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11 September: Wireless technology proved its worth

Twelve months after the attacks that left parts of the Pentagon and New York's financial district in rubble, public and private...

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Twelve months after the attacks that left parts of the Pentagon and New York's financial district in rubble, public and private sector organisations are still sorting out how to assess the lessons of 11 September and incorporate them into future plans.

One result is an increased interest in wireless technology. It played a key part in allowing merchant bank Merrill Lynch re-establish its New York operations in the days after the disaster.

Merrill Lynch chief technology officer John McKinley said investments in IEEE 802.11 and VoIP (voice over IP), were crucial.

The "wall-to-wall" wireless LAN deployments in some buildings allowed for what McKinley called "dynamic work space reconfiguration". Some buildings had two to three times the planned occupancy after the terrorist attacks, so Merrill Lynch employees drove to Jersey City offices and plugged in their VoIP phones.

"The phones automatically hunted their way back through our network, and we had dial tone literally overnight," McKinley explains.

The US Congress took steps to protect itself by giving BlackBerry handhelds to senators and representatives, said Ken Dulaney, chief strategist at analyst group Gartner.

"It's a rudimentary data processing system, but at least the collective knowledge can remain in place," Dulaney added.

However, problems remain with wireless deployments. Giga chief analyst Rob Enderle said wireless technologies allow a company to disperse both people and data so that there is no central point of failure.

He added that there is pressure against deploying wireless because "companies are very concerned about security", hinting at the practice of warchalking.

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