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Rolling Review Kickoff: Wi-Fi Location

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Wi-Fi location is the ultimate answer to the needle-in-a-haystack problem: Your WLAN can enable asset tracking of expensive equipment, monitor locations of patients or personnel, facilitate stock replenishment, even pinpoint a single container within a huge warehouse. It can also tighten security by extending your NAC installation to tailor access based on a user's location within your facility. Talk about wringing additional value out of a major investment.

Wi-Fi location services have similarities to GPS and RFID technologies, but have thus far lagged in popularity. In 2006, just 135,000 Wi-Fi location tags shipped, according to a May 2007 In-Stat report. Why? They're expensive, and at an average of $60 a pop, no one is tossing Wi-Fi tags on $200 smartphones. In addition, battery life can be an issue. However, that report goes on to predict a 100% per-year growth rate, as vendors refine their offerings and prices drop. We see an opportunity for forward-thinking IT groups to get in on the ground floor with a technology that can pay off big in security and competitive advantage.

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

Right now, only a handful of vendors play in the Wi-Fi location space, but big names are represented, including Cisco, Meru Networks, Motorola, Newbury Networks and Trapeze. Top Wi-Fi tag vendors include AeroScout; PanGo Networks, which recently merged with InnerWireless; Ekahau; and WhereNet. Many of these provide applications as well, often focused on verticals, usually healthcare and logistics/cargo handling. Find our sneak peek at the vendor landscape and a discussion of use cases at Sneak Peek: Wi-Fi Location Services Vendors

Enterprises considering Wi-Fi location services must ensure tight enough accuracy while minimizing expensive integration and customization. Currently, some amount of consulting is going to be required—Yankee Group suggests that professional services make up 20% of the cost of a location system.

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