Cisco Tracks WLAN Clients

Wi-Fi wireless

"This is where wireless gets hot," said Larry Hart, director of strategic accounts at Global CTI Group, a solution provider in Bakersfield, Calif. "With this, there is hard ROI we can walk into clients with and show them how a wireless network can save them money."

Unveiled at the Interop conference in Las Vegas last week, Cisco's Wireless Location Appliance 2700 tracks up to 1,500 Wi-Fi clients within a company's WLAN, said Ann Sun, senior manager of wireless mobility solutions at Cisco, San Jose, Calif. The appliance hones in on the location of devices accessing the network with Wi-Fi clients as well as those tagged with active RFID stickers, Sun said.

Brian Gilbert, CEO of NeTeam, a Cisco partner in Akron, Ohio, said the device should gain immediate traction in the health-care field. "Our primary customer base is hospitals, and in a hospital there are expensive assets floating around all the time," he said. "To give them the ability to track assets such as crash carts and infusion pumps, both to avoid loss and to locate them quickly in an emergency, is very cool. We can't wait to get our hands on this."

Gilbert, too, said the new appliance answers the wireless ROI question. "I'm a mobility specialist, and it's always been hard to prove the ROI of a wireless deployment," he said. "This does it. This one appliance adds tremendous value for customers that have already deployed wireless."

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Gilbert said hospitals often lose five to 10 infusion pumps in a year. "The ability to track the location of this expensive mobile equipment and sound an alarm before it leaves the building is an immediate savings for them," he said.

Health-care institutions will likely be among the first adopters of the technology, but there are uses in almost any company, Hart said. Global CTI had access to an earlier, less-scalable version of the appliance from Airespace Networks, the wireless networking vendor Cisco acquired in March. Global CTI deployed that product for a large Los Angeles law firm to track audio-visual carts used to tape depositions.

"Those carts had more than $20,000 worth of equipment on them and they would sometimes just disappear," Hart said. "Now the carts set off an alarm before they roll on to the elevator."

Matthew Glenn, product line manager at Cisco, said the 2700 appliance is the first technology to emerge from the Airespace acquisition. The earlier Airespace product on which the 2700 is based did not have the capacity to scale to track 1,500 wireless clients, he said.

Cisco is working with a "bevy" of third-party providers to develop vertical applications for the appliance, Glenn added.

The 2700 is slated to ship in June for $14,995.