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Cisco, AeroScout Team to Market WiFi RFID

Cisco Systems continues to fill out its RFID portfolio by releasing a new asset tracking system that uses WiFi wireless LANs and Cisco's Wireless Location Appliance with active RFID tags and software provided by AeroScout.
Feb 02, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

February 2, 2007—Cisco Systems and AeroScout are co-marketing a system that uses active RFID tags and 802.11-standard wireless networks to track assets. The companies have collaborated before and the technology components have been available, but the new packaged solution, combined with Cisco's reach, are sure to raise enterprise interest and awareness for real-time asset tracking.

The WiFi Asset Tracking solution was formally announced this week at the RFID-ROI Summit in London. The system uses standard 802.11b or 802.11g access points to read AeroScout's proprietary active RFID tags to track tagged items in real time. The system includes the Cisco 2700 Series Wireless Location Appliance, which calculates the tag location based on wireless signal strength, plus other Cisco wireless network infrastructure equipment and AeroScout's MobileView software.

"Unlike typical active RFID technology, our system uses a wireless LAN access point as the reader," AeroScout Marketing Director Josh Slobin told RFID Update. "The big benefit is that the customer does not have to install a separate infrastructure of RFID readers." Other wireless LAN functions continue operating while the locating system is in use.

AeroScout and Cisco are jointly marketing the system to the aerospace, automotive, mining, and semiconductor manufacturing industries.

"The common bond in these industries is to reduce all unnecessary costs, and transform operations to be as lean as possible," said Slobin. "We help companies cut costs by saving time spent looking for equipment. In some manufacturing environments where something unique or custom is being built, if you can't find something, everything stops."

Slobin confirmed that one AeroScout-Cisco joint customer reported the locating system saves it $1 million each time it prevents an incident. In mining, the system is used to identify the location of miners below ground, an invaluable safety enhancement.

AeroScout also has strong sales in healthcare and has a joint marketing agreement with Philips Medical Systems for that industry. Slobin said healthcare was an early adopter of WiFi based real-time location system (RTLS) technology, and that adoption grew quickly after large companies entered the market. He expects Cisco's presence to have a similar effect on manufacturing.

"A big company really can spur the market," said Slobin. "Manufacturing is a large untapped market with many real problems that active RFID tracking can solve. We believe 2007 will be an incredibly strong year for manufacturing."

Market researchers tend to agree, with robust growth predictions for RTLS and active RFID in manufacturing and other sectors. (See "Cover Your Assets" in Top 10 RFID Trends of 2006, Part 1 for various views and market projections.)

Meanwhile Cisco continues to position itself to benefit from growth in multiple RFID segments. Its Wireless Location Appliance is used to track location and asset utilization for a "forklift of the future" that Intermec announced last year. Cisco also released an appliance that sits on a network (wired or wireless) and performs middleware-type services for data collected by RFID (see A Primer on Types of RFID Middleware). One year ago yesterday, passive RFID reader manufacturer ThingMagic announced Cisco invested an undisclosed sum in the company (see Cisco Invests in ThingMagic).

Read the announcement from Cisco
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