Positioned for Enterprise Location Upgrades

By Eric Griffith

May 23, 2007

Cisco, Motorola and Meru enhance their location-awareness features, and offer interoperability with Wi-Fi tags.

The flip-side of mobility -- allowing users of a wireless LAN to roam -- is keeping track of them. For that, vendors throughout Interop in Las Vegas are making announcements regarding location-based functionality. And no wonder: In-Stat says the Wi-Fi-based RFID market is going to grow 100% every year for the next three years. In 2006, 135,000 Wi-Fi tags were shipped.

Cisco , making noise this week in keynotes and elsewhere about mobility, also announced its Location Solution. It’s another extension to the company’s Unified Wireless Network product family for tracking assets and providing telemetry data such as temperature, humidity, usage status and battery life. Cisco is working with Wi-Fi tracking tag companies like AeroScout (the number one Wi-Fi tag maker in 2006, says In-Stat) and WhereNet to support not just the tags, but chokepoints -- areas of physical space that monitor for the tags, such as having a tagged wheelchair pass through hospital doors.  (In-Stat says key vertical businesses for Wi-Fi RFID include healthcare, manufacturing and transportation).

WhereNet has announced plans for a fourth-generation Wi-Fi asset tracking tag, supporting both 802.11 and ISO 24730 (a 2.4 GHz real-time locating system [RTLS] tech). The tag will also support Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX), meaning it should be foolproof for use with a Cisco-based WLAN using Cisco’s own 2700 Series Location Appliance. Naturally, AeroScout is also supporting CCX; the company says it has at least one deployment where a Cisco infrastructure is tracking 15,000 AeroScout tags.

One of Cisco’s main WLAN controller competitors is Motorola , which bought out Symbol a while back. Its RFS7000 RF switch will now get updates to management, security and location services as part of standard maintenance upgrades. Location features include the usual real-time asset tracking of active Wi-Fi tags, as well as monitoring employee whereabouts.

Meru Networks’ new self-calibrating High-Fidelity Location Manager is part of its E(z)RF application suite, which includes the company's coverage planner and network manager. Meru says it can get accurate readings down to five feet using the Meru WLAN architecture that blankets a building floor with a single channel with virtual cells (instead of other networks that may use multiple channels). They’ve also got deals with Wi-Fi tag makers AeroScout and Ekahau. The software runs on Windows servers, and should be out in June.

Newbury Networks has been in the location game since its beginnings, and at Interop announced its new RF Firewall, which enhances WLAN security by creating a “secure perimeter or virtual firewall around an enterprise's facilities to actively prevent neighboring users or skilled hackers from gaining unauthorized access,” according to a company statement. (Meru has a similar feature called Perimeter Zone Protection in its Location manger.) Naturally, RF Firewall works with Newbury’s own location appliance and third-party WLAN infrastructures -- the company specifically mentions support for Trapeze Networks.



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