The Wi-Fi Tech Behind Oracle Team USA's America's Cup Win
Wind wasn't the only wireless power source behind Oracle Team USA's big victory this week. Wi-Fi technology also played a key role.
When the first America's Cup trophy was awarded in 1851, the winners of the race won by virtue of their seamanship. This week, Oracle Team USA also won the 34th America's Cup sailing competition by virtue of their seamanship, but unlike their 1851 predecessor, technology--in particular, Wi-Fi networking technology--also had a place on board.
The America's Cup winning team used Wi-Fi technology from Ruckus Wireless, providing important data about the status of the ship and the environment in which it was sailing. Wi-Fi displays then made that data available to crew members.
David Callisch, VP of marketing at Ruckus Wireless, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that his company has been working with Oracle Team USA for over a year and a half. He added that his company has no commercial partnership with Oracle. It's strictly a customer/tech supplier relationship.
"Previously they used Cisco, but had three basic problems: Coverage, speed and reliability of the mesh connection to the boat," Callisch said. "The hanger on the pier where they work on the race boats is huge and is full of RF-unfriendly obstacles and electromagnetic interference that previously caused them a lot of pain."
Callisch said that the Ruckus Adaptive directional smart antenna array fixed those problems and effectively quadrupled the Oracle Team USA data rates both inside the pier and outside to the boat.
Oracle Team USA actually used two separate wireless networks. Callisch explained that one is on the AC72 boat all the time. It takes sensor data from the boat and distributes it to mobile devices that the crew members monitor during races.
"This Ruckus AP is actually installed on the back of the boat, but is covered with that black faring," Callisch said. "The other network takes the sensor data collected on board and sends it via p2p link to the shore crew and chase boats."
He added that the p2p link is not in use during actual racing. It's basically unplugged and taken off of the AC72 before races begin.
The Oracle Team USA boats used a pair of different Ruckus Wireless access points. One of them was the ZoneFlex 7962, a two-stream dual-band, three-stream 802.11n box. Each radio is capable of 450 Mbps, giving the device 900 Mbps of total throughput. The BeamFlex antenna technology optimizes the RF energy toward the end point cline on a per packet basis, according to Ruckus.
Oracle Team USA also made use of the Ruckus ZoneFlex 7982, a three-stream indoor box.
The Ruckus Wireless boxes that Oracle Team USA used aren't exactly the same form factors as the ones that enterprises can buy, as Ruckus had to deal with some particular challenges.
"The only challenges we had were form factor challenges given that weight and size were huge issues on the boat," Callisch said. " So we did some customer re-work for them."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist