May 10, 2004
By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
A free newsletter to all IT Wireless subscribers.



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The Latest in Wireless Products and Tech

The last month has seen many announcements of upgrades, technology enhancements, and small-business tools. Among major news of interest to the enterprise, Cisco Systems has introduced the Wireless LAN Services Module (WLSM) for Cisco's premier multilayer switch, the Catalyst 6500. As part of the Cisco Structured Wireless-Aware Network (SWAN), the company claims its Catalyst 6500 delivers large network scalability, performance, manageability, and security across an integrated wireless/wired network without a separate overlay wireless LAN. A single Catalyst 6500 Series WLSM supports out-of-the box configuration and operation of up to 300 Cisco Aironet access points and up to 6,000 users. Cisco says the Catalyst 6500 WLSM also delivers the industry's fastest, highly secure user roam times.

Symbol Technologies has added two handheld wireless scanners to its MC-9000 line. The S version is a slimmer, lighter version of the grip/handle-based G model introduced last fall, while the K model adds a full-size keypad for data entry. The products are aimed at inventory management in manufacturing, warehousing, and transportation.

Lat-Lon has updated its RailRider telemetry-based tracking device for rail cars and refrigerated truck containers. The RailRider IV is now smaller and provides two breakwire circuits and two serial data interfaces and increases the analog inputs from two to four with 0.1% precision. The system can operate without any batteries. As in previous units, the RailRider IV is self-contained, with all antennas and solar panels integrated into the enclosure.

Boingo Wireless's Hot Spot in a Box feature is now available on the Linksys Wireless-G VPN Broadband Router (WRV54G), the company's flagship small business Wi-Fi router. Current Linksys WRV54G customers can also update their router with the Boingo Hot Spot in a Box feature at no additional charge by simply downloading new firmware from the Linksys Web site. By connecting the router to an existing DSL, cable, or other broadband connection and activating the Hot Spot in a Box feature, business owners can add their locations to the Boingo Roaming System, a network of nearly 7,000 hot spots worldwide. Once activated, they can access the Boingo Hot Spot in a Box administration site to monitor their traffic, make configuration changes, and add new hot spots in additional locations. Once a Hot Spot in a Box location is activated, Boingo subscribers and Boingo Platform Services partners (currently MCI, EarthLink, Fiberlink, Infonet, and Telecom Italia) can use the hot spot as part of their regular monthly service fee, while non-Boingo users can pay a daily connect fee to go online. The Linksys Wireless G VPN Router can also be configured to let employees of the business location use the Wi-Fi network without additional charge.

IOGear has released the Wireless-G Network Notebook Card, a PCMCIA card for notebooks that the company says can be left in the notebook at all times because its antenna is almost flush with the notebook case, providing no awkward protrusion for users. IOGear has also released a wireless router with a unidirectional antenna meant to reduce the chance of unauthorized access, especially in home-office environments. A removable omnidirectional antenna is also included.

In other product news:

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The Latest in the Wireless Marketplace

ABI: Retail RFD Gets Huge Boost

Continuing the worldwide radiofrequency identification (RFID) supply-chain adoption push, Target, the fourth largest U.S. retailer, has announced supplier RFID mandate plans. In broad terms, Target's announcement furthers RFID's push for legitimacy in supply-chain visibility initiatives. In more direct terms, it signals that consumer packaged goods (CPG) suppliers should reconsider short-term minimalist RFID compliance efforts and look at a more holistic enterprise, with a cross-customer focus and long-term RFID solution planning, notes technology research firm Allied Business Intelligence (ABI).

When Wal-Mart bespoke its RFID mandate in spring 2003, its suppliers progressively educated themselves on RFID and its potential in the warehouse and supply chain. When the U.S. Defense Department and leading European retailers decreed 2005 mandates, suppliers — still not convinced these commitments would intersect — pushed separate trials within warehouse and distribution center settings. Now, however, Wal-Mart is not alone in U.S. retail RFID compliance issuance. With an RFID hardware, software, and integration services market expected to exceed $7 billion by 2008, according to ABI, Target's RFID announcement genuinely commits suppliers to multicustomer commitment that is not tied to Wal-Mart's three Texas-based distribution centers. New RFID-enabled supplier distribution center locations mean either increasing one-off RFID out of the box solutions, or pushing larger, integrated RFID solutions that span multiple locations across the country. In short, ABI believes that CPG suppliers must now ask, "How many $250,000-to-$500,000 RFID-in-a-box compliance products do we buy before we shift directions and plan larger, more IT-focused supply-chain and enterprise RFID solutions?"

Gartner: 30 Million Hot-Spot Users This Year

The number of hot-spot users worldwide will total 30 million this year, up from 9.3 million users in 2003, according to Gartner. With such a large increase in hot-spot users, Gartner analysts say, enterprises must take action in implementing a strategy that gives their employees secure access and control over the cost of access to hot spots.

By the end of 2004, more than 50% of professional notebooks will have wireless LAN capability. Employees will increasingly use wireless LANs in the office, at home, and at hot-spot locations. Gartner analysts warn that if organizations do not undertake a contract with a service provider to allow access to hot spots and to control costs, employees are likely to use hot spots and list the cost under other expenses. "Build a strategy for use of hot spots by employees, but beware of entering into subscription contracts with service providers that cannot supply roaming agreements to meet the enterprise's needs," advises Ian Keene, research vice president at Gartner. "Organizations should avoid long-term contracts because this service sector is changing. Be prepared to supplement subscription contracts with pay-as-you-go hot-spot access. Companies should also put in place a mechanism to monitor hot-spot usage so that the company will know what to contract for when the market matures further."

Gartner says that a hot-spot strategy should include the use of a personal firewall and secure virtual private network (VPN) login for all remote access. If managed properly, an organization can see some real benefits to implementing a wireless LAN strategy. By the end of 2004, Gartner analysts said traveling knowledge-based workers will be able gain 30 minutes a day in productivity from hot spots. Managed service provides, such as iPass, Fiberlink, and GRIC, will be key to enabling hot-spot uptake among enterprise users. Alliances, mergers, and acquisitions will dominate the second half of 2004, Gartner predicts. The increased demand for mobile access will drive enterprises to reduce the number of wired networks they use while increasing the number of wireless networks in 2004. "Enterprises must begin tracking hot-spot expenses immediately," says Phil Redman, research vice president at Gartner. "Companies need to examine managed service providers and include local exchange carriers and cable service operators."

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