Breeding, Part 3

Wireless Networks in Libraries and RFID

Wireless Basics

  • uses radio frequency transmission over the air instead of network cabling
  • stable and reliable technology
  • increasing in popularity in business and home computing

[Lots of very technical information on wireless architectures, infrastructure modes, transmission details, 802.11b channels, range per access points, etc. ]

Wired networks will always be faster and offer higher performance. Wireless technologies have limitations; does not supplant the need to install copper and fiber network cabling in new buildings.

Wireless can have some security issues.

  • eavesdropping a major concern
  • unprotected wireless access points offer easy entry for mobile hackers
  • many rogue wireless LANS were put up in corporate networks without IT support or adequate security
  • War driving/ War chalking
  • some war driving/freeloading happens in residential settings

Need to position your wireless network so that it’s shielded from sensitive information like patron accounts. Position the network outside the organization’s firewall; the hardened core remains protected.

Encryption is necessary to ensure security. Sensitive data must be encrypted when it’s transmitted across any untrusted network. Most encryption algorithms use a secure key to encode the data and decode it after transmission. The longer the key, the more difficult it is to use brute force to decrypt the message.

Avoid wireless technologies for sensitive networks. Wireless is not appropriate for networks that carry confidential or sensitive information. Protect the core network services with internal firewalls.

Library applications – Wireless access policies

  • open unauthenticated access?
  • display appropriate use click-through page?
  • filter?
  • require authentication by library card number?

The more pervasive wireless is, the more you’re letting yourself be passed by without it. Travelers are increasingly expecting wireless at the public libraries.
It is becoming increasingly expected that students on college campuses will have wireless access to their laptop computers throughout the campus. The vision of a fully-connected classroom can be fully realized inexpensively.

Wireless laptops provide access to library resources brought into the library by patrons. Library-supplied laptops can supplement public access workstations. Laptops offer library users more flexibility and convenience in accessing resources throughout the library.

Laptops create the possibility of mobile labs, which can be used for training and outreach sessions outside the library. Training labs in the library can be set up and dismantled on demand.

Staff applications: remote circulation tasks, tracking in-library use of materials, inventory. PDAs can be used instead of PCs or laptops.

Many cell phones now have internet access. Libraries may see a future demand to make their services available to cell phones and other small wireless devices.

RFID: Radio Frequency Identification

In libraries, is an alternate technology for identification of physical library materials. RFID Tags are placed in each item. RFID scanners are at circulation desks and other service points.

Advantages: can charge/discharge multiple items simultaneously. Offers more automated scanning for inventory; facilitates self-checkout capabilities. RFID can also operate with exit gate security; replaces the need to place security strips.

Disadvantages: higher cost – tags are far more expensive than barcodes. Failure rate of tags, obsolescence of tags, some security concerns. The technology for RFID is continually evolving.

RFID planning

  • consider total cost of ownership
    • cost of tags
    • cost of equipment
    • supporting software
    • labor costs for installing tags
    • re-tagging collection as technology changes
    • annual support costs on self-check equipment

Resources:

Wireless Libraries

WebJunction Wireless Forum

Network World

Wi-Fi

Jiwire

Wi-fi Planet

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1 Comment

Filed under Libraries and Librarianship

One response to “Breeding, Part 3

  1. Kudos on good 50,000′ view on this complex technology, although I would strongly suggest that libraries spend sufficient time *experimenting* with actual devices before taking the plunge in purchasing either wireless or RFID solutions. Far too many times, we have seen libraries misled by exaturated claims, fancy “canned” demonstrations and unrealistic expectations instilled on them by various vendors. The motto is: “Do your homework first!”.

    Just my 2 cents 🙂

    Thanks,

    Oleg
    President / CEO
    Library Automation Technologies Inc.,
    http://www.LATcorp.com

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