wirednot

Ekahau’s Sidekick Changes the WLAN Site Survey Game

Some 15 years ago, I got my start in wireless networking. I had a year or two of pen and paper manually-recorded WLAN surveys, and then I discovered Ekahau Site Survey (ESS). It was a curiosity at first- but I’ll never forget the first time I used it for real and discovered how tremendously accurate it could be. This was Harry Potter stuff, long before there was Harry Potter, and it has become the absolute design and survey tool of choice for many a WLAN professional. Fast forward many years and versions of ESS, and the software (and company behind it) have only gotten better.

Now, we’re at a place where wireless professionals struggle to find the right adapters for survey and analysis work in an age where WLAN can run faster than USB adapters or even native built-into-the-laptop WLAN network radios. We also deal with inconsistencies across survey adapters, mismatched MIMO between survey adapters and WLAN hardware, and battery drain that comes with powering an adapter for long hours during survey and analysis projects. The time has come for a new  paradigm, and Ekahau is answering the call with their freshly announced Sidekick.

The prototype unit I’m testing is roughly the same size as a medium-ish access point. It’s comfortably wearable/carry-able in a variety of strap configurations, and connects to the ESS computer via a USB cable used to pass data from it’s own WLAN adapters (not the same as a USB-connected adapter, and the difference is important).  And it makes the already excellent ESS suite even sweeter.

Onboard the Sidekick is it’s own long-life rechargeable battery, and two enterprise-grade 2×2 802.11ac adapters. Compatible with ESS version 9.1 on both Windows and Mac (yes, that’s right), Sidekick makes the work you do with ESS faster, more precise, and enables a more test-instrument-like experience over the old USB dongle model paradigm. And forget about breaking Sidekick when you ding it against a doorway like with external adapters.

Sidekick shows like this in my Windows OS network adapters view:

And like this in my ESS program:

The Ekahau Site Survey utility gains a new dual-band crispness that is uniform across any PC running it, and the entire package just feels like a major step forward in multi-adapter capability.

Whether a single Sidekick is shared among a couple of teams or several teams with a mix of Mac and Windows PCs all have Sidekicks, the new magic strips away all of the variability that came from a mixed bag of adapters at survey time while also providing long battery life (and a platform from which a slew of expected feature evolutions) which can only lead to better wireless when put in skilled hands.

And it looks darn pretty.

Sidekick is big news today for Ekahau. It was my pleasure to beta test it, and to also hear how the awesome technical minds behind the Sidekick plan on expanding its capabilities in the future. But that’s a blog you’ll have to wait for.

Pricing? I *think* under $3K, will update when I know for sure. More information, including full specifications, at http://ekahau.com/sidekick