WLAN vendor Trapeze Networks -- itself owned by Belden -- Monday announced its acquisition of Newbury Networks, a Boston-based vendor of WLAN-based location systems.
Newbury's products let companies use 802.11 access points to track, monitor and manage a range of corporate assets, such as portable heart monitors in a hospital, or especially valuable equipment or supplies in a warehouse. Newbury also offers a security application that uses location data to identify and, optionally, block potential wireless attackers.
Under a 2006 OEM deal, Trapeze was already reselling the Newbury products to its own OEM partners, 3Com and Nortel, and to enterprises. Now, Trapeze can fully integrate the Newbury products with its own WLAN gear, and leverage Newbury's specialized expertise to extend location services to new applications. No financial details of the purchase were disclosed.
Cisco sees a similar opportunity. The first software program to be hosted on Cisco's new Mobility Services Engine appliance, announced in May, is "context-aware data" about wireless clients, with location data being an essential part of that context. In Cisco's scheme the MSE processes this data and then makes it available to higher-level applications.
Conceivably, the Trapeze deal could be the first of several for Trapeze or for the industry as a whole. Real-time location services (RTLS) using a variety of radio technologies has been attracting interest and customers, many of them in verticals markets such as dockyard container tracking and other logistics markets, healthcare (where such use is soaring), and inventory management. The Trapeze WLAN gear acts as a foundation that can be used by a variety of additional services, RTLS being one, VoIP being another. With the economy staggering deeper into recession, venture capitalists may be eager to sell innovative wireless startups like Newbury. Those could be great bargain acquisitions for companies with the cash, and the nerve, to spend.
"Belden could be doing a classic 'rollup' strategy where they roll up several companies and integrate them into a complete WLAN solution," says Paul DeBeasi, senior analyst, wireless & mobility, with Burton Group, a technology research and consulting firm, Midvale, Utah. "Imagine, for a moment, if Belden owned Trapeze, Newbury Networks, and Air Magnet? That would give them a portfolio that includes WLAN AP/controller/network management, location services, wireless intrusion detection system, and network management tools. That would be interesting."
The entire 16-person Newbury staff will remain on board, and the company will be run as an independent business of Trapeze, with Newbury CEO Michael Maggio reporting to Trapeze president Jim Vogt.
Tests in 2007 reviewed Newbury's Location Appliance and Wi-Fi Watchdog application. Originally, Newbury relied on its own separate network of specialized Wi-Fi sensors to detect slight latencies among radio signals. Then, the company's algorithms and software used that data to triangulate the x/y coordinates of a Wi-Fi device and find it on map or floorplan. The Location Appliance was part of move to use the existing access points in a third-party WLAN to do the signal sensing.
Trapeze, one of the few remaining independent WLAN controller pioneers was bought by St. Louis, Missouri-based Belden in June, creating a new wireless controller division to complement Belden's existing copper and fiber-optic cabling, cable management, and connectivity products.