Imagine knowing exactly where your equipment in the warehouse is at all times, or tracking the location of employees as they wander around the office — even if they’re not using their computer or PDA.
The Big Brother-ish aspects aside, this is a future wireless LANs are helping bring about, and sooner rather than later. Inexpensive RFID tags like those being embraced by major retailers like Wal-Mart may be just the beginning, as products are coming that can do the same thing using existing and future Wi-Fi-based LANs.
For example, today National Scientific Corporation (NSC) of Scottsdale, Ariz., announced that developer kits for its own prototype Wi-Fi Tracker tag hardware are available for system integrators to give a try. The units tie in directly with the Ekahau Positioning Engine 2.x from Helsinki, Finland’s Ekahau, Inc.
“We’re trying to take the product into RFID territory,” says NSC’s CEO Michael Grollman, “by marrying functions of RFID with Wi-Fi. We don’t view this as pure RFID — it’s more versatile than that because it uses positioning and the bi-directional richness of a wireless LAN.”
While internal testing by the company tells them the hardware is stable and ready, Grollman says they want to learn from customers first what applications make sense. While the majority of interest in the units has come from the healthcare industry, he sees the potential uses being as broad as WLANs themselves.
“It has potential in high-volume applications, but customers need to try and fit it in to their plans before they can commit on a large scale.” Thus this developer kit roll-out.
The Wi-Fi Tracker unit itself is about the size of a hand-held radio, with an on/off switch (so you can avoid Big Brother a bit) and optional panic button. It has internal serial support, so it can even be used to send data back and forth in some cases. The kit will come with a trial version of the Ekahau Positioning Engine for testing.