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Cisco Product Rollout Targets Mobile Workforce

Cisco offers the Location Solution for the health-care industry, the In-Store Mobility Solution for the retail industry, and the First Mile Wireless Solution for the oil and gas industries.

Cisco Systems on Tuesday rolled out several new products for the mobile workforce in vertical industries such as health care and retail. The networking giant said the products are a result of businesses' growing need for mobility.

"We've been working on this vision for a year by aligning our roadmaps and integrating our technologies across security, unified communications, wireless LANs, and wired networking," said Alan Cohen, Cisco's VP of mobility solutions, in an interview. After conducting independent research and surveying business decision-makers, Cisco came up with three key conclusions:

-- Most businesses don't have a long-term mobile IT strategy.

-- One out of four decision-makers are out of compliance with industry regulations when it comes to security policies of their wired and wireless networks.

-- Most businesses haven't planned for how to connect their assets to their network.

In response to those findings, Cisco created the Location Solution for the health-care industry, the In-Store Mobility Solution for the retail industry, and the First Mile Wireless Solution for the oil and gas industries.

With the Location Solution -- a combination of Cisco's Unified Wireless Network software and Wi-Fi tags -- businesses can track high-value assets and gather related information such as temperature, battery power, humidity levels, and usage status.

Cisco teamed up with AeroScout and WhereNet for chokepoint technology that wirelessly monitors passageways and associated tags. When a tagged asset moves through a chokepoint, an alarm can be triggered, which is particularly useful in health care for tracking expensive hospital equipment. "We've been doing location for years, but what people want is status, meaning knowing when something is in use at a hospital," Cohen said.

The In-Store Mobility Solution integrates unified communications -- a term that refers to combining various forms of communication into one user interface -- and Cisco's wireless technology so that retailers can consolidate multiple applications across a single wireless infrastructure and deliver them to employees, suppliers, and customers anywhere in a store. Shoppers get access to information and self-service shopping carts. For example, shoppers can receive promotions, create shopping lists, and navigate a store directly from an interactive shopping cart for an improved customer experience, according to Cisco.

Cisco also created a product specifically for the oil and gas industry because of its harsh physical environment and limited infrastructure. The First Mile Wireless Solution is comprised of Cisco's 1500 Series wireless "mesh" access points with blast-proof hardened cases, a wireless network management system, and backhaul technologies that include Wi-Fi bridging, WiMax, and satellite. The goal is to connect isolated drilling sites to corporate headquarter networks, but the system will work for any business dealing with a harsh environment.

Cisco tapped outside expertise to help tailor its new products to specific industries by partnering with application developers, integrators, mobile device makers, and service providers. "The key driver for mobility is the changing nature of the workforce," said Cohen. "We want to connect people back into rich experiences with their data and voice applications in any remote environment. It's a dramatic shift in how we think about the marketplace and how the marketplace thinks about mobility."

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