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WLANs viable for more than convenient network access

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The general perception in the broader IT market today is that the need for Wireless LAN coverage in particular areas or scenarios is driven by nothing more than pure convenience.

"Most members of the IT industry believe that WLANs are designed to make life easier – for example, to allow employees to remain connected to the corporate network while roaming around the office, or to easily and neatly connect a variety of devices to the Internet in their home, or even to check e-mail or stock levels by remotely connecting to their corporate network while taking a break at a coffee shop," says Marius Vermeulen, Cisco technical specialist at Tarsus Technologies.
"The reality, however, is that WLAN technology has far more to offer than simply adding convenience. In fact," he says, "for some industries, WLAN technology is an indispensable time and money saver."
As an example, Vermeulen cites the industrial and manufacturing verticals.
Many manufacturers of high-value products are at risk from the kind of stock loss and shrinkage that could cripple their business overnight. Where closed circuit cameras and security guards were employed in the past to curtail theft and misplaced stock items, today, these mechanisms are being augmented with RFID readers and tags.
"WLAN technology is playing a major role in enabling these RFID infrastructures to function and to do so cost-effectively," he adds.
Vermeulen says that as with any conventional installation of RFID, readers are placed at 'hot-zones' within the manufacturing plant and products are automatically tagged at the beginning of their production. This way they can be easily tracked and located throughout the production cycle.
Vermeulen says the technologies allowing for this are generally referred to as Cisco's Location based solutions and holds that instead of spending a fortune on running cabling and setting up networking equipment in potentially difficult to reach areas of a shop floor, Wireless LAN technology can be employed effectively to act as a backbone for this network of RFID devices.
"The speed at which these solutions can now be rolled out at is an obvious incentive for customers to look at wireless LAN-based backbones, however, using this method is more cost-effective so more companies can look at RFID as a viable solution," he says.
"So, today it's clear that WLANs are becoming more of an enabler than a convenience-driven technology, and not just in manufacturing – the benefits span across most verticals," he says.
"As WLAN technology continues to mature I believe we will almost certainly see it contributing a great deal to the viability of other technologies and best practices in other vertical markets," he concludes.