Startup Targets Wireless Needs of Vertical Markets

Summit Data Communications plans to ship two modules designed to bring wireless connectivity to machines such as bar-code scanners, portable data terminals and various medical devices.

With a set of Wi-Fi modules for "application-specific devices," an Ohio startup is set to step into a business that Cisco Systems is about to exit.

By the middle of 2006, Summit Data Communications will ship two modules designed to bring wireless connectivity to machines such as bar-code scanners, portable data terminals, and various medical devices—which often run in challenging, metal-filled RF (radio frequency) environments.

"What were trying to do with Summit is to make it easier for organizations to build into their devices radios that meet the requirements of their operational environments," said Ron Seide, president of the Akron company.

Using 802.11b/g Wi-Fi radios from Broadcom, the Summit modules are tweaked to optimize the radios range and to maximize the battery life of the device, Seide said.

They are designed to run in environments from 22 below zero to 167 degrees Fahrenheit.

So far Summit has two products—a Compact Flash module with antenna connectors and a PCMCIA adapter.

Initially they support Microsoft Windows CE, but future versions will support Windows XP, variants of Linux, and some proprietary real-time operating systems.

The company also will ship software that lets users set radio and security parameters, Seide said.

Summit will compete with companies including Symbol Technologies, which specializes in serving vertical markets, and Socket Communications, which specializes in connectivity components for handheld computers.

Socket on March 7 announced an 802.11b/g module that will be generally available in the third quarter of 2006.

Symbol plans to ship a new set of client cards to original equipment manufacturer partners by the end of the year, said Chris McGugan, senior director of product management at Symbols wireless infrastructure division in San Jose, Calif.

But Wi-Fi market leader Cisco Systems is now only tangentially involved in the application-specific device adapter space.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about Ciscos efforts in the wireless mesh networking space.

On its company Web site, Cisco has posted an "end of life" announcement for its Aironet 350 Series Client Adapter AIR-LMC352, telling customers theyll have to get their radios elsewhere. The last shipment date of that adapter is April 17, 2006, the announcement says.

"With the vast majority of Cisco Aironet 350 Series Client Adapter adapters being embedded in application specific devices, such as handheld barcode scanners and mobile printers, the recommended substitute is to direct these ADS vendors to participate in the Cisco Compatible Program," the announcement reads, referring to the licensing program that lets third-party client devices communicate well with Ciscos wireless access points.

"Cisco has empowered radio module manufacturers ever since the advent of the Cisco Compatible Extension program," said Seide, who was a senior product manager at Cisco before leaving to found Summit.

"Summit has applied to Cisco for entrance into the program."

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