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Ceragon - High Capacity Wireless Backhaul Solutions
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Ekahau Refines Wi-Fi RTLS Performance With New Broadband Wireless Location Beacon

3/26/09 - Ekahau Inc. announced that it will make available a family of a small mobile battery-powered transmitters, called Ekahau location beacons, to further increase the location accuracy of its award-winning Wi-Fi RTLS solution. These beacons are designed to enhance system performance in areas that have poor Wi-Fi coverage but where location accuracy is mission critical.

Ekahau is the recognized performance leader in the RTLS market with location algorithms that are capable of pinpointing tagged objects using existing enterprise-grade Wi-Fi networks. But in areas where there is marginal or poor wireless coverage, Ekahau location beacons can help improve location accuracy to levels previously available with expensive, proprietary systems not based on standard Wi-Fi technology. For a typical hospital environment, Ekahau location beacons can guarantee bed- and room-level accuracy in areas with poor Wi-Fi coverage, without the need to install additional Wi-Fi access points.

With deployment of these location beacons, the Ekahau RTLS can support a variety of different location tracking requirements, such as:

  • Campuswide tracking using Ekahau's standard RTLS capabilities over the customer's existing Wi-Fi network with the Wi-Fi industry's best accuracy.
  • Room-level location using an enterprise-grade Wi-Fi network or using Ekahau location beacons in areas of poor Wi-Fi coverage.
  • Bed- or bay-level accuracy, such as in hospital emergency rooms or recovery rooms in operating suites where many beds may be only separated by curtains. In these scenarios the system leverages both the customer's Wi-Fi network and Ekahau location beacons.

Ekahau Wi-Fi tags recognize these location beacon signals and transmit the signal data to the RTLS server, which calculates the precise location of the Ekahau tags. The location beacons are typically mounted on a wall. Because they do not require any cabling, the location beacons can be moved around as needed to improve accuracy for a period of time or installed permanently in specific locations.

"Based on evaluations of several systems on the market, we chose to work with Ekahau because its high performance Wi-Fi RTLS system was incredibly easy to install and operate," said Gerhard Kschwendt, senior director for ISM Siemens Medical Solutions, USA. "Ekahau has done it right again. As other systems keep adding more proprietary infrastructure to their offerings, Ekahau has stayed true to its vision of providing high-performance solutions over standard Wi-Fi networks."

Competing enterprise-class location tracking systems include ones using ultra-wideband, active RFID, ultrasound, ZigBee and other RF-based systems. These alternatives require installation of proprietary and single-purpose antennas, and dedicated staff to deploy, manage and maintain. Some of these technologies such as ZigBee and active RFID, are problematic in certain scenarios because they can introduce possible interference with Wi-Fi networks and critical patient care equipment. For example, 125 kHz chokepoints have been banned by many hospitals around the world because they can interfere with clinical equipment in hospitals and ZigBee (or IEEE 802.15.4) can seriously impact a customer's existing Wi-Fi network that is used for primary voice and data communications.

"Wi-Fi RTLS continues to dominate the market," said Pauli Misikangas, Ekahau's CTO. "Our innovative technological advances continue to strengthen our performance leadership, giving our customers accuracy levels that beat most proprietary systems and providing 100 percent service coverage across the enterprise. As the worldwide investment in Wi-Fi technology increases, we are able to leverage industrywide economies of scale not available to users of proprietary systems."

The Ekahau RTLS solution is designed to work over any generation or brand of Wi-Fi network. It is supported and endorsed by all major Wi-Fi vendors and has been certified with approximately 30 of the leading Wi-Fi network and device companies worldwide. In a study published in IEEE Computer Society's IT Professional magazine, Berlin Institute of Technology researchers ranked Ekahau as the best performing Wi-Fi RTLS solution on the market for the clinical healthcare use.

The location beacons are now available through Ekahau and its partners worldwide at a price of approximately $50 a piece.

By Robert Hoskins

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