Raleigh, N.C. - Building air ducts can help boost cellphone and Wi-Fi signals in stores, helping retailers expand their mobile marketing efforts..
Research at North Carolina State University shows that the
heating, ventilation and air-conditioning ducts (HVAC) that snake through
commercial real estate act as natural signal boosters that can help eliminate
dead spots in stores.
This would be a boon to retailers like Best Buy and Target, which
are rolling out mobile-marketing programs that send coupons, sales alerts and
product information to shopper's cell phones.
According to a report in Storefront Backtalk, an industry
newsletter, the researchers found that HVAC ductwork is an excellent conduit
for cell tower transmissions because the ducts typically consist of hollow
metal pipes. The group was originally searching for ways to boost RFID signals
Retailers would still require a microcell repeater to grab and
strengthen the cell signals, although the ducts themselves would act as distributed
antennae, said Dr. Dan Stancil, chairman of
the university's electrical and computer engineering department.
"The ducts will increase the range in a very different way,
meaning that you can cover Wi-Fi with far fewer access points," he said.