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Getting WiFi at the zoo

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

In June of 2018, Millennium was asked to help the Bergen County Zoo in New Jersey build out a wireless network within the park. The goal was to let the workers and visitors have the ability to connect to the internet while exploring the Zoo grounds, Park playground, and carousel. The county wanted to tie the new wireless network into its existing private fiber optic network, and then out to the internet. Millennium had previously built the fiber network, so we were tapped once again for this expansion.

The biggest challenges in building a wireless network in an outdoor setting are the weather and landscape. All components need to be able to withstand wet weather conditions, extreme hot and cold, as well as stationary objects that may interfere with signal. Millennium was able to overcome these challenges by surveying the site and engineering a wireless network utilizing Meraki access points. Meraki was chosen for several reasons: it's easily scalable, it offers powerful high density performance, it has simplified and intuitive cloud management, and it has deep visibility and control.

The next challenge was placing the wireless hardware at specified park locations, and bringing connectivity to each hot spot. Using Siklu point-to-point technology Millennium was able to jump longer distances and create more coverage throughout the Zoo and various specified locations in the park. One area of interest was a carousel where the County holds a large winter carnival each year. They usually brought out a portable wireless connection, but this was time consuming for an already busy department. Millennium was able to create a dedicated wireless connection that exceeded coverage needs.

Finally, the wireless network was in place and the only thing remaining was connecting it to the outside world. For this, Bergen County wanted to tap into their vast Private Fiber Network–previously built by Millennium– and allow users to access it. However, giving the general public access to Bergen County's private network could pose potential security risks. In order to keep the network secure, Millennium took advantage of Meraki’s integrated enterprise security and guest access to ensure that visitors using the zoo's WiFi network would not be able to connect to Bergen County's critical systems. Advanced security features such as encryption, authentication and Active Directory integration provide wire-like security. There are also features such as one-click guest isolation, which provides secure, Internet-only access for visitors. Meraki’s policy firewall also allows granular control at the group or device level.

Zoo workers were also given access to the WiFi network, and with their credentials, they are now able to access point-of-sale and remote systems while moving around the park. This helps them remain productive and efficient no matter where they might be.

Today, the Zoo's WiFi system is complete, and employees and visitors are able to access Bergen County's WiFi Network, through their private fiber, while enjoying the zoo.


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