By Rick Pray
RPA Electronic Solutions, Inc.
RPA Electronic Solutions is a regular exhibitor at the Interservice / Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in Orlando, Florida. This year, one of our customers asked us to show a new man-wearable wireless system that we had developed as part of a US Army SBIR effort. That system allows a trainee using a Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) to operate un-tethered, communicating high resolution video, motion tracking device data, and simulated weapons cues to and from the trainee with minimal latency.
From past experience at the I/ITSEC conference, we have found the WLAN space to be saturated with wireless devices from the nearly 1,000 exhibitors. The show does provide a vendor who works with exhibitors to attempt to ‘manage’ the RF spectrum in order to minimize interference between users of similar Wi-Fi LANs. But, this works only as well as the exhibitors provide their information. Many do not subscribe to the RF management service and thus interference between booths becomes a potential problem.
RPA’s approach was to avoid this problem by incorporating a RF shielded room within our booth. The planned demonstrations were extremely important to both us and our Army customer.
We initially purchased some low cost material to test WLAN attenuation and found it completely unsuitable. Our research then led us to the Kaltman Creations Aaronia-Shield® material, which boasted much higher RF attenuation in the 802.11g and 802.11n RF space, which is where our equipment would operate. This also happens to be the space where most of the other exhibitor’s WLAN equipment would operate.
We purchased a small amount of material first to test in our engineering lab, given the disappointment of the first material we tried. We were very pleased to discover that we could isolate a set of wireless LANs operating both inside and outside the material, and that the equipment inside the shielded environment would not connect to the WLAN operating outside that space. This gave us confidence to proceed with our shielded room plan for the I/ITSEC show.
We contacted the show RF vendor, and they were very pleased with our approach. They even waived the usual fee they charge for RF management given our test results.
Within the shielded environment, we operated a 802.11g LAN and a WHDI based subsystem for high resolution video transmission. Both operated flawlessly throughout the four day conference. We were visited by other companies that had also attempted to operate similar setups, using WHDI and wireless motion tracking devices with HMDs. These exhibitors had great difficulty with their systems, and achieved only sporadic operation because of the interference from other displays. Some of the other exhibitors brought their visitors to our booth to see a successful system operation, and have since decided to promote our integrated video, motion, simulated weapon, and other sensor data solution with their HMD systems.
The Aaronia-Shield® worked flawlessly during the entire conference and gave us the ability to fully demonstrate our training solution with great success. Our Army customer was also very pleased with the results.