A Position for Management

By Eric Griffith

June 07, 2004

Location-aware product maker Newbury Networks is bringing its patented abilities to a new product that goes beyond the niche of data push and security, into WLAN control and management.

BALTIMORE -- Newbury Networks announced new versions of its location-aware security product, Wi-Fi Watchdog, at the last two Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expos -- and the program won the Best of Show award in the San Jose, Calif., show last December.

At this week's Wi-Fi Planet in Baltimore, however, the company isn't updating its location-aware security product. Instead, it's unveiling a new product that Brian Wangerien, a product manager at Newbury, calls "a superset of what's in Watchdog."

The new product is called Wi-Fi Workplace, and while it will have all the security functions of Watchdog, the product also brings the company into the world of enterprise wireless LAN management.

The server- and Java-based system doesn't require anything to be running on client systems. It works as an overlay on existing WLANs, using passive sensors to track wireless devices. It will apply security policies to clients based on location, just like Watchdog, but will also add management features such as 802.1q Virtual LAN (VLAN) tagging, controlling the access points (APs) clients associate with based on their position, and full usage monitoring. This latter will include analysis and reporting on what's going on throughout the network.

Because Wi-Fi Workplace is location aware, Wangerien says "it's all about visualization." The server will bring up a "Wi-Fi weather map" that can show signal strength of APs to signify how much coverage they have, and can show what APs are connected to what clients in real time.

"As devices move from one location to another, they move on the map. As they switch, you can see the change in association. You can see where an AP is overloaded or if a client is connected to an AP that's far away -- that's a problem. [The map] helps avoid performance problems."

The company doesn't see itself going into competition with companies like Wavelink, which they say are more about AP management, but wants to provide things that vendors can't always get even from products like AirDefense -- the location based extras.

The product, on display at Wi-Fi Planet this week, won't ship until September, as they perfect the display of graphical data to meet customer needs. The starter pack for Wi-Fi Workplace will contain ten 802.11a/b/g dual-band passive sensors and the server software for $18,995.

In February this year, Newbury was awarded a patent on its location-based monitoring and security abilities, (No. 6,674,403 B2), a move that Chuck Conley, the company's vice president of marketing, says "makes it easier for us as we move forward." While he hopes the company won't have to get into any "legal issues" (i.e., sue anyone), he says that "the patent is pretty broad, and soon we'll have to engage in some activity as Wi-Fi infrastructure players talk about location [abilities.]" Such legal activity over location awareness in WLANs, he feels, validates what Newbury has been doing for so long.

Other location-aware product makers include Ekahau and PanGo Networks, which Conley says both require client software to work. He says Newbury's sensors and servers don't need anything on the client to do real-time position tracking.

Wi-Fi Planet Conference Wondering how location can help your WLAN?

Join us at the Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo, June 8-10, 2004 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, MD. Newbury Networks, Ekahau, and Pango Networks will all be on the show floor demonstrating positioning-enabled products.

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