New Cognio Sensors Analyze Everywhere

By Eric Griffith

October 24, 2005

Spectrum analysis is the game with this company, which now offers sensors for outdoor use with its enterprise server appliance.

Cognio, a wireless spectrum analysis company from Germantown, Maryland, today introduced additional sensors for use with its products that prevent "unapproved devices inadvertently occupying key service channels," according to the company.

Cognio's Intelligent Spectrum Management System (ISMS) now comes in a mobile version — a PC card with antenna attachment for laptops — and an enterprise version. The latter uses mounted spectrum analyzers that relay data back to a server appliance set up in a network center. They even work from a remote location. New this week are ruggedized outdoor sensors, which are coming out of beta tests with select customers. The rest of the products are generally available.

William Flanagan, the new vice president of marketing at Cognio, says Wi-Fi signals are akin to train tracks: "They're the physical layer that everything rests on," he says. "Without a solid foundation — working reliably with minimal interference — there's a lot of risks." Maybe it's not a big deal on a "casual-use network," but for mission-critical applications in an enterprise, he says, "reliable infrastructure is even more important."

With signals around that use frequency hopping (like Bluetooth), Flanagan says, you can't get away from interference — so admins have to do more than change channels. They need to see what kind of interference there is — information that the Cognio ISMS software can deliver. That includes signals from a microwave, a portable phone, Bluetooth devices, baby monitors, cameras — anything running on the same unlicensed radio frequency (RF) band as the network. The ISMS shows what it is, in a "common-sense, plain English name," says Flanagan, as well as where the source of the interference is located.

It's a long way from the early days for Cognio in 2001. Back then, the company was in the chipset business, trying to make 802.11n/MIMO chips, which Flanagan admits "was a rough business." They sold off that portion of the company, but kept the spectrum analysis engine now running in ISMS.

The company has OEM relationships with companies like WildPackets and AirMagnet, which Flanagan says have helped boost the adoption of Cognio's technology "faster than we were expecting." Airmagnet Spectrum Analyzer is, for example, a version of the ISMS Mobile product that Cognio sells for laptops. The WildPackets version works in tandem with its AiroPeek NX WLAN analyzer.

Beyond just Wi-Fi, the ISMS products support the 4.9GHz spectrum reserved for use by public safety in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. ISMS handles all the bands — unlicensed 2.4 and 5GHz, plus 4.9, etc., all from one unit. "While we're Wi-Fi specific," says Flanagan, "we're also a general spectrum analyzer." He cites as an example that customers are doing point-to-point wireless links using the high 5GHz band that isn't Wi-Fi based at all. He expects the company will move into support for WiMax and other technologies sooner, not later.

"Our technology is agnostic — we just use it on the front end to go after specific bands," he says, adding that eventually the products may well support spectrum used in RFID and 3G cellular data connections.



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