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A proven wireless solution

While the consumer wireless Web has been struggling, wireless enterprise applications have quietly been gaining traction.

A proven wireless solution
Jeff Vance

The wireless Internet, while laden with nearly infinite potential, has lately been its own worst enemy. Problems like poor WAP usability and the vulnerability of WEP have served to scare away potential adopters. Gun-shy businesses considering a wireless strategy are hesitant-and rightly so-to move forward due to the unproven nature of wireless data solutions. Much of the problem lies in the fact that the most visible and hyped mobile Internet deployments have, until recently, focused on consumers--generally not the best target for cutting-edge technologies.

While the consumer-facing wireless Web has been struggling, wireless enterprise applications have quietly been gaining traction. There is one company in particular, Symbol Technologies, that has had a focused, feasible wireless enterprise strategy for more than a decade. Way back in 1990 (eons in wireless Internet terms), the company released its Spectrum One wireless LAN solution, and in 1998, the company introduced a robust handheld device targeted at the business customer. Rather than pouring effort and capital into the sinkhole of over-hyped wireless Web, Symbol's one-two punch--WLAN and handheld--has been proving itself in a number of settings, including medical, travel, and retail. The company has developed wireless solutions for such varied customers as Office Depot, Sabre, and Veterans Administration Hospitals, and Symbol recently inked three high-profile retail customers: Sears, Wal-Mart, and Kmart.

With Sears and Wal-Mart, Symbol will deploy mobile computing solutions that allow for in-store applications such as inventory, price change, price lookup, and the pre-scanning of items for quick checkout. Symbol will rollout the solution in over 800 Sears locations. Terms of the Wal-Mart deal were undisclosed. It was with Kmart, though, that Symbol hit the jackpot. In February 2001, Symbol signed a $70-million contract with Kmart to implement in-store wireless and mobile computing solutions in Kmart's entire chain of more than 2,100 stores--essentially a $70-million stamp of approval for Symbol's wireless retail solution. Operating on Symbol's Spectrum24 WLAN backbone, Kmart will use Symbol's PDT 6840 wireless handheld for both back-end and in-store applications. Back-end applications include receiving, inventory and label printing, while on the sales floor, the solution allows for mobile price checking and employee communications.

"Symbol's wireless and mobile computing solutions will help us achieve our strategic imperatives of world-class execution and developing a customer-centric culture," said Michael Jones, Kmart's divisional VP of information technology and customer experience. "This technology builds the infrastructure to enable every department company-wide to be linked and able to better satisfy and serve our customers."

Jeff Vance is the editor of Embedded Internet Times and E-Infrastructure Times, industry newsletters that cover early stage startups and emerging trends. He also writes a monthly column about the mobile Internet for

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Author : Benny Bing
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Understand the technological issues associated with wireless local area networks (WLANs) as a means of providing cable-free data access, easy upgrading and flexible reconfiguration compared to the extensive multimedia and intensive application support provided by terrestrial and satellite asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) networks using this new resource. You see the benefits and the issues related to developing wireless ATM and get a comprehensive overview of both WLAN and WATM technologies, as well as their global standards, performance evaluations of the two network options, and the pros and cons of each, written by an acknowledged expert in the fields of wireless communications and high-speed networking.

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