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Sam Bartels admin

Development of wireless network planning software for rural community use

Rural New Zealand has poor access to broadband Internet. The CRCnet project at the University of Waikato identified point-to-point wireless technology as an appropriate solution, and built networks for rural communities. The project identified viable solutions using low-cost wireless technologies and commodity hardware, allowing them to establish general construction guidelines for planning rural wireless networks. The CRCnet researchers speculated that these general construction guidelines had simplified the wireless network problem to a point at which it seemed feasible to embed the guidelines within a software tool. A significant observation by the CRCnet researchers was that community members are collectively aware of much of the local information that is required in the planning process. Bringing these two ideas together, this thesis hypothesises that a software tool could be designed to enable members of rural communities to plan their own wireless networks.

To investigate this hypothesis, a wireless network planning system (WiPlan) was developed. WiPlan includes a tutorial that takes the unique approach of teaching the user process rather than the detail of network planning. WiPlan was evaluated using a novel evaluation technique structured as a role-playing game. The study design provided participants with local knowledge appropriate for their planning roles. In two trials, WiPlan was found to support participants in successfully planning feasible networks, soliciting local knowledge as needed throughout the planning process. The tutorial was found to be effective as a learning tool, as participants in both trials were able to use the techniques introduced by the tutorial while planning their wireless network. Participants successfully planned feasible wireless networks within budget in both study trials. This thesis therefore establishes that it is feasible to build a wireless network planning tool that can assist in planning a rural wireless network and in particular, that the tool can be used by people with no expertise in wireless network planning.




After a fantastic trip through parts of Asia and Europe, I'm happy to say that my thesis has been approved to progress to oral examination. However a number of changes (two of which are quite major) have been asked for, so I am currently working on these. Due to uni closing so early this year, my oral examination won't be until the new year. This is a little disappointing as I wanted to have it all wrapped up by Christmas but at least I will have some extra time to make the changes and refine the thesis.