Australian start-up beams into US

Imagine doctors armed with personal digital assistants (PDAs) to record patient information during hospital rounds and then beaming the updated information to a point somewhere within the hospital environs; this is the future according to Australian startup Bluefish.

Formed 12 months ago under ePark's venture capital scheme, Bluefish's technology provides an end-to-end fixed wireless data network platform that is a conduit to send and receive information through the infrared or Bluetooth port of PDAs and mobile phones. The application is partly built on AvantGo.

A trial of the technology has been conducted at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney using Palm devices to get directions and to book conference rooms.

In conjunction with a $5 million investment boost led by Network Asia and venture capitalist Allen & Buckeridge, the company has recently launched the technology at the main Atlanta and Chicago airports in the US. In this environment, Ernst & Young has put the technology to use in an advertising campaign. PDA users beam on the Bluefish logo on the advertising sign and data about the product is downloaded.ePark partner David Landers said the technology piggybacks on the growing use of PDA-like devices within enterprises.

He said the company is focusing on retail, corporate and enterprise applications and the technology could be used in retail storefronts, security, electronic concierge and electronic wallets.

Landers said the main actors in play enabling the technology is a server (which has a RF receiver) and is connected to the Internet, and the Bluefish point of presence, which has a CPU and a RF receiver to talk to the server. This transponder has the ability to "shake hands" with another infrared device. One server can talk to about 250 Bluefish transponders in a two-kilometre radius.

"We are agnostic about how the signal gets to the transponders; our speciality is the point of presence."

The information is transmitted on unlicensed spectrum on a private network. Transactions are password protected and all data is protected by 128SSL encryption. Landers said the RF transponder was originally developed for the US military and is "highly secure".

He added that the transactions are fully secure and that the company never really knows who the user is.

Expansion plans for the company lie in Asia and US Landers said, due to handheld penetration. However, the R&D activities are scheduled to remain in Australia.

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