If the browser wars taught the industry anything, it’s that you can build market share by giving a product away. The trick is finding a way to make money at it in the long run.
Finnish company Ekahau, which makes a wireless Real Time Location System (RTLS), is going to give it a try. The company has launched a new partner program called Located by Ekahau (LBE) under which it will give away distribution rights to its client software and source code.
The idea is to let any vendor with the inclination build the software into its hardware clients, which would then be easily tracked by the Ekahau Positioning Engine (EPE) 3.0. A major EPE claim to fame is that it can be installed with existing WLAN infrastructures.
“Up until now, we’ve licensed a client you can put on a Windows or Windows CE operating system,” says Tuomo Rutanen, vice president of business development at the company. “We’re now taking the client and opening the source code to embed that functionality into anything.”
LBE partners can get the source code for any ANSI-C language compliant devices, including standard Windows, Linux and Palm-based clients. The company also provides a 60KB code base for those willing to write their own embedded drivers.
Ekahau has been selling mobile Wi-Fi tags for tracking items for some time, a Wi-Fi-based RFID solution. Rutanen doesn’t see this move impacting the sale of the tags at this point, “unless someone makes a better, cheaper, faster tag—and that’s good,” he says. For now, though, he expects the software to end up in higher-cost products — the cost adds up when tracking items, assets or even people in the hundreds or the thousands.
While providing functions that can be used “for anything,” Rutanen says the free software code will, like the Ekahau tags, be used mainly in vertical, industrial applications, such as tracking healthcare assets or items in warehouses. The company’s first announced LBE partner is ShockWatch, a maker of forklift monitoring systems.