VoWi-Fi gets Location Services

By Jeff Goldman

September 29, 2004

Two companies are throwing together the worlds of positioning and voice on a WLAN to provide unique applications.

Systems integrator tekVizion and wireless location technology provider Ekahau this week announced a partnership to develop location based services for the voice over Wi-Fi market. The services will be based on the Ekahau Positioning Engine (EPE), a software-based solution that enables location tracking on a Wi-Fi network, and promises accuracy down to one meter.

Tracy Venters, tekVizion's vice president of marketing, says the EPE offering was a perfect fit for her company.

"We found out it could be a very powerful piece of technology to add to the integrated services that we write," she says. "A big part of our business is writing customized services that take different elements of both voice and data."

According to Tuomo Rutanen, Ekahau's vice president of business development, his company's technology offers great flexibility. It works with any Wi-Fi access point — it doesn't require proprietary technology — and it can be used for a wide variety of applications. "We've got a location platform that's pretty much agnostic with respect to client devices that it can locate and track," he says.

One of the key forces driving interest in location based services for voice over Wi-Fi, Rutanen says, is the need for E911 services on Wi-Fi phones. "There's a demand for large institutions, and even for service providers, to have some type of E911 location capability with voice over IP Wi-Fi phones," he says. "We're hearing this from hospitals, we're hearing this from large enterprises, university campuses, state and county governments, public schools — all over the place."

Still, it's once you get beyond E911 and start brainstorming other potential applications, Rutanen says, that this kind of solution really gets fun. "Think of scenarios where people are roaming around a campus with these 802.11 phones, going into conference rooms," he says. "You could set a profile of, 'Any time I'm in a conference room, put my calls into voice-mail,' for example."

A location aware Wi-Fi phone could also monitor its own quality of service, based on its position on a campus.

"With tekVizion's application layer and with our location capabilities and QoS measuring, you can do some pretty good call control," Rutanen says. "You can guarantee a level of service based on the location, then do call routing — send it to voice-mail, and don't even try to put it into their handset, if they're at the fringe of network."

The tekVizion solution, Rutanen says, can also be used to voice-enable Ekahau's current line of asset tracking products for everything from warehouses to hospitals. "A person could speak into a phone and say, 'Tell me where the closest crash cart is,'" he says. "We can track that voice over IP device and know its location, and the system would then speak back and say, 'Based on where you're standing right now, the closest crash cart is in, say, Room 202.'"

Venters says the turnaround time that was needed for tekVizion to develop a solution based on Ekahau's technology was surprisingly short. "We're very pleased with Ekahau's system — once we got the software, we brought it up right away, we mapped out our building, and we started doing some demonstrations," she says. "It's very quick to build applications with."

The new services will be demonstrated at the Fall 2004 Von Conference in Boston from October 19 to 21, and Venters says a major university (yet to be announced) is already in the process of installing the solution.

Wi-Fi Planet Conference Ekahau is a previous winner of the Best of Show award at the Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo. Who will be a recipient this year?

Join us at the next Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo, November 30 to December 2, 2004 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif. Then you can find out first hand.

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