Tag Archives: Zaib Kaleem

Beacon Baby Steps

As I put this blog together, I do so knowing that I risk the ridicule of those who have gotten a lot farther in both understanding beacons and using them for some real-world value proposition. Though I understand transmitters of all types very well and I’ve covered other beacon-related initiatives (like Aerohive’s integration of beacons in APs ) and done my share of reading on how beacons are gaining in popularity as building blocks in a number of applications, I’ll admit to really not “getting” them yet to any technical depth. But that is starting to change, as I’ll tell you about here. And as an added bonus to you, I get to drop a few names of really smart people that I have the privilege of interacting with on occasion.

Free Beacons!

Awhile back, Ryan Adzima turned me on to a beacon giveaway that netted me three of these. Not being one to pass up free cool stuff , I got my beacons- and they ended up sitting on a shelf almost a year (I basically didn’t know what the hell to do with them.)

Fast Forward- Renewed Interest

I follow a lot of industry goings on as a freelance analyst. It’s no secret that Location-Based Services/Analytics is a running topic du jour in the tech media, and many a WLAN vendor has announced their own beacon story- like Aruba and Cisco’s Meraki. Knowing that there’s a lot of buzz around beacons, I worked them into my daily Twitter #WIFIQ question on June 4. The conversation that ensued reminded me that I was overdue to play with my Qualcomm beacons.

What sparked me to get back on the path that Ryan Adzima started me down was conversation with AccessAgility’s Zaib Kaleem and Extreme Networks’ Mike Leibovitz. Zaib turned me on to some beacon-related apps, and Mike triggered my interest on proximity to beacons being used as one component in banking authentication. Newly energized (see what I did there?), I busted out my Qualcomm Gimbals and got busy gettin’ busy.

Time to Play

Laying hands on my three neglected Gimbals first brought back the clueless feeling I had when I first looked at them and put them on the shelf. But this time I wasn’t content to stay in the dark. I took the bold step of cracking each one open and getting the watch battery connected, then I found the Gimbal Management App in the Apple app store.

At first, the App couldn’t see my beacons! Gotta be dead batteries, I thought… but then I went to the Gimbal Manager site, recovered my long-forgotten password, and figured out that I needed to activate each beacon.Gimbal

I also needed to configure each and upgrade firmware, which was quite easy. (We’ll come back to the “configure” thing.) Bingo! They showed up in the iPhone app.beacons

At this point, I realized/reminded myself of a few basic important facts:

  • Until the beacons were added to my account online, they were dead to me despite being powered up. (Private is default, you can make them “public” so anyone can see them, btw.)
  • My online account and my iOS account are synced for beacon management.
  • The beacons report their battery strength and the ambient temperature, and the mobile app tells how strong each beacon is being received
  • Though I now have three live beacons that can be managed, I still don’t know what to really do with them… no use case, no business application to hook them to, etc.

Knowing that beacons are all about proximity and location, I embarked on a simple exercise. Down a long hallway with three pictures hanging on the wall, I put one beacon on each picture frame, then watched my app show signal strength for each as I walked the hall.hall

This seemed like a reasonable way to see what might go on behind the scenes at the signal level on a walking tour, or in a retail environment where different app events are triggered by a customer coming close to a beacon. Here, this is the view as I transitioned from Beacon 1 and got close to Beacon 2, with Beacon 3 at farthest point down the hall.

Big deal, right? To me, it is. That’s because yesterday, I had ZERO first-hand working knowledge of beacons. With this these simple steps, I now get the technology and how it’s managed at a very, very basic level. I feel like I get the foundation, and I do understand many of the big use cases for beacons. It’s that middle ground of real-world implementation that I have yet to learn. Baby steps…

Back to the beacon config thing. For such a simple device, there are infinite permutations for what you can do with them. I think this is what is so hard to wrap your head around, especially given that along the line you may have to do some coding (or steal somebody else’s code). Zooming in on the menu gives a sense of just how many directions you might go bringing beacon-based use cases to life:
beacon menu

So… I now know a little, and know that I still don’t understand really USING beacons despite understanding the scenarios where they are employed. But with what little I now have touched and brought to life, I do understand links like this and this a bit better. Still a long way to go though, but ya gotta start somewhere!

WLAN Book/Access Agility: Some Cool Wi-Fi Tools You May Not Know About

Always on the prowl for new WLAN tools, my spider sense recently went all tingly when I saw this come across the Twitter feed:


The full link for the scanning utility is  http://wlanbook.com/free-wifi-scanner-for-windows/ and is worth checking out (bearing in mind that it’s still very much a beta tool and that your feedback is appreciated). But interesting beta code isn’t quite the point of this post; let’s have a quick look at an interesting (and accomplished) Wi-Fi guy, a company, and a website that are all tightly coupled. If you’ve not heard of Zaib Kaleem, Access Agility, or WLAN Book yet, you may not quite realize that they are all (essentially) one and the same, and are worth getting to know if you’re in the business of wireless networking.

Getting Acquainted

Zaib Kaleem is the brains behind the WLAN Book suite of wireless tools and website/blog. He’s also the vice president of DC-area Access Agility. Though Access Agility is about more than wireless tools as you can tell by the services listed on their site, for the purposes of this blog and getting familiar with the offerings we’ll say that Zaib Kaleem = WLAN Book = Access Agility and leave it at that for now. It also helps to consider the utilities sold by Access Agility to be perhaps a bit more “Enterprise Grade” than those offered through WLAN Book, but even this distinction isn’t quite accurate as many of the tools are compatible and complimentary.

My first brush with Zaib’s utilities came in March 2013, when I was putting together a blog for Network Computing on free or low-cost tools for wireless troubleshooting. “WiFiMedic” from WLAN Book made my list, and I became aware of Kaleem’s other tools back then as well. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Zaib in person and talking on the phone with him about a tool he had in development. A true gentleman, you can tell that Zaib not only knows wireless, he lives and breathes it.

The Lineup

Between the WLAN Book and Access Agility web sites, there is an interesting range of Wi-Fi survey and troubleshooting tools to consider:

  • Online tools that include Virtual Access Point software and a Rogue AP Scanner
  • Downloadable Apps for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows
  • An interesting group of survey and analysis tools and utilities (I wish all operating systems came with the functionality of Access Agility’s BridgeChecker built in)

Zaib doesn’t strike me as the kind of gent that lets grass grow under him, so check back now and then for additions to his offerings.

Taking the Message To The Wi-Fi People

The WLAN Book blog is particularity excellent for a few reasons. First, Zaib includes LOTS of pictures of whatever he is blogging about. Also, he gets around, and is a real-world practitioner (and not just a developer) as evidenced by his posts. To round it out, Zaib is one of those treasured people that gets the value of the greater Wi-Fi community. He mixes it up at conferences and via Twitter, he’s quick to respond to email and such, and is as active as anyone today trying to make our wireless world run smoother.

I was fortunate to catch Zaib speak about his Cloud WiFi Scanning tool at this year’s excellent WLAN Pros Summit, and the video on the session is here.

Though WLAN Book and Access Agility may not have the name recognition of Metageek or Fluke Networks, there are several fresh, innovative tools to be explored here. Having done so myself, I encourage you to kick the tires on Zaib’s tools that interest you as well as bookmarking the WLAN Book blog and following Zaib on Twitter. There’s a lot here to appreciate, and it’s obvious that there is more to come.


Please note: I have no relationship with Zaib, and there was nothing more to writing this blog than my own desire to let others in the WLAN community know about a sharp dude with some cool tools. if you got a problem with that, I'll fight ya.