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Nortel to Add RFID-Enabled Services to Municipal Wi-Fi Platform

The telecommunications equipment firm is integrating central sensor-networking appliances from Blue Vector so wireless ISPs can provide RFID services.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Wireless Internet service providers can use the Blue Vector appliances to leverage the RFID systems used in prisons to track inmates, who wear RFID wristbands encoded with ID numbers, says Penny Kennedy, director of business development for Nortel municipal wireless solutions. To locate inmates, the Blue Vector Edge Manager appliances could communicate with RFID interrogators installed in prisons, courthouses and on GPS-equipped buses used to transport inmates between prison and court.

Blue Vector Edge Manager appliances can also receive data from wireless sensors that monitor temperature inside buildings or motion detectors, and feed this data to the Network Manager devices, which then send the tag data to the appropriate parties via access points within a municipality's Wi-Fi or wireless mesh broadband system.

Kennedy says that the wireless Internet service providers could purchase or lease the Blue Vector devices and Blue Vector software that runs on the appliances they use to collect and process RFID tag and sensor data, and then charge municipalities or the agencies within the town and cities for the data collected from them.

"When people think of municipal wireless, they think of free Wi-Fi," says Kuloor. "But at the end of the day, municipalities can't make any money from free Wi-Fi. The real goal of municipal wireless is to leverage that Wi-Fi infrastructure to [generate] efficiencies." Often, the types of efficiencies that municipalities are looking for—spending less time locating assets, making sure their transportation systems are running on schedule—are similar to those that companies in the supply chain are seeking. In either case, he says, RFID tags and wireless sensors can identify objects or monitor environments.

Municipal wireless systems are seen as an alternative to large-scale wired local area networks. "Passing information over a wireless mesh is more cost-effective than passing it over DSL," says Kennedy. Plus, the added bonus of offering free Wi-Fi access to citizens is seen both as good will and makes the municipality more attractive to residents and visitors.

Kuloor says Nortel selected the Blue Vector platform for part of its municipal wireless offerings because Blue Vector edge managers and network manager devices are easy to install and maintain. The Blue Vector platform is also being used in supply chain RFID deployments. Its Edge Manager devices can manage and receive data from passive UHF tag readers (such as EPCglobal Gen 2 readers).

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