Wi-Fi Location Rolling Review: Ekahau Bets On Active Tags

Want to use your WLAN to track high-dollar assets? Ekahau, the second entry in this series, has a no-fuss solution.

Frank Bulk, Contributor

February 7, 2008

3 Min Read

Tag, You're It


FEATURED PRODUCT:Ekahau. Tags start at $50, with discounts for volume; location endpoint client software is an open model.ABOUT THIS ROLLING REVIEW:We issued an RFI to vendors that provide Wi-Fi-based location appliances or software modules. We want to see who has the technology and partnerships to enable Wi-Fi location with a minimum of integration headaches. We'll ask vendors to describe their architectures, what pieces of the puzzle they solve, and where their partners fit. We'll also analyze security.ALREADY TESTED:• AeroscoutNEXT UP:InnerWireless.OTHER VENDORS INVITED:Cisco Systems, Meru Networks, Newbury Networks, Motorola (Symbol Technologies), Trapeze Networks, and WhereNet

Ekahau's tags are available in two form factors: a thin model about the height and width of a playing card, and a smaller key-chain-size edition. Ekahau says the new T301 comes with a 60% to 65% improvement in battery life. Tag selection, while more limited than AeroScout's lineup, is likely sufficient to meet most needs. To secure traffic between the tag and the AP, Ekahau's tags all support industry-standard WPA2-PSK; 802.1X is being worked on.

Ekahau has excelled at getting its client software integrated with application-specific devices such as Polycom's Wi-Fi phones and Symbol's bar code scanners. It doesn't hurt that the company has an open licensing program that essentially delivers the software free.

Ekahau's Positioning Engine plays the customary role of managing tags, storing maps, calculating coordinates, configuring business and event rules, and communicating with other applications via XML-based APIs.

Ekahau can't claim Cisco Systems as an official partner, so it can't take advantage of Cisco's appliance, its tags aren't CCX certified, and its name doesn't appear on the Cisco-approved partners list--a significant weak point. But it does have other important collaborators, notably in health care, a key market for Wi-Fi location vendors. A recent win is the Carolinas HealthCare System, a large provider covering North and South Carolina. Five of about 20 locations were up and running at press time, with several thousand tags deployed for equipment tracking. Siemens, also well-known in the health care market, is a location services and site survey partner.

Scalability isn't a significant concern, whether the Ekahau system is run in beaconing or associated mode. The company says a correctly configured server can track as many as 10,000 objects and process around 600 locations updates per second, more than sufficient for most deployments. Pricing is primarily based on tags required, not on square footage covered. A system that would track 1,000 assets comes in just under $150,000, while one half that size is $89,500.

Ekahau was founded in Finland in 2000 and is now based in Saratoga Springs, Calif., with offices in Reston, Va., and Hong Kong. The company is privately held with a mixture of private and venture-capital backed funds (many Finnish) and industrial investors (3M, for example). Its latest venture capital round raised $12 million, which is being used to support geographic expansion, sales, and development.

A Time For 802.11n?

Applications--such as location--that depend on your WLAN could benefit from 802.11n, if it's done right.

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