Saturday, April 13, 2019

Comparing Ekahau Connect to the laptop surveying style

I have been using Ekahau for Wi-Fi surveying for some time now, and up until last week I have been using a 13” Dell Inspiron 5000 laptop that flips into a tablet when I want it.  I connect the Ekahau Sidekick to the laptop via USB cable, sling the Sidekick over my shoulder and start walking.  Easy, right?


If you are unsure what a Sidekick is you can read about it here:  Not to understate all that it can do, it has two Wi-Fi radios, a spectrum analyzer, a long lasting battery, and now it has storage available inside.  Before the Sidekick, we walked around with a USB hub hanging out of our laptops with a spectrum analyzer or two hanging off it, along with a couple of USB Wi-Fi adapters as well.  All of that was depleting the laptop battery.


Wi-Fi engineers are always looking for ways to lighten the load (since we do a lot of walking) when surveying.  We want longer surveying times between charging – usually starting out in the morning and hoping our batteries will last until lunch time so we can charge up.  Unfortunately our batteries rarely get fully recharged over the tiny lunch breaks we take.  Some engineers carry identical laptops with them, and survey until the battery is low then stop and save the survey, transfer it to the fully charged laptop so they can continue surveying and put the other laptop on the charger.


Those days are no longer necessary anymore.  Ekahau released a new product called Ekahau Connect.  This allows you to create your WLAN survey project and upload it to the cloud so you never lose your project file.  Then you use an iPad that is also linked to the cloud – it downloads your survey project file and you can now survey with an iPad and the Ekahau Sidekick.  Here’s more on Ekahau Connect:


Why would you want to survey with an iPad?  It weighs less than half as much as my laptop, and is of similar size.  I bought a 12.9” iPad Pro for the job, and when sitting side by side, they look to be about the same.  The iPad, however, is much lighter and a lot easier to maneuver when walking through a building, dodging people and squeezing into areas where you want to gather a data point.  Truth be told, I probably could have purchased a smaller iPad, since it’s almost too big.


Since the iPad isn’t as “rugged” as my laptop, I purchased a rubber-like case for it that has a folding handle.  I had to modify it slightly to accommodate the adapter cable to connect to the Sidekick since the iPad doesn’t have the same USB connector as the laptop.  I found the rubber-like case on eBay for something like twenty bucks.


During the launch of the new Ekahau Connect, we heard how much better it was, so I decided to test drive it on a validation survey.  I walked the same exact floor twice – once with version 9.2.4 of Ekahau Site Survey running on my Dell laptop with the Sidekick connected, then I walked it again with the iPad and Sidekick.  Now it is time to compare – keeping in mind the same human (me) walked the floor twice.  I tried to replicate the walking path and did not try to walk any faster than I normally do. Now let’s see the results:


Here’s the iPad survey.  The red dots are the actual locations of the access points. I would say that is pretty accurate most of the time – within 5 feet or so.



Here’s the Dell running 9.2.4.  Not sure why the upper left red dot’s AP landed in the middle of the drawing, a good 100 feet away.  I looked at the survey path and there’s nothing funny about it.  Ignoring that, I would say that when comparing, the new Ekahau Pro 10 is more accurate with AP placement.




Now let’s compare walk time:


Here’s what the iPad survey time looked like:


Here’s what the laptop survey time looked like:


Nearly identical – which means carrying an iPad didn’t allow me to unconsciously walk any faster.  I didn’t try to walk any faster, however I can see how the iPad took me two minutes longer since I was not used to carrying an iPad.  I also had to disable the auto-rotate on the iPad since I noticed my survey would flip upside down when walking around because the iPad is so much lighter and I could carry it easier.


It is difficult to measure arm, wrist and general comfort when comparing the two.  I feel the iPad is much easier to survey with, for sure.  Since I didn’t survey all day, I was not able to compare battery usage, however I did notice that after having my iPad on, I used less than ten percent of my battery.  Most Sidekick owners already know that it will last for about 8 hours before it needs recharging, and the iPad appears as though it will last even longer.  I can say for certain the strain from carrying an iPad is much less than carrying my laptop.  The specs on my laptop state it is 3 pounds 6 ounces, and the iPad is a pound and a half with the rubber case.


My next post will be a validation of a 180,000 square foot building – we expect that survey to take all day and we will test the longevity of the iPad & Sidekick’s battery.