Wi-FI Product Watch: June 2006


For every new company, one must die… even if that’s not true, it has truthiness when you consider:  as MusicGremlin comes online, Prismiq is shutting down. The company the first networked media player to support 802.11g to the TV set. It also sold a tiny wireless router with corresponding 802.11b/g PC Card and USB adapter. They’re selling out back stock, and if you hurry, you can get a router for $25 and the client adapters for $10 each.  


ASRDLet your feet tell you where the Wi-Fi is.

Finland-based Meshcom is going to license its MeshDriver software to access point vendors that want to build mesh networking into their equipment. It incorporates the soon-to-be-ratified 802.11s standard for mesh, with options to push performance. They’ll license the binary code or source code.

Mitel has new VoIP phones. You can get them with support for Gigabit Ethernet (via the $250 Mitel GigE Stand), or get the $180 Mitel Wireless Phone Stand. The stand can serve as either a client in a standard WLAN, or an access point to create its own WLAN environment to serve multiple Mitel IP phones.

ProtectStar is offering Mobile Firewall for Windows Mobile devices to keep those with Wi-Fi from getting too “promiscuous” as they try to connect to any and all 802.11 signals they find (it also works for UMTS, GPRS, Bluetooth and even USB connections). All inbound and outbound traffic is controlled, though VPNs can pass through as needed. A profile manager means you can make sure you only connect to allowed networks. Software costs $36.

June 7, 2006

Nomadix has another patent to add to its ever-growing pile of intellectual property. The latest (Patent No. 7,020,082) is for network usage monitoring via a module, which Nomadix uses on its Wi-Fi gateway appliances. The module filters data captured about all packet requests and responses from all aggregation points on the network, sucks out the data needed, and builds a database to show how well the network is doing. Other Nomadix patents cover redirecting users to a Web-based portal page, and doing bandwidth throttling without quality of service (QoS).

Remember Pepper Pad? We barely do either, but the third generation of this 2.1-pound handheld tablet replete with Wi-Fi, Web cam, better battery, seven-inch touchscreen LCD and software to do all you want on the Internet is apparently on the way. The $700 unit will be made by Hanbit out of South Korea; Pepper Computer makes the reference design for others to build. Consider it competition for the Nokia 770 pad and the “Origami” ultramobile PCs currently trickling into the market.

June 5, 2006

Sirius, the satellite radio company, will be the first to sell a branded Zing player. The player is a handheld media unit with speakers and a microphone built in, plus 8GB of storage for your music. Unlike an iPod, it also supports Wi-Fi. That’s how you’ll get your music from the Zing online music service, by connecting to hotspots or your local WLAN for downloads, with no PC needed. It’ll even stream music from Sirius — though not actually via satellite, only via the Wi-Fi connection (it will also support Bluetooth). Even without the satellite receiver, it has all the makings of being a communication device as well as a Wi-Fi MP3 player. CNET says to look for it later this year.

Buffalo’s new LinkTheater Wireless-A&G Media Player (model PC-P4LWAG) will be one of the first wireless units to support Intel Viiv. Inside, it has a Philips Nexperia media processor, and the software is from Mediabolic, all to get your content streaming from a Viiv PC to other parts of the house; video support includes MPEG and WMV, as well as audio in MP3, WMA, AAC, and LPCM formats. The LinkTheater has AOSS one-touch security built in for setting up encrypted wireless connections (802.11a, b or g), but it also has integrated Ethernet. It hooks to a TV via S-video or D4 digital (with an adapter to do component video out). The player supports UPnP and Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standards, with digital rights management from Intel and Microsoft Windows Media. Look for it in late June in the U.S. for $250.

Westell says it has  developed a new wireless gateway for DSL connections (look for it from your local DSL provider). The VersaLink ADSL2+ uses SmartBeam technology Westell has patented that “typically doubles signal strength over traditional antenna solutions while minimizing interference between other wireless devices,” according to the company. SmartBeam’s virtual antennas change the signal direction as needed to maximize the performance, rather than just giving the same input and output in the same direction. The company says it has earned the Wi-Fi Alliance certification for Quality of Service to make sure video and audio get where they have to go without hassle.

Conexant Systems is releasing its third generation of Wi-Fi chips for handhelds. The CX53121 fits in 68 square millimeters for a smaller footprint. It has both SDI and serial interfaces, and will run concurrently with onboard Bluetooth and cellular technologies. The radio can get a signal out at 19.5dBm for higher performance. Software support includes Linux and Windows Mobile & CE. It will ship in volume in the last quarter of this year.

Iogear has announced an Ultrawideband Hub & Adapter kit that will be out in the third quarter. The hub will have four USB 2.0 ports where you can plug in peripherals, then put the adapter on the PC or Laptop to get a Wireless USB connection. It will use WiMedia-flavored MB-OFDM UWB (though they don’t say whose chip). They also don’t know yet how much it will cost.  

UWB-based Wireless USB hubs are going to soon be commonplace. Wisair is already releasing a second generation design for one using its own chips. The hubs will still have four physical USB ports, but come in at a smaller size (38 x 93 millimeters) and even support a shorter dongle adapter for plugging into the PC. The new design has dual antennas, rate adaptation and radio channel changes on the fly, and LEDs to indicate power, signal association and data transfer activity.

June 2, 2006

The financial services analysts at TowerGroup have a new report out called “Wi-Fi Security: The Threats are Ruthless, the Solutions are Available, Are YOU Protected?” and as you can imagine, it doesn’t say Wi-Fi networks are well-protected in financial institutions. They say as data theft continues to escalate in that industry, that “Wi-Fi, if not properly managed, will emerge as a channel of significant threat to reputation and customer trust.” They blame the problem primarily on bad IT strategy, like thinking you’re immune just because you have a no-wireless policy, since innocent employees can install rogue APs. Such institutions need an intrusion detection/prevention system. In a separate chart, TowerGroup lists AirTight Networks’ SpectraGuard Enterprise as the most user-friendly system.

The wireless LAN market went up 8 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to Infonetics Research of London. Enterprise equipment sales were up 11 percent from the end of 2005, mostly due to sales of switches and controllers. Analyst Richard Webb said in a statement that enterprises are moving to homogenous platforms with “mobility… a key part of enterprise networking strategy, which is driving wireless LAN switch and controller sales in particular.” Residential Wi-Fi revenue is also up 9 percent, but service provider revenue is down. Cisco is still the enterprise equipment sales leader, followed by Symbol, Aruba, 3Com and Trapeze; North America is responsible for 47 percent of the first quarter revenue, followed by Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) (29 percent), Asia-Pacific (20 percent) and Central/Latin America (3 percent).

June 1, 2006

Earlier this week, Freescale Semiconductor announced the release of its BeeKit tool kit, designed to help speed up creation of applications and products using the ZigBee/802.15.4 wireless control technology. Key to the BeeKit is the BeeStack, a protocol stack specific to the ZigBee specification and based on an HCS08 8-bit microcontroller unit (MCU). The company promises that the stack is fully compliant with the ZigBee Alliance’s home control profiles. Later this year, they expect to announce a ZigBee System-on-a-chip (SoC) as they move ZigBee from 8-bit controllers to 32-bit to expand functionality.

Sierra Wireless‘ latest AirCard will be the 875, for running on all types of  GSM networks — including HSDPA/UMTS and EDGE/GPRS in various frequency bands — for what the company calls “truly global connectivity.” The Type II PC Card has a fixed antenna that can get speeds of 3.6Mbps (bursts up to 7.2) on HSDPA networks. It can do data, and can also be used as a phone if the user connects to the laptop with a headset. Look for it in the third quarter of 2006. Pricing was not announced.

Option N.V. also has a new GSM card, the GlobeTrotter G.T. Max “7.2 Ready.” It’s designed to get 7.2Mbps of speed out of HSDPA networks, while still working with slower (384Kbps) networks like GPRS. It has a Zero-Install technology that Option has patented, which requires no drivers to be installed or even a software application. Again, no price, and it will be out in the third quarter.

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