By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
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Wireless Connects the Kansas Lottery
Every time someone buys a lottery ticket, the ticket data is transmitted to a central computer system. Traditionally, that transmission has occurred via standard phone lines. But these days, more and more lottery terminal connections are made over wireless connections, using a combination of ISM radio spectrum and satellite links. Kansas is the first of the 24 states with lotteries to go all-wireless. It made the switch in January after a six-week deployment to about 1,800 locations throughout the state, in both urban and rural areas.
Although Kansas is the first state to have an all-wireless lottery communications system, it's hardly the only state using such connections. Nebraska, Missouri, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Arizona are among the 16 other states that use wireless in some areas.
Kansas, which is grappling with a strong budget downturn, is saving significantly by going wireless the lottery agency has trimmed about $1.6 million off its $4 million communications costs and has seen up time go from 97.98% on analog land lines to 99.98% using wireless links, says Ed Van Petten, the Topeka-based Kansas Lottery's executive director. The lottery didn't plan to go all-wireless it just worked better that way. "When we bid this system, we allowed analog, digital, wireless with the budget crisis, we had to go for the bottom dollar," Van Petten says.
Wireless cost less because it eliminated the hassle of dealing with lots of telephone companies, especially the smaller ones serving rural areas. "That's a big issue for us," Van Petten says. That sped up deployment at new lottery sites, bringing in new revenue faster, Van Petten says. It takes 15 calendar days to connect a new lottery site via wireless, versus 30 business days for the lowest land-line bidder, he notes, so even though the monthly costs for the wireless system are greater than the lowest-cost landline system, the increased revenues more than compensate for that. The system also allows multicast transmissions from the central operations center in Topeka to all the lottery terminals, so updates can be pushed to them all simultaneously, saving time.
Gtech, which won the Kansas Lottery communications bid, uses satellites for most lottery locations, mounting antennas either on the sides of buildings or places them on the roofs (it does not attach them to the roofs with any hardware, since building owners are very touchy about roof modifications). In some cases, it uses ISM radios to transmit the signal to a satellite antenna elsewhere, clustering multiple locations to a single satellite link. This approach is particularly common for facilities inside buildings or in basement locations. The Kansas Lottery's contract allowed up to 5% of connections to be landline, anticipating areas that would be hard to install satellite dishes in, but Gtech was able to make all of them wireless.
Van Petten sees the wireless infrastructure helping the state serve its constituents more effectively and more inexpensively. For example, he notes that when he goes to neighboring Missouri to fish, he can get or renew his fishing license from lottery terminals. Kansas officials are exploring bringing multiple departments onto the lottery communications network so they can use the terminals and their printers to issue fishing licenses, hunting licenses, welfare checks, and so forth. The new wireless system is IP-based, so connecting other departments would not require any conversion to proprietary protocols. Because the current lottery communications contract runs until 2008, the state may hold off on any serious efforts to using the infrastructure until the next bid cycle such contracts typically run for 10 years, so changes usually take a while to implement, he notes.
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THE ESSENTIAL WIRELESS
PRODUCT AND SERVICE GUIDE!
nPhase is offering gateway services for wireless machine-to-machine communications on the Nokia M2M platform, which runs over GSM-based networks. nPhase provides the gateway infrastructure for enterprises to lease, and is partnering with AT&T Wireless for the carrier services.
SMC Networks will release next month its EliteConnectT Universal Wireless Access Point and CardBus Adapter, which offer both 802.11 and 802.11b/g radio for multiprotocol support. They support SNMP-based management and authentication and encryption via WPA, 802.1x, Funk Odyssey and Microsoft Radius Server, and Radius MAC address authentication.
Invensys has shipped a radiofrequency version of its Prism software to let wireless mobile devices connect to its enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.
ExpertCity has launched the GoToMyPC service, which lets Pocket PC-based wireless PDAs securely access the contents of their desktop remotely. There are small-business and enterprise versions of the service.
Morgan Kaufmann Publishing has released Bluetooth Application Programming with the Java APIs, a book for IT product developers that explains how to use the Bluetooth APis for the Sun J2ME programming environment common in mobile devices.
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Only 28% of enterprises are using point-to-point user virtual private networks (VPNs) to secure their wireless LANs, and only 29% are using 802.1x authentication a subset of the new 802.11i standard expected to be ratified later this year, according to recent research from Jupiter Research. The study shows that 48% of enterprises are using technical solutions to secure their networks from all known attacks today. "Many enterprises rely purely on off-the-shelf solutions with basics such as WEP [Wireless Equivalency Protocol] with either manual or automated rotation of keys, restricted SSID [service set identifier] access, or MAC [hardware ID]-based device authentication," says Juli Ask, a Jupiter senior analyst. Larger enterprises are more likely to rely on VPNs and 802.1x while enterprises of all sizes are equally likely to rely on WEP and restricted access available in most off-the-shelf products. Smaller enterprises are both less concerned about wireless LAN security and are taking fewer measures to ensure wireless LAN security," she adds.
Broadband Wireless is deploying high-speed wireless Internet throughout Boise, Idaho, as a consumer service for $20 to $60 per month, depending on transmission speed. The Blue Zone service uses wireless transmitters with one-mile-diameter ranges to let users connect via 802.11 client hardware. The company plans similar rollouts in several other western states.
American Express has expanded a pilot program of using radiofrequency identification (RFID)-based wireless payment key fobs. Consumers can use the fobs at more than 175 Phoenix merchants, including several fast-food and deli chains and Kwik Copy Printing. The fobs work like an ATM card, debiting a bank account or credit card. Mobil Oil has long offered a similar service for wireless payments at its gas pumps, called SpeedPay.
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