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Wi-Fi Muscling In On RFID's Location-Based Services Markets

NEW YORK, NYThe large and growing installed base of Wi-Fi equipment means new opportunities for using Wi-Fi in unorthodox ways. One of the most interesting is the growing trend toward using Wi-Fi to provide real-time location services (RTLS) for asset management, security, and work-in-progress tracking, which have traditionally been the province of proprietary RFID solutions.

Today this market, at a mere $59 million in 2007 revenues, can be best described as "embryonic," but a study from ABI Research ( forecasts it to reach $839 million in 2012.

"RTLS has historically been associated with RFID," says ABI vice president and research director Stan Schatt, "and it's only recently that Wi-Fi has started to play in this arena. In the past, companies wishing to deploy RTLS had to buy proprietary RFID systems, including very expensive readers. But there is now such a large installed base of Wi-Fi equipment worldwide that Wi-Fi-based RTLS becomes cost-effective for companies that had never considered it before."

In comparison with RFID, Wi-Fi-based RTLS does suffer some disadvantages. It is somewhat less accurate, especially outdoors; it is less secure, and it can require the addition of up to 20 percent more Wi-Fi access points to a network. But for a company with a Wi-Fi network already in place, it needs no extra cabling; it is standards-based; and above all it is cost-effective: the RTLS functions are handled by specialized software, which forms the largest portion of the investment.

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