Killing the Security Overlay

By Eric Griffith

July 14, 2004

Chipmaker Engim says its second generation of chips for APs can handle not only data and voice, but also security functions reserved for a hardware overlay network.

Acton, Mass.-based Engim last year unveiled its first generation of chips that use multiple channels simultaneously to get higher capacity on a wireless LAN. This week the company announced its first OEM customer, as well as a new generation chip it says solves a cost issue for intrusion detection systems (IDS).

Engim's vice president of marketing, Scott Lindsay, says that there are issues with both of the current models of IDS. He says, "an access point that has to go offline occasionally [to scan] is giving the worst of both worlds. When it goes off, it interrupts communications. It might go quickly, and not have much impact, but the second you try that with voice or video, imagine what will happen." He says that most vendors have shifted to a separate overlay monitoring network, like that from Airmagnet or AirDefense, which he says is a far better paradigm but can be expensive.

As a solution, Engim's new product, the EN-3001 Intelligent Wideband WLAN chipset, will introduce an All-Services AP(ASAP) technology, specifically including multi-channel security. Three channels are used at once -- one for voice, another for data, and a third for monitoring the network.

"We can take a wide-band picture of what's out in the air and look beyond, to some narrow spectrum portions of WLAN RF that a single channel device would not see," says Lindsay.

Because the functions would be built into the access points, Engim says it can lead to significant cost savings.

The company has also created a function called transmit cancellation which Lindsay says "takes care of the worst interference maker -- yourself. With two antennas, one receive antenna can hear what's on the [same unit's] transmit antenna." The EN-3001 will cancel out that interference.

In addition to new functions, the company is now offering reference designs of Engim-powered APs to customers, both a full AP and a "thinAP." Each will be available to partners only for testing.

Engim has been working with an ODM (original design manufacturer), Accton, but also announced its first real OEM product customer as Matrx Aerospace, a company out of Arlington Heights, Ill.. It is using Engim chips to build Wi-Fi systems for planes that will be used for in-flight services such as passenger Internet access, video streaming, crew communications, and even monitoring aircraft health with data that can be transferred to the ground crew before they even open an engine hatch.

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