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Working without a Wire
Now that Starbucks has almost single-handedly put hot spots—those areas where anyone with a mobile device can gain wireless access to the Internet—firmly into the American lexicon, property management companies are beginning to explore just how to make a similar model work in their apartment communities.
Most companies are now mulling wireless technology, acknowledging that it is part of their future plans—generally either to provide wireless Internet access to residents in common areas, link computing resources in the front office, or “mobilize” maintenance staff and other employees. But they remain cautious. “We're putting a toe in the water,” says Greg McDonald, director of telecommunications at Camden Property Trust in Houston, who cautions against relying on wireless as the sole source of Internet service. Camden has added hot spots to some of its properties and is looking to expand as the technology evolves.
On the plus side, wireless access is relatively easy to set up. All that it is needed is a wireless router to create an access point (think of it as an on-ramp to the Internet), interface cards in mobile devices, and a high-speed Internet access through a carrier such as T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless. “You're talking about $100,” says D. Thomas Figert, director of information technology at BH Management in Dallas. Companies such as Cisco Systems' Linksys division offer “hot spot in a box” solutions that can be implemented very quickly.
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