Hitachi to use WLANs to pinpoint war drivers

Hoist on own petard?

Hitachi is to bring a WLAN-based positioning system to market in Japan next month. The rig uses Wi-Fi technology to triangulate the location of network clients to within one and three metres - accurate enough to detect whether a user is within the building the network serves.

The system was developed for vertical applications within WLAN-enabled facilities, said Hitachi, according to a Nikkei Electronics Asia report. The company lists factory control, theme park visitor navigation systems and service location for mobile terminals as key applications.

But we were more intrigued by a fourth option: detecting WLAN intruders. Essentially, the system can be used to pinpoint the physical location of network clients. If the triangulation process shows a user is situated outside a company's premises, there's a good chance that he or she is not authorised to access the network.

Better WLAN security should keep out most network intruders, but those who have received accurate log on and access information will be able to bypass such measures. Hitachi's system provides one way to verify that the user is accessing the network from within the building.

The system doesn't come cheap. Hitachi has yet to set pricing, but four access points and a positioning data server is expected to cost around ¥3 million ($25,684)

Hitachi claims its set-up can accurately determine the location of a terminal to within one and three metres - rather better than the five to ten metres you can get from GPS these days. The system uses a grid of WLAN base-stations placed at 100-200m intervals.

"The market requires a highly accurate positioning data system," the Nikkei Electronics Asia report cites a Hitachi spokesman as saying. "However, those using GPS can measure only to a poor accuracy of more than 10m, while it is difficult for Bluetooth and [RFID] tags to monitor large areas. On the contrary, wireless LAN can measure data in detail within a large scale of 100m-200m." ®

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