A review....

Once upon a time there was a company that made an amazing product. A WiFi antenna panel that used "packet steering" technology to focus and direct the signal which allowed for long distance, strong reception and a large number of clients. Put four of these panels up high enough and you could cover huge swaths of land. I believe it just took 8 panels to pretty much over downtown Spokane! But alas, all good things must come to an end. Amid internal changes and external pressures the company closed its doors and this amazing product was delagated to memories and dreams.

You can imagine my surprise when I was sourcing new hardware for a client and I once again came across a Vivato panel! It looks as though someone bought the rights and started turning out the same panels again. The clouds cleared, the Angels sang and we payed the company for a demonstrator panel that we would use at our client's show.

Initial tests were very positive. After all, it was the SAME panel from years ago! (Remember that point). The pre-show setup and tests worked well. The range was exceptional, of course, and everything looked good. On the truck for the show it went.

Everything was looking good and there was a palpable excitement when we ran the unit up to position on a man-lift. Slowly we started connected the hord of client latpops to the panel's WiFi. Tens of laptops started to connect, dozens, now into a hundred, a hundred fifty and then everything stopped. No, litteraly just stopped. The interface locked up and we started getting reports of the show laptops no longer seeing the panel's SSID. Just days before the show this was not good. Fortunatley we had already deployed the Cisco solution we've used before so we had fallback. Many tests later we were left with a panel that would not operate after a hundered or so client connections. Given that we had about three hundred client laptops we had a problem. Well, Vivato had the problem. We were just holding their bag.

The first sign of concern, believe it or not, wasn't that the panel didn't work. Technologie can be glitchy, this we expect. The point of concern was when we called for support and found out that, well, that support might not be as helpful as we'd hope. There was apparently only one person who we could work with and I'm still not exactly sure if he worked for Vivato, consulted for Vivato or was a friend of Vivato. The show had a small setup window and then a couple days of actual "show". Except for sending this one guy a config file of our panel we started the show with a bum panel and no direction on getting it fixed. There were no diagnostics except for what we could provide for and think of ourselves. When the VP of the company starts helping us troubleshoot our problem I start getting that feeling in my stomach.

So the show came and the show ended and we had no answers as to why the panel failed. We tried what we could to troubleshoot the problem ourselves but were limited to times when it would not impact the show's business. Apparently dropping us a new panel was not a possibility. So, was it a hardware problem? Was it a configuration problem? How about a limitation of some sort? The last may very well be it. The panel supported WPA encryption which worked well because our laptops were configured for WPA. The running theory by the end of the show was that the older chipset would not support the sheer numbers of encryption processes. From what we were told, these panels were made from the same equipment as the originals which, several years ago, were cutting edge. Now, they're just several years old. Vivato told us that they had panels in operation that supported hundreds of simultainous users but without any encryption. As much as we would have liked to test this theory it came up at a time where the show was shutting down and there was no time to test. Unfortunately, Vivato did not have the resources availble to test this theory on their own. In all fairness, we tried to work on Vivato's behalf to broker a deal with our client to use their show machines to test Vivato's panel but the deal fell apart since each party had different priorities.

So, we finally shipped back the panel (our dime) and started some talks to see if we could get some sort of compensation for the failed demonstration model. We look forward to some day hearing back from Vivato on that request....