PanGo Knows Where You are - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell

September 17, 2003

"[The cost for tags] has got to be less than a penny, and the problem is, when you get to that level, you lose a lot of the intelligence," he explains. "This is not an application that we're targeting as we speak, but there are big retail corporations that are taking serious looks at it."

Besides the specific applications PanGo offers, the company's locationing systems provide network administrators better reporting and control of their wireless networks. They can tell where users are and how long they've spent there, and they can generate statistical reports.

With wired LANs, tech support personnel can physically locate users by IP address, but with the advent of mobile networks -- especially on a large campus -- it's not so simple. The PanGo technology can help there too.

"It allows network administrators a lot more control," Thompson says. "For now they're just concerned with getting basic security in place, but once they've solved that, then they'll want more."

Future applications include intelligent information management in Wi-Fi hotspots. A traveler gets off a plane at Laguardia and turns on his Wi-Fi-enabled PDA, for example, and immediately the local network pushes out floor plans of the airport, flight and ground transport information and directions to -- or, more ominously, ads from -- on site restaurants and shopping.

As in wide area networks, where location-based services were first talked about five years ago, privacy is a real concern -- one reason PanGo is staying away from this kind of application for now.

"This is something we see down the pike," Thompson says. "It's one of the things we keep an eye on, not something we're actively pursuing."

It's still early days yet for Wi-Fi locationing. The Tate is in fact the only customer up and running that PanGo has made public -- and it announced the Tate last October. It has two other customers deployed that have not been publicized, one major university in the process and several tests and trials underway.

PanGo doesn't have this emerging market to itself, though. At least three other firms are also in the running -- Newbury Networks, Bluesoft and Ekahau.

Thompson says competitors' solutions either include hardware, which increases their costs, and/or they only provide the locationing engine, not application software, such as the PanGo Docent application used at the Tate.

The PanGo technology is relatively inexpensive to start. Deploying the locationing engine in a 10-access point network could cost as little as $5,000 for perpetual licenses, Thompson says. Application software would be extra.

It's far too early to predict the future of location-based services and applications in Wi-Fi networks, but PanGo believes the move away from intelligent access points to Wi-Fi switches -- with more of the intelligence in the switches -- will hasten acceptance.

This will make Wi-Fi access points cheaper, he explains, which means network designers will likely deploy more of them rather than expending a lot of effort on site surveys to precisely position a relatively few. The more access points, the better PanGo's technology works.

There is an interesting counter trend: using antenna-based wireless distribution systems, which actually reduces the number of access points. Thompson is sure the move to Wi-Fi switches is the dominant trend -- or hopes it is.

"The switch market started last year," he notes. "This year we're seeing more deployment. 2004 will be the big year [for Wi-Fi switches]. Locationing will still be in the early phases through 2003 and 2004. Then it opens up in 2005."

In the meantime, PanGo is laying the groundwork. It has announced several partnership and reseller agreements this year, including most recently, a reseller deal with Aloha Mobile.Net, a WLAN systems integrator in Honolulu HI.

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