Ceiling TilesANTENNAS IN YOUR CEILING

LANCASTER, Pa. -- Youre ready to ditch those pesky wires that connect employees to your buildings LAN and go wireless, but youre tired of those feng shui-disrupting, surface-mount antennas cluttering up the decor. What will you do?

Armstrong World Industries recently launched next-generation ceiling panels, named "i-ceilings." What looks like an innocuous ceiling panel is actually an "antenna panel."

The entry-level antenna panel is the WL2 series, which includes one 850/1,900MHz dual-band voice antenna; one 1,900MHz voice antenna that can be either stand-alone or used as a diversity element with the dual band antenna; and two 2,400MHz antennas in a diversity configuration.

"What were promoting is being able to get a suite that has all the antennas that you need in North America to distribute voice, data or both in a space," said Gregg Maberry, general manager of new business of the building products/operations division of Armstrong. "These antennas will work with any service provider."

Other series with different antenna configurations are available.

Maberry said "in-building wireless" is gaining popularity as companies are attempting to make sure employees always have access to data and phone services without being tethered to their desks.

Armstrong believes that ceilings are the best place for antennas because a ceiling has a superior line of sight and increases propagation of the signal because theres less chance of interference, he said.

No need to worry about compatibility issues, either, as the company said the WL2 series is compatible with all wireless voice and data standards, including the IEEE 802.11b standard and the Bluetooth standard.

MOBILE MUSCLE

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A survey of worldwide mobile-phone sales released by Gartner Group unit Dataquest in February showed a total of 412.7 million units sold in 2000, a 45.5 percent increase over 1999 results.

Dataquest senior analyst Bryan Prohm noted that although mobile-phone sales were healthy through most of the year, persistent rumors of a market slowdown that dogged the industry started to prove true toward the end of 2000.

The report stated that Nokia strengthened its lead as the top vendor in the market during 2000 with shipments growing 66 percent over 1999. Some of the companys success was attributed to a strong second half, when 59 percent of sales occurred, the survey showed.

Worldwide mobile-phone sales estimates for 2000 show that Motorola ranked second, followed by Ericsson, Siemens, Panasonic and Samsung.

The survey said 2000 was a transitional year for the mobile phone industry, identifying a number of issues affecting growth:

- Global capacity caught up with demand;

- Lowered entry barriers allowed an influx of smaller manufacturers to exploit demand in some of the key Far Eastern markets, such as China;

- Wireless application protocol failed to impress increasingly savvy mobile users; and

- Mobile operators began to shift attention away from straightforward subscriber acquisition to a greater focus on lifetime customer loyalty.

The researchers concluded that "the long-term prospects for the mobile sector look tough." -- Newsbytes

Mini RobotsBIG JOBS, TINY WORKERS

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories took miniaturization to new levels in February, introducing a robot that weighs less than one ounce and is a mere one-quarter cubic inch.

The robot is mobile and traverses terrain atop a tiny set of tank treads. Sandia researchers have already outfitted the robot with a temperature sensor, and future accessories could include cameras, microphones, communication devices and chemical micro-sensors, said Ed Heller, one of the researchers