Wi-Fi Product Watch: January 2007

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

January 30, 2007

A new year! With New Wi-Fi stuff!

The new Bio-NetGuard from Shimon Systems is billed as biometric security specifically for Wi-Fi networks, which authenticates a user, not just the computer they're logging in with. The hardware connects directly to access points from Netgear, Linksys, D-Link and Bountiful right now, or to a router serving multiple APs. End users use the biometric fingerprint scanners on their computer, or use a two-factor authentication with fingerprint and password. The Bio-NetGuard will support 5 to 250 users. It requires Windows 2000/XP/Vista.

AirMagnet's Laptop Analyzer 7.0 PRO version is out now, with a newly enhanced and cleaned up interface. Also new is the approach to looking at interference, by examining both network/Wi-Fi interference and outside interference on the physical spectrum (such as microwave ovens or cordless phones). The PRO version will integrate with the AirMagnet Spectrum Analyzer as well. The software now supports checks on virtual APs as supported by Cisco and Aruba Networks infrastructure equipment, showing that there's a single MAC address but multiple SSIDs from one box.

PanGo's new Wi-Fi-based RFID tag is the company's third-generation unit, now with five years of battery life, a built-in alert button, and a new shape and size. It also supports the new Cisco Certified Extensions (CCX) Tag Protocol, meaning it works seamlessly with the Cisco 2700 Location Appliance.

Not to be outdone by the competition at Ruckus, PePWave (formerly PePLink) has put out a new product, PePWave Surf AP, to act as the intermediary between a metropolitan Wi-Fi network and a user's home network. This includes an integrated home AP that runs separately from the backhaul connection to the municipal Wi-Fi network. The PePWave Surf still comes without an AP as well. Both products have new LED lights to indicate connection status.  

January 29, 2007

Ruckus Wireless' new MetroFlex DX is "dual-zone" – that means that in addition to providing the backhaul connection to the wireless network outside (usually a metropolitan-scale broadband mesh network), it also serves as the wireless router indoors for the local computers. You don't need a separate router hooked to this unit to make your indoor WLAN. Users can't buy this direct from Ruckus, though; it's available only from providers partnered with the company. They exist in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, MN; Mountain View, CA; Portland, OR; Toronto, Waterloo, Ontario; and Vail, CO.

AirWave Wireless Management Suite 5.0 will be available next month. According to the company, the new software will have "enhancements for enterprises, service providers, and other large organizations," including new support for mesh and WiMax infrastructure. The new "Universal Device Support" feature lets a helpdesk figure out if something other than wireless — such as a switch or a RADIUS server — is the culprit in an outage, before they even check the wireless issues. A 3-D navigation system shows locations of wireless assets on a map of a campus or building — it even integrates Google Earth maps. The AirWave enterprise edition can run 2,500 devices from a single server; a Master Console shows the setup across multiple servers.

Cisco wants to help manufacturing industries like chip makers, aerospace, automotive and even mining to stop losing their stuff. The Cisco Wi-Fi Asset Tracking solution lets them turn a WLAN into a tracking system, using the bundled combination of the Cisco 2700 Series Wireless Location Appliance, the Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS), an LWAPP Controller, Aironet Access Points, AeroScout Wi-Fi-based Active RFID tags, and AeroScout MobileView Software.

January 26, 2007

Members of the FON Wi-Fi-based community network — known as Foneros — will soon have an easier way to connect to member hotspots using smartphones. FON is going to distribute a Wi-Fi Connection Manager based on software licensed from Spotigo. It will debut as a free download from FON.com for Symbian-based phones from Nokia. FON promises a port to Windows Mobile phones soon.

Infonetics says that that Wi-Fi-based phone sales in 2006 hit $535 million, compared to $115.5 billion for mobile phones. Still, that's a 327% jump for the Wi-Fi handsets from 2005, compared to only a 13% climb for cell phones. Wi-Fi's increase was helped along by purchases in the enterprise (Cisco and SpectraLink led the way) and by the release of Skype-flavored Wi-Fi handsets from companies like Belkin and Netgear. They expect demand for both to grow in 2007 as prices drop. Dual-mode handsets with both cellular and Wi-Fi were the fastest-growing segment of the market, with Samsung the top seller, followed by Nokia. The forecasted increase for Wi-Fi handsets (both single and dual-band) through 2010 is close to 1300%.

January 24, 2007

Taiwan's BenQ will soon be making dual-mode handsets supporting cellular technology and Wi-Fi, specifically using the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) software of Kineto Wireless. UMA allows hand-off of a VoWi-Fi call to GSM and vice versa, and is in trials with carriers like T-Mobile in the U.S., as well as many more over in Europe. No word on what carrier may support BenQ UMA phones in the future.

iPass has a version of its iPassConnect client software planned for the Windows Vista operating system, coming soon to PCs. The software is used to access iPass services including its virtual network of Wi-Fi hotspots, not to mention other forms of Internet access from wired to wireless broadband. The software is already available on other OSes, such as Mac, Windows XP, Windows Mobile, and Symbian smart phones. The Vista version won't be released until the second quarter of this year.

January 22, 2007

firetide6000out.jpgFiretide is now featuring dual-radio backhaul on the new HotPort 6000 mesh nodes for use indoors and out. The previous 3000 units used a single radio for the mesh backhaul. Firetide sells access points separately that connect to the mesh and provide a client connection that's separate from the backhaul, and that remains true with the 6000. The company says the dual radios give them the highest bandwidth backhaul in the industry, in both a 'linear mode' that will refresh the bandwidth at every hop on the mesh, and a 'bonded mode' that treats the two radios like one, giving them a 70 Mbps throughput that's suitable for not just mesh but also point-to-point links between mesh networks or high-bandwidth units like surveillance cameras. A single-radio version of the 6000 will also be available for those who don't need all the extra throughput and want to save some money. No pricing has been announced, but expect them to cost more than the 3000 models, which were $900 for indoors and $1800 for outdoors. Look for availability by March 2007.

CDMA2000 1x Evolution Data Optimized (EV-DO) Revision A (Rev. A) is the latest/greatest thing to happen to EV-DO-based 3G, and Verizon and others are upgrading their original 3G networks to use it, greasing download speeds to as much as 1 Mbps. But it doesn't matter if your client side doesn't support the faster speeds. Luckily, the Kyocera Wireless KR1 Mobile Router — the Wi-Fi router that uses EV-DO for backhaul — does. Or will, as the company is offering free firmware upgrades to KR1 owners to make the upgrade. It's still backward-compatible with Release 0, the original flavor. The KR1 brand new is $270.

January 19, 2007

A major milestone for Wi-Fi land: 802.11n has a new draft. Version 2.0 1.10 (according to Atheros CTO Bill McFarland) was approved by the IEEE 802.11 Working Group in London this week, on a vote of 100 to 0 (five abstentions). Unanimity easily clears the 75% super-majority needed, obviously. Now comes the letter ballot process for 15 days, which should raise some comments, but probably not the 12,000 the last draft got (3,000 of the comments were technical in nature). If that goes well, 1.10 becomes draft 2.0. Apparently, things didn't change much from 1.0 to 1.10/2.0 -- just protection mechanisms for legacy devices during the operation of 40 MHz in the 2.4 band, according to Atheros -- so maybe we'll get some firmware upgrades for existing products after all.  

January 18, 2007

Ipsos Insight did a survey of 1,120 people and found that American consumers love their wireless — the only problem is, there's too many devices and applications to choose from. Many said that even if they hadn't done a particular wireless activity — such as surfing the Web on a notebook PC — they would do so in the future. Wi-Fi web surfing was the most popular option, followed by using a mobile phone for e-mail or instant messaging. The biggest barriers to getting a specific device or application? "No need for them," and "They cost too much" (both at 71%), followed by "It's already easy enough to stay in touch." 15% of the respondents said the technologies aren't worth the learning curve.

In-Stat says mesh is popular enough that 50,000 Wi-Fi units that support the technology sold in 2006, mostly for municipal networks. That number will jump to 100,000 by 2010. The biggest thing holding mesh back is the lack of a standard between the hardware — luckily, they all work with standard Wi-Fi clients, which are plentiful, which in turn causes the push for buying the mesh equipment. They say Tropos Networks has the most "mindshare" (not necessarily market share), but that competitors are catching up. Cisco Systems is billed as the "wildcard" in the market, as it started late but has the channels to push its tech like few others can.

January 17, 2007

Okay, direct from the email of Mr. Steve Jobs (by way of Wi-Fi Net News) comes confirmation that yes, indeed, Apple will charge people $5  $2 [updated 1/19/07] to get an updater to convert existing Macs with a Core 2 Duo from 11g to Draft-N. The reason given is still the bizarro rules of Sarbanes-Oxley or accounting or whatever. The upside is, the updater won't be locked or specific to any one serial number or the like. Chances are, as soon as it's available, the updater will be on every peer-to-peer sharing service you can imagine, and for free. The enabler will probably be part of Mac OS X 10.5 when it comes out later in 2007, since Apple will charge people for that as well.

January 16, 2007

SpectraLink says its new NetLink Softphone application brings the company's Wi-Fi phone capabilities to voice-enabled handhelds, turning a PDA with Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 — initially, it targets the Symbol Technologies MC50 and MC70 devices — into a business phone. The software connects to the SpectraLink NetLink Telephony Gateway using SpectraLink Radio Protocol (SRP) over a Wi-Fi network. The gateway gives the softphone all the capabilities found on a SpectraLink handset, such as call transfer, voicemail and more. It even supports text messaging. The NetLink Softphone should be available before the end of March.

It's not much of a secret that if you own an Apple Mac based on a Core 2 Duo from Intel (with the exception of the iMac with 1.83 GHz Intel C2D), inside is a Wi-Fi chip that supports Draft 1.0 802.11n. Or it will, if you run the software to upgrade it. But guess what? It'll cost you. You buy the new Draft-N AirPort Extreme Base Station for $179, which comes with the software. But if you want to use your Mac with a different Draft-N router, you must pay to download the patch to the tune of $5. Which isn't much, but...c'mon. iLounge reports that this is blamed by Apple on either the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or the possibility of their accounting being tagged as "improper" because they made customers pay for a feature that wasn't ready when the product shipped. Thus they have to charge you extra. Again... c'mon.  Glenn Fleishman reports from a conversation he had with Apple that there is no $5 fee (though Apple has charged to ship software updates in the past on CDs, which is where the confusion probably started). The updater that comes with the AirPort will be unlimited. However... everyone should wait and skip Draft-N until at least version 2.0 anyway.

JiWire — which has now dubbed itself "the Wi-Fi 2.0 company," whatever that means — is expanding the number of advertising units it will offer as part of its Hotspot Advertising Network, specifically to include Ultramercials, a premium commercial that viewers can choose to watch rather than pay for a service (like hotspot access). Wi-Fi Net News says JiWire also has a Skype for Windows client, so you can ask it questions like "Hotspots in Ronkonkoma?" and it will tell you where they are, or shoot a list to your e-mail.

New from Berkeley Varitronics Systems: BumbleBee-TABLET, a unit with an interface for a Windows XP tablet or UMPC to provide spectrum analysis of Wi-Fi, Wi-MAX, ISM and Bluetooth signals. Internal 40 GB hard drive stores the captured data for playback.

3Com is going to start building its own versions of the SpectraGuard products from AirTight Networks, after signing a licensing agreement. That will include versions of SpectraGuard Enterprise, SpectraGuard Planner and SpectraGuard Sentry. Last week, AirTight said it was awarded a second patent (no. 7,154,874) on wireless intrusion prevention technology, specifically extending the scope of its first patent, which was disputed by rival AirDefense. AirTight says the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) judge rejected AirDefense's motion.

January 10, 2007

Hawking Technologies will release a Wi-Fi and Z-Wave-based HomeRemote home control system in March. The product line includes a $200 Home Automation Gateway with remote control, connecting the home controls to the Internet for remote monitoring, along with a $170 wireless video camera. Then you can outfit the house with Z-Wave products like light and climate controls. There will be a HomeRemote Cell-Link service for those without broadband to get remote access via their cell phones — users can even watch live video on the phone through the camera. The Z-Wave Alliance says there are more than 100 products out with the logo on them. There's even an SDK starter kit from ControlThink for Microsoft Visual Studio programmers who want to personalize their controls. The Alliance recently did a survey and found that 72% of Americans would like to remotely monitor their homes when away.

More Wi-Fi-enabled portable media players at CES: Polaroid has a pair, one with an 80 GB drive and another with 30 GB, used for music, photo and video viewing, plus they'll include a hotspot locator. No word on cost or when/if they'll become available. ReignCom of Korea will launch the iriver W10 this year with the NAVTEQ Discover Cities mobile search guide inside, which will use Wi-Fi to nail down its own location via the Skyhook Wireless Wi-Fi Positioning System. Oh, and the 14mm thick unit will also play music. Look for the iriver in the U.S. in April.

January 9, 2007

Today at the Macworld Expo, Apple, Inc. — not Apple Computer any more — CEO Steve Jobs officially showed what is now called Apple TV, a box for streaming video from your PC or Mac — including items purchased on the iTunes Store — to your TV. It has USB 2.0, Ethernet and HDMI connectors, plus integrated Draft-N Wi-Fi running in 2.4 GHz (compatible with 802.11b/g). A 40 GB drive inside with an Intel processor powers the unit. It can sync with at least one computer in your home. Look for it in February for $299.

That Draft-N support goes part and parcel with Apple's new AirPort Extreme Base Station. It supports 802.11n in both 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrums, for full backward compability with 802.11a/b/g -- they claim 11n is found on most shipping Mac computers "when upated with 802.11n Enabler software," which will come with the new AirPort. The unit has three 10/100 Ethernet ports (no Gigabit) and one USB port. It supports WPA2 -- no word on if it supports the new Wi-Fi Protected Setup spec. Available in February for $179.

Apple also unveiled the long-awaited iPhone. It will support GSM+EDGE for Cingular, the initial carrier, but also embedded Wi-Fi. No word on if it'll do UMA switchover yet. And it runs on... MacOS X. (Apple apparently will sign a deal with Cisco to use the iPhone name... so Linksys and Apple may both use the title on products. Cisco's not to happy about it and sued Apple the day after the announcement. So much for a last minute deal.) Apple's, of course, is the cool one with no buttons (and no stylus), a 2 megapixel camera, support for Google Talk, Google Maps, and Yahoo's IMAP-based "pushed" email....just about everything a geek could want in a phone. Cost? $500 with a two-year contract and 4GB of flash memory. $600 for 8GB. Look for more info on iPhone at InternetNews and SmartPhoneToday.

SanDisk's new Sansa Connect is the latest entry in the Wi-Fi-enabled MP3 player space (following the Gremlin and the Zune). This one, unlike Zune at least, lets users go online at hotspots or anywhere with Wi-Fi to connect to their music and photos. It will work with "premium Internet services" without needing a PC, but there's no word on what services it will support. It doesn't have a hard drive inside; just 4 GB of flash memory plus a microSD slot for expansion. Look for it on shelves in March for $250. PLUS: the Sansa Connect uses the ZING Mobile Entertainment Engine, the same software used by Sirius Satellite Radio in the Stiletto 100 and 10 players. ZING announced a deal this week with FON, which will give ZING-based product owners free FON routers. That way, they'll become FON members and create more hotspots, which they can in turn use for free with their products like the Sansa Connect. FON claims 215,000 member hotspots exist worldwide, 17,000 of which are in the United States.

Lots of new laptops are supporting the ExpressCard slot, which is more than twice as fast as a CardBus slot, but there aren't many ExpressCards, at least not many supporting Wi-Fi. Belkin's N1 Wireless ExpressCard may be the first. Model F5D8071 will sell for $100 and provide access to Draft-N (1.0) networks (and 802.11b/g). The card uses less power, and is hot-swappable, so you can pull it out or insert it if the laptop is powered up.

Ruckus Wireless has a new multimedia adapter called the MediaFlex USB Dongle. It's their way of providing better wireless connectivity to devices in the home, like set-top boxes. Plug it into the Universal Serial Bus (USB) port of a supported box or media center, and it's on the network, using Ruckus's tech to get improved video performance — they claim as much as a 600% throughput increase over regular 802.11g USB adapters when the dongle talks with the MediaFlex router. So far, the only announced IPTV set-top box supporting it is the Motorola VIP1720. The dongle will sell for $59, but you'll need to get it from your IPTV provider.

January 5, 2007

Network Magic, software for home networks to make it easier to do things the operating system should do for you, should have a new beta version on its Web site by the end of the day for Macintosh users. The goal in this new release — previous versions have been for Windows 98 up to XP only — is to let home owners with a Macintosh share files and printers between the Mac OS and Windows PCs. The interface is brand new and specific to Macs; it's not a port of the existing product. It's not yet functionally equivalent to the Windows versions — which will also work on Vista when it ships — but the Mac client will get there over the course of the year, according to the company. The Mac beta version is free; a limited Windows version (4.0) is free, and the full version for Windows costs $30 for a three-user license.

January 4, 2007

Ready for Wi-Fi in your TV? We haven't seen much of this in the U.S., but now CNet and others believe that Apple will launch an iTV (name to be changed, most likely) at MacWorld next week. It would use some proprietary version of Wi-Fi to transfer video signals, however. The product -- actually a separate box to attach to your TV, at least initially -- will probably use video search capabilities provided by Google, as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is on the Apple board. Samsung may get the drop on Apple at CES by introducing the HP-TS064 Plasma TV. It will incorporate Wi-Fi for streaming video from PCs over the home network, and may also include a built-in hard drive for recording video.

Bluetooth could be facing a patent challenge similar to that currently plaguing the Wi-Fi industry. Turns out patents owned by the nonprofit Washington Research Institute at the University of Washington were enough for the Institute to sue companies using Bluetooth chips made by CSR. The companies being sued in U.S. District Court in Seattle are Nokia, Samsung and Panasonic (owned by Matsushita). CSR says the case has no merit, and that it will defend its products vigorously. The big winner in this could be Broadcom, which does license IP from the Institute, and thus sells Bluetooth technology that would be lawsuit-free.

Smartvue has a new outdoor IP video camera, maybe the first one with Draft-N support. The S4C550 is billed as "vandal and weather resistant" and promises 10 times the range by using 802.11n. It has H.264 video compression built in, to improve network bandwidth usage. The hardware will cost $1,745 and requires use of the S4 or S6 Digital Video Manager, which is $2,795.

January 3, 2007

The NetLink 8000 Series Wireless Telephones will be the next generation from SpectraLink and the company's first to support 802/11a/b/g for Voice over Wi-Fi. The handset will sport a new design to be more lightweight, but with a larger display. There's the standard 8020 model ($595), as well as the 8030 model ($675), which supports push-to-talk (PTT) on 24 channels (and also has priority channels reserved for emergencies). Standard features include integrated speakerphone, interchangeable battery packs with different talk times, and full security support for WPA/WPA2. They should ship sometime in early 2007.

In-Stat surveys say that people really, really look forward to saving money with the coming of fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) when their cellular service and VoWi-Fi services get one bill with unlimited local and domestic long-distance calls for a flat rate, especially when at home or a Wi-Fi hotspot. This time out, the frugal customers could win, instead of the big-spending early adopters.

SMC Networks says it is now shipping its Draft 1.0 802.11n products. The line includes a $120 4-port (10/100 Ethernet) router, $90 PCI adapter, and $80 CardBus adapter. All come under the Barricade N Brand. SMC says the products are capable of 300 Mbps data rates.

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