Wireless applications set sail

Although much work remains to be done to sort out the hodgepodge of standards and outstanding technology hurdles in wireless infrastructure, the infrastructure layer groundwork is now solid enough to support the next wave in mobile computing, which will be applications that will radically alter how we live and work, according to Chris Shipley, executive producer of Demo Conferences.

Over the past 30 years, computing has evolved "from computer rooms, to the desktop, to the palm of our hand," Shipley said. "Technology is at the point of fully transforming from the enterprise desktop to individual device computing. This forces change in so many areas."

"The infrastructure is or will soon be in place to support the business model that is the foundation of device computing," she said.

The standards still need to be settled, but the marketplace will decide those issues, while innovation continues. Current wireless infrastructure is a patchwork of standards such as 802.11, Bluetooth, CDPD, and others.

Work at the infrastructure level is continuing but current platforms are strong enough to support next-generation applications, she said. This year's show features both infrastructure layer breakthroughs as well as emerging applications, Shipley said.

Vendors showcasing their wares on the stage included Firetide, which deployed an "instant" wireless LAN network at the show in six minutes. Typical Wi-Fi installations take weeks, according to Tareq Hoque, CEO of Firetide Inc. Firetide's HotPoint wireless mesh router taps routing protocols and 802.11-compliant radios to replace Ethernet backhaul cabling, an expensive part of stetting up a Wi-Fi network, he said.

Also at the show was Radixs, demonstrated a mobile operating system designed to bring the desktop experience to handhelds. The company's MXI (Motion eXperience Interface) OS can run desktop apps written for Windows, Linux, and Java, without the need for redevelopment. Radixs showed several handheld prototypes running rich media, video, and full Windows office applications.

Logitech took the stage to show off the power of Bluetooth with a cordless mouse and a mouse-keyboard combination. The Bluetooth mouse has a charging cradle that can act as a Bluetooth hub for connecting to a PC and other devices within a 30-foot range. The company demonstrated wireless synchronization of address book and calendar information between a PDA, phone, or desktop PC and showed the use of voice with instant messaging using a Bluetooth wireless headset.

The last of the early demos was Xybernaut Corp., which showed a wearable, ruggedized tablet PC designed for use in vertical markets such as hospitals, factory floors, warehouses, and retail stores. The portable PC can be attached to a belt and worn on the hip and its rugged design means it can be dropped on concrete and still work. The 1.9-pound device shown, dubbed the Xybernaut Atigo Telluride Project, runs Windows XP Embedded.

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