Australian network specialist MIMP has won another prestigious industry award, this time for a wireless network between two Adelaide zoos that will pay for itself within a year through improved productivity.
Adelaide-based MIMP connecting solutions won a NECA (National Electrical and Communications Association) award in SA, in the Environment & Energy Efficiency category, for delivering a cost-effective low impact communication solution that links Adelaide Zoo with Warrawong, a recently purchased property that could not even get a fast broadband connection.
Established in 1969 by revegetating dairy land with native trees and shrubs to attract native animals and birds, Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary contains 14 hectares enclosed by feral-proof fencing. Once the fence was completed, the bird population flourished and the release of many native animals began, including the elusive platypus. Today, it is home to 100 species of birds and many native mammals, most of which are nocturnal and highly endangered.
When the Royal Adelaide Zoological Society (Zoos SA) took over management of Warrawong, its only connection to the outside world was a low-speed 256 kilobit-per-second service at a very high cost. None of the business applications required by Zoos SA could run efficiently while Internet email was non-existent.
MIMP installed four Aviat microwave devices to connect up the Zoos SA head office at Adelaide Zoo, on the Adelaide plain near the Central Business District, with Warrawong, south of Stirling, about 25km from the CBD. One device is installed at each end of the link, with two more located at Mt Lofty, a geological high point on the Adelaide Hills face, which provides the central connection point.
MIMP designed and installed a high capacity licenced microwave link providing a low cost 32-megabit-per-second (Mb/s) full-duplex connection between the sites with minimal ongoing costs. In fact, the Aviat microwave devices use less power than a 40-watt light bulb.
Because building a 35-metre mast was out of the question due to its environmental impact, MIMP used its own profiling software to plot a solution from Warrawong via the Mount Lofty Fire Tower to Adelaide Zoo in North Adelaide. The solution was based at ground level excluding vegetation!
MIMP General Manager Allan Aitchison said picking out a visual line of sight from Warrawong to Mt Lotfy was like finding a needle in a haystack. “Only one location on the site could provide a clear line of sight - from a well matured heavy girth tree with minimal foliage,” he said.
As well as designing special mounts with outdoor cabling to conceal the microwave hardware within the canopy, the tree mount securing the equipment had tolerate movement to ensure a successfully stable link.
MIMP also installed some equipment on a fire tower that had to be specially strengthened. MIMP designed new footing braces for each of the six legs on the Mt Lofty Fire Tower, which previously had been overloaded, despite earlier attempts to strengthen the tower.
The $70,000 connection – with was half-funded through sponsorship provided by MIMP – will pay for itself in just eight months by eliminating the need for zoo staff to travel between the two properties for meetings. The high-speed connection will also enable a business centre located at Warrawong to offer videoconferencing, making it a more attractive location for business events. As well as standard computer data, the zoo is using the wireless link for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony, further driving down its operating costs.
The commercial cost to purchase a 32Mb/s per second service from a carrier would be more than $4500 per month: By contrast, the cost to run the new link is just $346 per month – less than eight per cent of the cost.
The links are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the MIMPNOC (Network Operations Centre) via a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection to a server that automatically notifies a technician within one minute, and the customer within 10 minutes, if a problem is identified. A technician can be on site within four hours if required.
When it bought Warrawong in June 2010 in a joint venture with the local Ngarrindjeri people, Zoos SA recognised it needed to link Warrawong with the communication systems at the Adelaide zoo.
Zoos SA Chief Financial Officer Tony Russo said a rapid return on investment was important to Zoos SA as a NFP (not for profit) conservation charity. “The wonderful pricing support given to Zoos SA from MIMP, has meant the payback period is achieved well with 12 months on a cost-benefit basis,” he said.
“However the staff benefit was achieved almost immediately. As well as improved consistency and standardisation of using current systems – hence less duplication of effort – the new link provided better integration of staff at Warrawong to the rest of Zoos SA.
“The link has reduced the cost of IT and communication systems, it has increased security and backup procedures and it has allowed us to remove paper/manual systems. It has also given staff from other sites the ability to log on and access their files and email.
“In terms of telephony, the system has allowed us to install handsets which are an extension of the Adelaide Zoo telephone system, effectively giving us free calls between sites. It has also allowed us to us to replace old cash registers with an online Point of Sale system in the Warrawong cafe, retail and Admissions areas.”
Mr. Russo said the MIMP-provided network had allowed Warrawong to use the most effective means to connect with potential suppliers, customers and third parties outside Zoos SA. As well as giving Warrawong an actual network, it allows Zoos SA to report on sales from any location and provides each staff member with access to an email account.
Mr. Russo said MIMP’s involvement had been central to the project’s success. ““MIMP was very excited to involved in the project,” he said. “MIMP liaised with government departments on our behalf to grant us access to install a dish on the Fire Tower at Mount Lofty. MIMP designed a device where the dish at Warrawong could be fixed to a tree and still allow the tree to expand with growth. MIMP provided a hefty sponsorship to allow this project to go ahead.
Adelaide Zoo and the Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary now share a communications infrastructure that many other zoos would envy, providing an extremely fast network with reliable, cost-controlled bandwidth that enables them to run future applications.
About MIMP connecting solutions www.mimp.com
MIMP connecting solutions is an Australian-owned company whose total business focus is the supply, installation and support of high capacity wideband digital transmission systems in the competitive business communications market. Established in June 1985, MIMP connecting solutions has provided and installed in excess of 600 systems throughout Australia. Key clients include the Adelaide Zoo, SA Heart Centre, State and Local Governments, Education, Health, Defence, and large corporations. MIMP connecting solutions is a flexible Adelaide-based organisation with a country-wide network of technicians trained to provide the best onsite and offsite support in the industry.
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