From Scanning to WLANs

By Eric Griffith

December 15, 2004

Baltimore-based Barcoding, Inc., has done so well in the wireless data-collection business that it's starting a new division just to install and audit wireless networks.

Barcoding, Inc., has done so well in the wireless data-collection business—many installations of which include WLANs— that it has started a new division just to install and audit wireless networks.

The six-year-old Baltimore-based company started small with just three employees, and has steadily grown to about 55 staffers around the U.S. It is now pulling in $20 million a year in revenue, according to director of marketing David Shapiro, one of the company's founders. Part of that success came from online marketing: they own a number of URLs related to barcodes (barcoding.com, barcode.com, etc.) that pointed customers back to them. Over the course of time, however, barcode scanning systems have taken on more and more wireless aspects, helping the company learn more about that area.

"We were seeing an expertise develop on the wireless side," says Shapiro, "because we were doing it in challenging environments like cold storage, outdoors, and million square foot warehouses."

To build on that expertise, the company this week announced a new division called Wireless Builders. It will handle network analysis and security audits for customers, as well as site surveys, WLAN installations, and quick fixes. Anyone signing up for the services gets a full on-site spectrum analysis and audit of all access points.

Barcoding also has its own homegrown intrusion detection system, which they'll use during the audit to make sure customers don't have rogues or intruders. It utilizes a positioning system to figure out exactly where such devices are. The GPS is also made by the company.

"We have looked at third-party products, but as we developed our own expertise there were intricacies in our audits and surveys that had more functionality to it," says Shapiro. "Must of the stuff we do is in-house if we can. That's how we evolved. We don't farm out work to third parties, either."

The company started out with customers requesting wireless performance optimization, but they quickly started to ask for a security check as well, such as making sure signals weren't leaking to the outside of a facility for use by wardrivers.

"The tools we used to detect those things morphed into a product, bundled with services," says Shapiro.

The company now handles everything from cutting off outside access to doing full IDS with APs turned into sensor drones to monitor the network. They can sell the system outright to customers for their own use, but they also offer a network operations center that can monitor for things such as unapproved MAC addresses on the network. Alerts are then forwarded to the network administrators on site.

Despite their background in areas that are more prone to data collection, like warehouses, Wireless Builders isn't going to be just for those verticals. The company has already done some installations in hospitals, parks and office buildings.

Shapiro admits they're still very heavily into data collection. Barcoding works closely with companies like Zebra Technology and Intermec.

RFID is another area they're heavily getting into -- specifically, the first generation of passive tag systems being used by the government and Wal-Mart. While no standards exist yet, they don't plan to get into the Wi-Fi-based RFID being pioneered by companies like Pango, Ekahau, and AeroScout.

The company has gone national in the continental 48 states. It has sales offices in states as far away as Colorado, including Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Texas, and Connecticut.

"Lots of people do similar things that we do," says Shapiro, talking about companies purchasing and reselling data collection systems, but he points to their size, claiming 99% of them have less than seven employees. Barcoding started that way, but the growth into what they are today, including a listing in Inc. Magazine's Inc 500 list, "gives credibility to our growth and abilities... we're no Google, but in our industry we're a top player." Now the play is to translate that into being a successful Wi-Fi systems integrator.



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