Location, Location, Location
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It's not enough that you be connected to the network. What if the network knew exactly where you were at every moment?
That's a simplistic way of looking at a Location-Enabled Network (LENs), a wireless LAN that can identify discrete physical locations and deliver or gather information from the end-users in those locations.
At the forefront of LENs development is Newbury Networks, which today announced LocaleServer 3.0, the software platform it uses to manage WLANs by location.
"With a location network you can determine spaces and allocate differently," says Michael Maggio, President and CEO of Newbury Networks. "If you walk into the cubical area or offices, you need VPN. The cafeteria might just allow a Web connection. If you're outside, maybe you can't have access to anything, [but] we might grab your MAC address to see who you are."
While the software could be used in a Big Brother-ish fashion -- it could easily track anyone with a Wi-Fi-based devices like a PDA or phone -- Maggio says it's up to individual companies how they use the product.
He sees location services as a step beyond the current security issues of WLANs.
"If you think about security, it's not so much WEP is broken or you need LEAP," says Maggio. "The real challenge is, I can sit in the parking lot [with an] antenna and take as much time as I want [to break in]. But if you knew where I am, you could provision differently."
LocaleServer 3.0 builds on the product that has been in place with customers such as museums and educational facilities for over a year with feature like content provisioning to push content based on a user's location and bandwidth allocation for limiting access.
LocaleServer 3.0 will ship in October and will be priced at $20,000. The software will have optional, $5000 each, vertical applications available sometime later in the fourth quarter.
The vertical applications include the LENs Digital Concierge-Docent, which will "use the LocaleServer to publish content based on location," says Maggio. For example, he points out "I could get Web content pushed at me for each piece of art in a museum."
The LENs Mobile Monitoring and Analysis tool checks all the 802.11-based traffic in range, whether on the network or not. With it administrators can tell how many people enter a given location (say a hotel lobby) and then went to another location (the restaurant or the gift shop).
The LENs Hotspot Management tool gives granular control over public access users and what they can access. You can provision limited access to some users (say, in the lobby), paid-only access to others (in hotel rooms), and give full access to printers and projectors for those in a conference room.
Maggio sees a place for the LENs in a number of environments, including educational markets (the Sloan School at MIT is currently provisioning content with LocaleServer), museums, hospitality, retail, and of course, public access hotspots.