an array of wireless applications and devices for real-time
clinical communications, monitoring and therapy, as well as wireless
building services, on a unified, common wireless infrastructure. In
addition, the InnerWireless utility includes a portfolio of services to
assist hospitals with the planning, deployment and management of their
wireless environment.

This is amazing, I'd forgotten all the different types of wireless
apps deployed in hospitals. But in fact you can deploy any type of
application across a WLAN, even when using one very long antenna versus
a bunch of little ones. I can’t quite figure out how a long snakey
antenna has an “architecture” in a network or IT sense of the term.

Services are an area with clear value. The ability to do one site survey,
installation and validation is a big win. Solid coverage maybe a key
InnerWireless advantage, though that's hard to discern from all the
buzzwords. Managing density (the number of wireless devices associated
to individual APs) could be problematic. Associations are managed by
the AP, not the antenna. If you have areas with a potentially high
number of wireless devices, designing and managing the network to
reliably support this may be difficult. The actual network design and
deployment will still be the responsibility of the WLAN vendor, e.g., Cisco, Aruba, GE, Philips,
(GE and Philips both connect life-critical patient monitors using
802.11 and WMTS) etc. Adapting to change by swapping boxes in wiring
closets is a big improvement over poking around in ceilings.

“We chose the InnerWireless system because it is meshed with our vision,” said Eric B. Yablonka, Vice President and CIO, University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System.
“Specifically, we required a wireless distribution system that could
make wireless work everywhere in the hospital, and we prefer to work
with one company rather than several distinct vendors who wanted to
build separate wireless networks.”

InnerWireless has gotten some great traction in hospitals, as well
they should. But, I can’t say they do Eric Yablonka any favors with his
quote, especially since these are usually fabricated. I'm sure Eric
knows that InnerWireless does not replace WLAN gear from other network
vendors, but that's what he "says."

Okay, we’ve had a little fun at the expense of InnerWireless’ PR
writer (in fairness to the writer, it was probably Marketing that
repeatedly told them to "punch it up" and add "sizzle"). Sure their
“architecture” or “platform” is a very long wire snaked throughout a
building. But, in fact they really have a very high tech product. The
engineering and intellectual property that has gone into their antenna
is unique and top notch, which is why there's never been a product like
this before. This should be an easy to sell product with a few
unambiguous benefits. They do deliver real and meaningful value – you
just can't tell what that value is from this press release.

I could
rewrite this 600+ word press release into something that conveys news,
artriculates a strong value proposition, and would actually get read in
about 30 minutes and 200 words. Sure health care's sexy and
sophisticated and important, but Hollywood marketing will only reduce
leads generated, lengthen sale cycles and ultimately slow adoption and
sales.

If you’ve stuck around to the end of this post, I’ll share with you
a few things that are not in this press release. First, 802.11-based
indoor positioning systems (like PanGo, Ekahau)
don’t work with a single shared antenna because they measure the
differences between signals received from multiple antennas to
calculate location. Check out vendors like Radianse or Patient CareTechnology Systems instead. This limitation also applies to Vocera’s ability to communicate based on location.

Second, monitoring systems on WMTS (GE, Philips, Datascope and Spacelabs)
have to be validated by the monitoring vendor to run on InnerWireless
because these regulated devices include the network. Potential coexistence
problems between different vendor's WMTS systems can be exacerbated
using a single antenna because there's no way to place conflicting WMTS
systems out of range from each other. At HIMSS only one of those
vendors had completed validation, so be sure to ask the status of your
vendor.

Third, the InnerWireless antenna cannot support 802.11a
because it does not go up to 5 GHz. I predict that 802.11a will become
a predominate standard in hospitals in the not too distant future.

Finally, the ability of some vendor's APs to detect and incapacitate
rogue APs is lost with a shared antenna, again the pesky multiple
antenna requirement.

UPDATE:  Some things have changed since I wrote this, and since
Google doesn't present search results in chronological order (try Technorati), I thought I'd  post this update.  First check out my interview of Bill Brook, an InnerWireless user. Bill noted that InnerWireless does support 802.11a (with some sort of up-charge).  Check out this new post on their pending support for RFID.