Startup 7signal: It's All About Proactive WLAN Optimization

"A lot of the tools out there look at wireless LAN from the network-side out, and a lot of capabilities stop at analyzing the wireless access point," President and CEO Jeff Reedy told CRN this month. "What was needed is a different approach and an end-to-end system that looks at wireless management at the radio level, at the application level, and from client to access point."

7signal's flagship offering is Sapphire, a vendor-agnostic wireless LAN performance optimization platform that combines a hardware appliance with monitoring software and offers continuous analysis. The solution is three essential components: Sapphire Eye, a client device that measures connectivity and quality for an area of about seven access points using a WLAN radio and beam steering technology; Sapphire Carat, a software platform that controls the Eye units and analyzes data; and Sapphire Sonar, which passes Eye data to Carat.

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Many wireless LAN measurement tools don't cover what Reedy described as "the last mile": the performance challenges between the access points themselves and the various clients and endpoints. The goal with Sapphire, therefore, is to pinpoint exact sources of wireless network problems while preserving user experience.

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"Sapphire can scale an entire area and take hundreds of measurements thousands of times per second," Reedy said. "It sends that back to our management software in the data center or in the cloud."

Sapphire's target customer base is mission-critical environments like healthcare, education and distribution and logistics. Among other benchmarks, it meets the newer ISO 80001 requirements for critical healthcare networks and medical device management.

Reedy joined the company in mid-January. He was previously co-founder and CEO of Carrier Ethernet specialist Overture Networks, and earlier in his career, he ran engineering at Larscom and also worked at T3 Technologies and AT&T Bell Laboratories.

7signal itself was founded in 2006 by Veli-Pekka Ketonen, a former engineer at Nokia and now 7signal's chief technology officer. Formerly based in Finland, Ketonen and the management team moved 7signal to Akron, Ohio, in 2012.

"Aironet was based here and Cisco still has a presence here," Reedy said of Akron. "It's a really good place to have access to wireless talent."

In August 2012, 7signal closed a $2 million Series A round of venture funding from North Coast Angel Fund and others. Its board members include George O'Meara, a former Cisco senior vice president of services and one of several ex-Cisco employees involved in the company.

7signal is currently recruiting channel partners with wireless LAN expertise, Reedy said.

"That we can get this technology out there is huge, and the next step is to provide leverage to our salespeople to support the channel, absolutely," he said.