• United States
by Earnest Powell

Wireless projectors: More than meets the eye

May 05, 20034 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork Security

* Taking note of wireless projectors

While it’s the projected video and graphic images that is meant to grab your attention, the projectors themselves usually go unnoticed.   But there is a new trend in projection systems that will make you sit up and take notice: projectors that connect wirelessly to a PC.

Since they first appeared on the market in mid-2001, wireless projectors are making regular appearances in new product announcements from manufacturers such as Epson America, InFocus, NEC USA, Matsushita Electronic, Sony Electronics e-solutions and Toshiba.      

First, let’s consider how all this works.  Basically, the projector comes with a built-in wireless LAN or socket for a WLAN card.  The projector is wirelessly controlled and display data is received wirelessly over the network via any type of PC, from handheld to desktop to remote server.  In a typical business meeting the presenter is free to move about and is no longer tethered to the PC or projector.  The presenter can actually move anywhere in the room when using a PDA or notebook with built-in wireless capability.

However, wireless projectors are not without their limitations.  Virtually all wireless projectors today use Wi-Fi connectivity, although some Bluetooth models made it to market before Wi-Fi – the IEEE 802.11b WLAN standard – became widespread.  Wi-Fi provides better range and bandwidth, up to 150 feet depending on the required bandwidth.  Yet the 802.11b version, at 11 MHz, supports at best very limited PowerPoint animations.  It remains for the emerging 802.11a, 20-25 MHz, standard to support high-speed animation and limited video, and eventually, 802.11g at 54 MHz, to provide the bandwidth needed for full motion video.  So, consider the bandwidth needs of your presentation before cutting the cord to your projector completely.

One advantage of wireless projectors on your network is that they allow multiple PCs to connect to one projector or for one or more PCs to use multiple projectors.  The improved effectiveness of PC-based collaborative activities afforded by wireless projectors in turn improves projector ROI. 

In addition to enhancing presentations, collaborative work and other display applications, wireless projectors, by virtue of networking, provide effective system and asset management.  The projector becomes just another managed device on the network.  For example, a network manager can use the network to monitor projector use and performance.  Software packages for this purpose, such as InFocus’ ProjectorNet and Boxlight’s Projector Director, enable the support staff to setup, manage, and monitor many projectors from a central point.  Periodically or on-demand, the software collects data on projector power on/off conditions, lamp life, display settings, and current use status.

Network-connected projectors, combined with the projector management software, reduce both operating and support costs.   Power and replacement lamp costs are lower since a projector detected as on and not in use can be turned off remotely. User support costs less since many user questions can be addressed over the network without dispatching an AV tech to the projector site.  Security benefits by alerting system administrators when a projector is totally disconnected from the network.

Wireless projectors that are typically used in business and educational environments have a list price from about $2,700 to $8,000.  If you have large venue requirements, expect to pay from $10,000 to $25,000.

What if you already have a large investment in projectors without wireless or network capabilities?  You can preserve that investment for projectors with RS232 ports by using RS232-to-LAN converters, and WLAN cards are available from several manufacturers such as LANTRONIX and OTC Wireless.

As we’ve seen, wireless projectors enhance convenience as well as visual communications.  Now, if we can just get rid of the power cord.

Earnest Powell is a Senior Analyst with Currid & Company. You can write to him at