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Lasers keep Children's Hospital connected.

Earthquake-related havoc is never pleasant, yet when Children's Hospital of Los Angeles experienced severe structural damage during the Whittier Earthquake in 1989 the consequences were acute. However, the proverbial silver lining emerged from the dark clouds.

Affiliated with the University of Southern California, our hospital is recognized as one of the leading research and education facilities for the treatment of childhood diseases.

However, the day-to-day routine threatened to screech to a halt when the Whittier Earthquake severely weakened one of the main research buildings in the multisite campus setting. Damage was so great that demolition and rebuilding was the only course of action--with a target reopening date of 1994. As luck would have it, all 27 divisions of the hospital had offices in the doomed building.

New sites for research and other divisions were quickly required and, incredibly, quickly acquired. Vacancies were secured across the street from the hospital campus at the Hollywood Presbyterian Tower, another medical center. However, the good news in real estate was coupled with a new dilemma.

The need for a communications link connecting the dispersed Children's Hospital staff presented a major obstacle. Research labs located in the hospital's central building, the Smith Tower, had to stay in touch by computer with the offices at Hollywood Presbyterian Tower.

When all buildings were on one campus, installing computer cabling from one structure to the next presented no problem. The buildings were across the street from each other, which made them close geographically but completely out of reach in terms of telecommunications.

Children's could not obtain right-of-way permits to dig a trench across the street for installation of its computer cables. Even if it could, the need for quick connectivity would not be well served with the laborious installation.

Budgetary considerations and data speeds vetoed leased lines, since heavy data loads were transmitted between labs and offices around the clock. Microwave might have been a viable solution, yet hospital's data processing staff did not feel comfortable with the technology and could not afford the lengthy waiting period to obtain an FCC license.

The solution to the problem was laser beams--not the thick, fluorescent bolts of ray gun power associated with Flash Gordon adventures or even the delicate high-tech instrumentation employed by Children's Hospital doctors. Instead, a LAN (local area network) connectivity technology using infrared laser transmissions in exterior line-of-sight applications was purchased.

The technology did not require lenghty and disruptive installation, government licensing or expensive maintenance. It was literally aim, shoot, save and savor.

Children's acquired the LOO-18 from Laser Communications Inc. of Lancaster, Pa. Part of the LACE (Laser Atmospheric Communications Equipment) family of data links, it fit the hospital's needs to a tee. Its Ethernet transmissions at 10 Mb/s on a wavelength of 820 nanometers could accommodate the data requirements of more users in a wide variety of data functions, including word processing and electronic mail.

Fully compliant with IEEE 802.3, each unit sends and receives transmissions. The hospital's line-of-sight application offered an unobstructed path between the tenth floor of the Smith Building and the tenth floor of Hollywood Presbyterian Tower.

Power requirements were no more than 110 VAC and the units' weatherproof housing allowed constant protection from the elements. The only potential limitation--transmissions at a range of six-tenths of a mile--was not a problem for Children's, which needed a distance of only 1,100 feet.

In fact, a second laser connection was installed between the Smith Tower and a neighboring building 750 feet away aat 4610 Hollywood Blvd., which housed the off-site data center for the hospital.

The information transmitted back and forth via laser transmissions runs the gamut from payroll to clinical research information.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of the system is the savings associated with E-mail. Memos which would normally be printed out and stuffed in mailboxes are now zapped across by laser beam from building to building. Savings can be measured in time (no need to run about delivering memos) and ecology (the paper normally used in printouts).

When the destroyed building reopens, the system will not be dismantled. In fact, plans are underway to install a third laser connection on the hospital campus.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:earthquake-proof communications
Author:Mulvey, Jim; Van Kallen, Ramon
Publication:Communications News
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Words:695
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