Feeds

Siemens to resell Wi-Fi locator tech

WLANs can track laptops, PDAs...

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Electronics behemoth Siemens will partner with Finnish firm Ekahau to resell the Nordic developer's crafty Wi-Fi location technology.

Ekahau's trick is to locate a Wi-Fi-enabled PDA, computer, Voice over WLAN (VoWLAN) handset, or tag unit using existing 802.11 WLAN access point antennae. The company claims one metre accuracy when the object to be tracked is within range of three or more base stations.

Computers, handsets, or PDAs to be tracked must be running the Ekahau client service software; the tags are a specialist hardware solution, significantly more complex than an RFID chip. The client software is available as a free download here, but it doesn't seem to do anything interesting on its own.

The Finnish platform will now join the wide portfolio of kit offered by Siemens Enterprise Communications, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Siemens AG.

"We're excited to be working closely with one of the leading WLAN vendors in the world," said Antti Korhonen, Ekahau chief, in a release dated yesterday. "Our combined solution enables our customers to leverage their WLAN investment by delivering state of the art location-based services."

Ekahau's Wi-Fi tracking works by "signal strength calibration, which ensures the highest possible granularity," and is "based on over 10 years of research by one of the leading research groups in the world, the Complex Systems Computation Group at the University of Helsinki".

The company also says its kit is "the only software based real-time location system in the market".

That isn't quite true. E-OTD software on mobile phones was used to work out locations from mast signals years ago, but the technology failed to gain acceptance. Even so, the company which developed E-OTD, Cambridge Positioning Systems, has lately been acquired by CSR for its cellphone-based software sat-nav solutions, which could be marketed this year.

E-OTD wasn't very accurate, and satnav systems whether software or not struggle to get a signal indoors - and both then need to use some kind of comms to let a central server know where they are. So Ekahau's Wi-Fi tracking could well be more suitable for many biz applications, the more so as its makers claim it can be used to track thousands of tags or client machines at once.

Where a business or public-sector operation has a dense Wi-Fi network, reasonably powerful admin machines available, and - for example - only wishes to locate personnel who all have tablets or Wi-Fi gadgets the costs needn't be large. The Ekahau solution genuinely would be entirely software based in such a situation. Of course, admins would need to make sure people didn't go around turning their laptops or gadgets off, or they'd drop off the map at once. Nonetheless, hospitals with a generously-gadgety IT programme, for instance, might find they needed no new hardware at all.

That would be a good thing, because the weak point in the Ekahau offering is the tags for tracking things which don't have their own Wi-Fi. They are nice bits of kit, more like Wi-Fi pagers than regular RF tags; they can send and receive alerts by call buttons, lights and buzzer as well as being tracked.

Unfortunately, however, they cost "from $50", according to the corporate FAQ, so they are only for monitoring valuable stuff. But the worst weakness on the tags' spec sheets is that they only offer WEP WiFi security, not the more secure WPA. Not many tech-savvy WLAN admins will be staying with WEP for long now that it can be broken easily in less than two minutes so Ekahau will need to bustle with the updates.

The other limitation of the kit is that it only works within organised WLANs, which will badly restrict its user base. Ekahau and their new partners at Siemens may be hoping that municipal Wi-Fi will pull out of its present slough, which might let them sell their kit to city admins needing to monitor local government assets, but for now Wi-Fi tracking looks like a niche market. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Same old iPad? NO. The new 'soft SIMs' are BIG NEWS
AppleSIM 'ware to allow quick switch of carriers
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Brits: Google, can you scrape 60k pages from web, pleeease
Hey, c'mon Choc Factory, it's our 'right to be forgotten'
Of COURSE Stephen Elop's to blame for Nokia woes, says author
'Google did have some unique propositions for Nokia'
It's even GRIMMER up North after MEGA SKY BROADBAND OUTAGE
By 'eck! Eccles cake production thrown into jeopardy
Mobile coverage on trains really is pants
You thought it was just *insert your provider here*, but now we have numbers
Don't mess with Texas ('cos it's getting Google Fiber and you're not)
A bit late, but company says 1Gbps Austin network almost ready to compete with AT&T
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.