May 26, 2003
By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
A free newsletter to all IT Wireless subscribers.


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IBM: How Business Should Think about Wireless

This is one in an occasional series of conversations with wireless system integrators and consultants.

IBM sees the adoption of wireless by the enterprise as a powerful, natural consequence of changing business operations. "What's driving this interest in wireless LANs is that the way many people are doing work today is different than it was before," says Adel Al-Saleh, IBM's general manager for its wireless/e-business solutions group. "I'm constantly roaming attending a meeting, in the hall that force me to be around the building, not in my office all the time. I always want to be connected." And Al-Saleh believes this is becoming the norm for many workers.

"Driver number 2 is that you can actually use wireless LANs to run the organization in a new and different way, such as on the manufacturing floor. You can completely reengineer your production process. Plus as you bring in new buildings and structures, it's much less expensive to add and maintain wireless over time than wired," he says.

"We look at wireless LANs as a way to improve business processes. Any company can implement a wireless LAN. What's more important is what's on top of it, such as security. How do you deploy a fully mobile office? Remote asset monitoring is very important to start looking at, whether in manufacturing or out in the field," Al-Saleh says. "These are the things that will transform business processes. It starts with simple things like being able to access email anywhere in the building, but it then moves up quickly in the value chain."

Al-Saleh cites a wireless deployment at Royal Dutch Shell, the oil company, which uses wireless to monitor assets like pumps, "which has changed how Shell manages the maintenance process." Other businesses should ask themselves "How do you leverage wireless for the field force or sales force? Such as for schematics access, help line, or customer service." Al-Saleh also says companies should look at how they can use their wireless deployments to take out additional costs or bring in additional revenues.

Deploying wireless today"requires multiple players devices, access points, applications, integration services," Al-Saleh says. And a lot of customers "are still nave about this, but they quickly realize they don't want to make this small in scope as they talk through it. They have to look at it from a business transition point of view. The companies that will get the biggest ROI are those that look to use it the most."

Got deployment experience and lessons to share? Let us know at

From our editors

A subscriber exclusive! IT Wireless's Spring 2003 Essential Products Guide is now available to subscribers. The 18-page PDF file contains a listing of key vendors and service providers, with summaries of their offerings and contact information. Categories include wireless network and client hardware, network and client software, and IT services. Download the directory now!

The Latest in Wireless Products and Tech

Symbol Technologies has announced a new ruggedized handheld, the PDT 8146 Xscale, which the company says is the first such device to use 802.11b networks to allow mobile workers to speak with other workers using Voice-over-Wireless-IP (VoWIP) technology. The device also has a miniature imaging engine for taking high-resolution digital photos and scanning several different classes of bar-code labels. The PDT 1846 Xscale also enables data transfer to peripherals such as printers.

Hewlett-Packard has joined the increasingly crowded wireless switch space, offering a series of switches under the ProCurve name. HP is currently the largest company offering such switches, though traditional network hardware firms like Cisco Systems are likely to follow. The use of switches permits easier, centralized management of multiple access points, which otherwise are typically configured individually.

Meanwhile, Bluesocket has announced a series of upgraded wireless gateways, as well as an applications programming interface so enterprise developers can create mobile applications that take advantage of wireless network features such as policy administration and security.

Axis Communications and Proxim have teamed up to offer wireless video surveillance, using Axis cameras and Proxim wide-area wireless networks. They offer the combination to security, law enforcement, education, and similar users.

Got a great product or technology tip? Send it to


The Latest in the Wireless Marketplace

Vertical markets such as health care, government, services, transportation/communications/utilities, manufacturing and mining, and retail will offer a myriad of opportunities for the deployment of Bluetooth, according to In-Stat/MDR. The high-tech market research firm reports that these vertical markets will grow aggressively to over 2 million deployed Bluetooth nodes worldwide in 2007. Health care and manufacturing present the greatest opportunities in the near term, the firm says.

Most applications being considered initially are cable-replacement uses, such as accessing machine health, reconfiguring equipment, sensor data, patient information, patient monitoring, security access, and asset tracking. The opportunities for adding new capabilities via wireless will be slower, but present greater prospects in the long run, the firm says.

In-Stat/MDR believes that many companies will still wait until they believe that Bluetooth, 802.11, and other wireless technologies have transitioned to a satisfactory "proven" stage before deploying. All indications point to deployments that will be incremental in nature, with installations in the tens to hundreds of units.

In-Stat/MDR has also found that:

  • Bluetooth offers advantages in noisy and dusty environments, because of its frequency hopping; therefore, Bluetooth is a good fit for the military, manufacturing, and mining verticals.
  • Bluetooth is ideal for short-distance applications that lend themselves to low power, such as patient monitoring, strip-chart recorders, upgrading instrumentation/equipment with serial adapters, and machine health/status sensors.
  • Interest is high in the U.S. for Bluetooth deployment in medical equipment, as over 50% of this type of equipment is manufactured in the U.S. Europe also has high interest in medical equipment, especially Italy and Germany, as well as interest in Bluetooth application to PC terminal security and patient information access.

In other market developments:

  • Broadband Central is expanding from Utah into seven other Western states Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington in its offerings of mile-radius high-speed wireless zones for residential subscribers. This lets homeowners in areas without DSL or cable Internet service gain high-speed Internet access without needing to wire their homes and neighborhoods. The company promises deployment in 100 areas in each state, with prices ranging from $20 per month for 128Kbps access to $60 for 1Mbps access.
  • Air France is offering hot-spot service from the Anglo-French cellular carrier Orange at all 54 of its business-flier lounges throughout the world. The deployment will start at the most-frequented lounges by the end of this year and be fully deployed a year later.

For advertising information, contact Manny Sawit at (510) 583-0855 or

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