“SOLD II in the News”
Wireless Auction Clerking

The Truth about Wireless Auction Clerking
By Carl Borning

Clerking auctions via a wireless connection can give you great mobility, convenience, and improved customer service, but which hardware options best fit your needs?

I'm often asked: "Is wireless auction clerking a good idea for my auctions?"

Last week a client called me asking this very question He has an upcoming ballroom auction. Installing cables between computers was not only inconvenient but also ugly and a potential safety hazard.

Yesterday, a second client called with the same question but a much different situation. Next month he is auctioning the contents of a 25 acre estate. He plans on running multiple rings in separate buildings as well as an outdoor mobile clerking block. Some locations will be several thousand feet from the cashiering office.

The answer to both auctioneers is yes, wireless clerking is a good idea for your auction. Using wireless connections the auction sale can be clerked real time. They can eliminate hand sheets, runners and duplication of effort More importantly they will gain greater accuracy, faster and immediate auction cash out via their auction software. This all adds up to better customer service and a better image for the auction firm. These auctioneers were given a yes to the same question but their situations are very different and so are the workable solutions.

Unfortunately, one size does not fit all. The underlying physics tells us why. Wireless computer connections come in various frequencies and band widths. In general the higher the frequency and available bandwidth available the greater the data that can be sent per beat. Unfortunately, the physics also tells us that the higher the frequency, the more power needed to transmit the same distance. Think of it as comparing water through a water main vs a garden hose. Under the same power, the water main will spill out a lot of water (data) each second whereas the garden hose will send a small amount of water (data) each second, but spray it much longer distances.

Since there are practical as well as legal restrictions to the amount of power you can use, the higher the frequency, the lower the effective distance of your wireless connection. The second part of this rule is, the higher the frequency the less penetration through objects and the more reflective interference off metal objects etc.

In comparing the available options, I really have no ax to grind since our SOLD II auction software supports all of these solutions. They all work in the appropriate situations.

The most common wireless computer connection is known as wilan (802.11 wireless networks). Virtually every notebook computer comes with this; you'll find it in all of those coffee shops and other hot spots. It's inexpensive and fast. Wilan runs at very high frequencies and can move a lot of data very quickly. That's why it can draw all of those pretty graphics very quickly. But this commonplace protocol has one very significant drawback; it also has very low effective range. Many of our auction software clients report difficultly connecting beyond 50 feet and even less in some environments. Because of its high frequency it also can't penetrate barriers very well, and metal ones not at all.

The wilan, however, is the ideal solution for our first client's ballroom auction. Distances are short, there are no barriers, and he probably already has the hardware he needs or it's inexpensive to add it. His users will be happy with the speedy throughput.

But what of our 250 acre estate auction? Too many barriers and the distances are much too great for the consumer level wilan to work. Fortunately, there are other wireless solutions that are cost-effective. These solutions include wireless modems from the 900mhz frequency range on down to licensed frequencies in the 400mhz range. They won't throughput those pretty pictures as well (remember, less data per beat) but you will get very long effective ranges. Unlike the wilan, your auction software will also have to provide an efficient user interface since at these lower bandwidths superfluous data will make the operation too slow. A typical windows interface, for example, would not be usable.

The above solutions relate to point-to-point or local networking solutions. There is one other highly effective and inexpensive solution: the use cellphone company wireless data cards to connect directly to an internet. These wireless cards can be used to connect to auction software internet services, such as soldii.net. If you can make a cell phone call, you can also access the internet to clerk your auction using this technology. In the extreme, satellite connections are also available.

In summary, wireless clerking at your auctions can bring great benefit to your clients and staff, and there is a wireless solution for every auction environment with the right hardware and software combinations. Consumer solutions such as wilan will work in short haul situations like the ballroom auction. Equipment and other auctions involving longer hauls, commercial buildings, or outdoor mobile clerking blocks require more advanced solutions. Fortunately for the auctioneer, even these commercial grade solutions are reasonably priced. Another important option is to connect to an internet server, such as soldii.net, using a wireless data card from your cellphone company. This solution is workable for nearly all auctions.

About the Author:

Carl Borning is co-author President of Proven Software and co-author of SOLD II, a leading professional auction software since 1982. He is also co-author of ProvenBenefit software for fund raising auctions and Proven CHOICE accounting software. Carl's considerable volunteer fund raising experience includes campaign and event chairman as well as board member and chair. Carl holds a BA and MBA from Cornell University.

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