Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Rolling Review: AeroScout Keeps Tabs On Assets

The Upshot

AeroScout provides a complete enterprise-class Wi-Fi location system that is flexible and scalable enough to work within most environments. With its tag, location engine, and viewer, it provides as compete lineup of Wi-Fi location products as anyone. Tags are not required to associate with the network, allowing it to grow without concern for IP addresses or WLAN infrastructure limitations. And although they're not specifically applicable to this Wi-Fi-centric review, AeroScout does offer readers that can use TDOA against its tags for better location accuracy in the great outdoors, and exciters for precise and immediate location detection.

Without Wi-Fi locationing, valuable is time wasted hunting down items or people. Unfortunately, battery-life concerns require beacons to occur seconds or even minutes apart, meaning there can be a significant information gap unless exciters are used.
AeroScout offers tags in all kinds of packages and mounting options and has designed a product that doesn't create a performance bottleneck. Tag certification and a strong product relationship with Cisco suggest market permanency. AeroScout does encourage customers to use its MobileView user interface; we'd prefer to see the company develop partnerships to encourage third-party application vendors to access AeroScout's engine and location data and display it within the application.

AeroScout, a well-known player in the Wi-Fi location market, focuses less on pinpoint accuracy, more on integrating with Wi-Fi networks to provide ubiquitous visibility into the whereabouts of assets and people. It has arguably the most comprehensive set of hardware and software products of any location vendor, offering tags in multiple form factors as well chokepoints for alerting and a locationing engine that can process location from its tags based on TDOA (time difference of arrival) in addition to RSSI, or Received Signal Strength Indication. Although TDOA support is outside the scope of this Rolling Review's Wi-Fi focus, it is very helpful for IT groups that need to track assets outdoors.

AeroScout developed its tags in-house rather than partnering with G2 Technologies, as most other Wi-Fi tag vendors do. It distinguishes its tags from one of its main competitors in that rather than have a tag take readings, associate with an access point, and then communicate with a location engine, AeroScout's tags regularly "chirp" or "beacon" a 416-bit 802.11 frame. Short in size and programmable in terms of interval, this approach reduces tag/access point interaction to a simple unidirectional packet. No state for the AP to maintain, no IP address required for the tag, and less radio time means a longer battery life for the tag.

This article is the first of a series and is part of NWC's Rolling Review of Wi-Fi Location Products. Click that link to read all the features and reviews now.

On the other hand, the Wi-Fi infrastructure needs to be able to listen for and interpret this packet, despite the lack of association, and send it on to the locationing engine. This requires enterprise Wi-Fi gear vendors to buy into the concept and add support for AeroScout's message. Fortunately, implementation is not onerous, and according to AeroScout, over 95% of enterprise APs support its tags today. For Cisco LWAPP environments, location information is sent to the Cisco Location Appliance and Wireless Control System (WCS), rather than AeroScout's engine.

Another caveat with this approach is that tag messages can be cloned. Because there's no authentication or two-way verification, once a tag's communication is captured, it can be played back on any device. AeroScout says that its engine can identify fake messages and toss out erroneous readings.

  • 1