Wireless Network Links Kids to the 'Net Then Handles 2D Bar Code

To help its children take full advantage of the information age and prepare them to be a vital part of the workplace, a Long Island, New York, school district installed Symbol Technologies Inc.'s Spectrum24 wireless computer network. For the first time, students grades K-I 2 and teachers of the Smithtown Central School District have access to the vast pool of information on the district's network and the World Wide Web.

The new network will become a vital link for the Smithtown Central School District (Holtsville, N.Y.). which serves 7,846 students in 11 schools scattered over 30 square miles. The district includes eight elementary schools, a middle school and one high school that encompasses two buildings.

Greater FlexibIlity, Mobility and Expansion
First and foremost, the wireless connectivity allows the schools' 1,250 desktop and laptop PCs to be added and moved easily between classrooms, an important factor in the school's decision. In addition, the district plans to use Symbol's handheld pen-based computers to help track student attendance and improve school safety.

By choosing a wireless network, the school district bypassed many of the "hidden" costs associated with installing and maintaining a wired computer network. Physical condition and age of buildings, for instance can contribute dramatically to such costs. And such conditions may not be apparent from the outset.

"The Spectrum24 wireless network gives us a flexibility and mobility that we just wouldn't have with a wired network, notes Jay Landau, computer coordinator of Smithtown District. "Now we can provide our children PC and Internet access from anywhere in or around the school, at any time. Today, Smithtown's children have district-wide connectivity."

Currently Spectrum24 is installed in six buildings. Three elementary schools and the middle school have complete wireless coverage; the high school and the annex have 80 percent coverage with completion expected perhaps early next year.

Adding Scanner Technology
In addition to linking desktop and laptop PCs throughout the district, the Spectum24 wireless network will allow students, teachers and administrators to use Symbol's handheld pen computers and handheld scanners that read Symbol's two-dimensional bar codes. The applications are myriad.

For instance, software for Symbol's pen-based computers with the integrated scanners is being developed to allow teachers to register attendance at the start of class, saving time and effort compared with the manual method. Public safety will be improved because a student's whereabouts will be established quickly using a 2D ID card.

But better school security isn't the only benefit of this technology. Students are using Symbol's PDF417 two-dimensional bar-code symbology in the science labs to write programs. In fact, one of their applications, which manages the use of hazardous chemicals, recently won blue ribbon awards at a local computer-share fair. The 2D bar code is compressed on a 1.3-square-inch area that holds up to a kilobyte of data enough to fit the Gettysburg Address.

Spectrum24 is a high-performance wireless local area network that will incorporate the IEEE's new 802.11 standard. (Symbol will offer software upgrades.) Spectum24 operates at a data rate of 1 Megabit per second in the worldwide 2A Gigahertz band using frequency-hopping spread spectrum modulation.

Symbol Technologies Inc. is the world leader in bar code-driven data transaction systems with over four million scanners and hand-held computers installed. It designs, manufactures and markets bar code scanning equipment, application-specific hand-held computers and radio frequency data communications products.  For more information, visit Symbol's website (www.symbol.com).

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.