March 7, 2005
By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
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The Latest in Wireless Products and Tech

Technology News

The International Packet Communications Consortium (IPCC) has established a new working group to define the reference architectures for transparency and seamless mobility across wireline and wireless networks. The IPCC's Wireless Wireline Convergence Working Group will focus on defining reference architectures for an access agnostic network across DSL, fiber, cable, 2.5G/3G cellular, Wi-Fi, and WiMax networks. Its work will include mobile handover between 2G/3G and Wi-Fi/WiMax and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) within 3GPP. It will investigate other areas where efficiencies may be achieved in operations and capital costs. This working group will also coordinate with the appropriate standards bodies such as ANSI, ETSI, IETF, 3GPP, the DSL Forum, and WiMax Forum to expedite the proposed reference architecture. Participants include Alcatel, Brooktrout, Cisco, Convedia, eLec, Sonus, Tekelec, Time Warner Telecom, and UTStarcom.

Product News

In the runup to the CTIA Wireless conference in New Orleans last week, there have been few significant product announcements to report.

Among the interesting product developments, Firetide has announced its HotPort high-performance mesh network, which lets standard voice, video, and data applications operate both indoors and outdoors over a high-capacity wireless mesh backbone. In addition to providing fast transport between hops, each node features an integrated high-speed Ethernet switch for connecting standard Ethernet devices to the mesh as well as local line-rate switching up to 100 Mbps per port. The HotView mesh management software provides both live monitoring and remote management of HotPort mesh networks, including security, virtual LANs, traffic prioritization, radio power control, and network gateway interconnects. Live monitoring features include mesh statistics, node statistics, and a graphical view of active connections. Users can import graphics of floor plans or maps to show the physical location of HotPort nodes. The company positions the technology for video surveillance networks, Wi-Fi networks, and multi-service networks in environments such as hotels, airports, convention centers, municipalities, warehouses, and other campus environments where structured wiring such as Ethernet or fiber cabling is too difficult or costly to install.

In other product news:

  • Colligo Networks has updated its Colligo Workgroup instant-wireless-network software that lets Windows-based notebooks and hadhelds form peer-to-pewer networks on the fly. New features in Version 4 include enhanced security, better compatibility with applications' server-access expectations, and archiving of notes, file transfers, and chat messages saved to users' hard drives.
  • Nextel Communications and Air-Trak have partnered to offer combined cellular/satellite service, allowing Nextel cell phone users and Air-Trak on-vehicle satellite users to combine the two services for coverage anywhere. The combined service allows both data and voice communications, as well as tracking services for delivery and other field staff.
  • Intermec Technologies now offers Credant's Mobile Guardian software for Intermec 700 handheld devices. Mobile Guardian adds a layer of physical security through advanced encryption methods and PIN/password controls, ensuring that the device itself and the data onboard are secure even if the device is stolen or lost.
  • Boingo Wireless has made a roaming agreement with SBC so Boingo subscribers can access SBC's 3,400 FreedomLink hot spots. It's also made a deal with Boeing's Conexion division so Boingo subscribers can use the Connexion in-flight mobile Internet service, currently offered on a few transatlantic flights. The two affiliations expand the Boingo network reach to about 16,000 hot spots. Boingo essentially offers single billing and user sign-on to other providers' hot spots, in addition to some that it manages itself.

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The Latest in the Wireless Marketplace

ABI Research: RFID's Promise for the Airline Industry

Think radiofrequency identification (RFID), and you're likely to think retail, since big stores like Wal-Mart and Target have required their suppliers to start using the tags to help automate inventory. But RFID could help other industries, notes ABI Research, such as airlines.

In North America those big utility dollies used at airports, the ones that are pulled around by little tractors, cost about $5000 each. There are many thousands of them in airports around the continent. And airlines "lose" them frequently through carelessness, theft, or "borrowing" by other airlines. Dedicating resources to locate them -- humans and machines tied up for hours can quickly become a serious expense. "If you can track them electronically," says ABI Research analyst Christopher Lopez, "you can save a lot of money and use staff more productively."

Some airlines American, Delta, JetBlue and others are getting the message, and are starting to use an array of electronic techniques to keep track of their rolling assets. They are using Global Positioning System (GPS), RFID, and hybrid systems in a variety of configurations. "In a sophisticated hybrid tracking system," says Lopez, "the GPS will find the location of the asset, and the RFID tag will transmit that information to its ground-based network, avoiding expensive satellite uplinks."

Baggage tracking is another obvious application for RFID in this market, and frequent travelers to Asia will be glad to learn that Hong Kong airport now tags every piece of luggage passing through it.

Port efficiency is another growth area. Delays in unloading cargoes mean steeply rising costs as shipping arrangements are changed on-the-fly. Asset tracking through RFID creates the opportunity to keep those unnecessary costs to a minimum, ABI says.


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