Interview with Antti Korhonen, President & CEO, Ekahau, Inc.
By user742203 on Aug 06, 2008
I recently met with Antti Korhonen, Founder of Ekahau and got a little education on the progression and history of RTLS especially with relation to WiFi. For me a network agnostic patented algorithm is what distinguishes Ekahau in the marketplace. We also talked about the benefits that Ekahau brings to Oracle customers considering a RTLS project wether it be for Visibility and Tracking in SCM or Person Location, Healthcare and Asset deployments.
Can you tell me a little bit about Ekahau and its history?
Ekahau is one of the leading vendors in the RTLS (Real-Time Location System) market, and a pioneer in Wi-Fi based RTLS solutions, having launched the first commercial Wi-Fi based tracking system in 2002.
When hospitals and manufacturing facilities today have a need to deploy asset- and people-tracking applications, to improve productivity or staff safety, they very often today select Ekahau RTLS. The primary reason they choose Ekahau is our solution runs over any standard Wi-Fi network, and is therefore the most cost effective solution for accurate asset tracking within enterprise campus.
Ekahau was founded as a spin-off from Helsinki University in Finland, in 2000, and has today its headquarters in Saratoga, CA with sales offices in Reston, VA and throughout Europe. We currently have more than 100 resellers worldwide—including Siemens, Nortel, McKesson, Fluke and others-- distributing Ekahau products and solutions..
Ekahau’s technology and location algorithms, which are protected with over 10 patents, were first invented by the university scientist team called Complex System Computation Group (COSCO). Former COSCO team members include for example Linus Torvalds, the inventor of Linux. Our location algorithms are very important because they avoid the inherent problems with traditional triangulation methods. They give our RTLS solution unrivaled accuracy and allow us to deliver an all-software solution that can be deployed on top of any existing Wi-Fi infrastructure.
You mentioned that Ekahau’s RTLS system is Wi-Fi based, what are the main benefits of that, and what system components does your solution include?
It is possible to use UWB, Zigbee, Infrared and RFID for location tracking, but the problem always is the prohibitively high cost of these proprietary infrastructures. I should also mention GPS, but GPS does not work indoors. The fact is, most enterprises already have Wi-Fi networks for data and often for voice purposes, so it makes lot of sense to use that same standard wireless platform also for asset tracking. Because Ekahau RTLS can be deployed right on top of existing Wi-Fi networks, the benefit is that we eliminate the infrastructure cost and shorten the deployment time.
Ekahau RLTS is a turn-key system that includes the following components:
· Ekahau Site Survey(ESS) software for deployment,
· Ekahau Positioning Engine (EPE) server software, which calculates the location and provides API to other applications, such as Oracle Asset tracking,
· Ekahau Vision application software as a front-end interface for end users, and
· Ekahau Wi-Fi tags that can be attached to any assets or carried by people.
In addition to locating our Wi-Fi tags, Ekahau can also locate device that has a Wi-Fi radio already built inside--things like laptops, PDAs, and VoIP phones.
What makes your RTLS solution different to other Wi-Fi based tracking systems on the market?
We are using this slogan “Open-Easy-Accurate”, and it quite well sums up the competitive advantage we have on the market. First of all, Open, meaning that our solution works over any brand of Wi-Fi network infrastructure as long as it is 802.11 compliant. Most of our competing systems are proprietary solutions to one Wi-Fi network vendor only. Easy, means that with Ekahau solution, there is no cabling required. For installation you only need our software and wireless tags. The system is really fast and easy to install. And lastly, Accurate, means that, unlike competing systems that require additional hardware chokepoints or exciters to be accurate, Ekahau delivers high accuracy over any existing enterprise grade Wi-Fi network, with no additional infrastructure needed. It is just software and tags.
Tell me about the Wi-Fi tags, what’s the difference to traditional RFID tag?
The main difference is that passive RFID tags are used mostly for ID purposes and periodically read by portals and scanners as assets pass by, while RTLS tags are used for real-time location and they can report the location continuously as long as they are within the wireless network coverage area. Wi-Fi RTLS tags can also support two-way communications like receiving text messages or acting as a wireless pager. It has a battery inside that lasts typically 4-5 years depending on the use case.
One significant difference to competing solutions is that Ekahau Wi-Fi tags behave as any standard Wi-Fi client devices, and therefore it does not require any proprietary features from the network vendor. This characteristic ensures that our tags can work over any vendor Wi-Fi infrastructure.
Don’t the tags demand large amounts of network bandwidth if you have thousands of them in your campus?
No, Ekahau tags are very efficient. They transmit only 60 bytes of information per each location scan, and most of the tags are in a sleep mode until triggered by motion sensor to track location. So, bandwidth is not an issue in our deployments.
So what is the typical benefit the average enterprise customer is expecting to gain by using the RTLS system?
The ROI drivers for this industry are:
· 1: Better asset utilization through asset visibility. For example in a hospital campus with RTLS the staff can find the medical equipment, for clinical use and preventive maintenance, faster than before.
· 2: Improved enterprise processes through better process visibility. It is much easier to improve the workflow and process when you actually see the process, bottlenecks etc.
· 3: Safety and security. We are tagging miners underground, nurses in psychiatric care wards and hazardous area workers in heavy manufacturing. When there is an emergency it is important to know where your staff is.
How would you say the Oracle/Ekahau combination will benefit Oracle’s customers?
The key benefit from this partnership to enterprise customers is that Ekahau makes Oracle applications location-aware. When Oracle Asset tracking application is running in a manufacturing facility, it can now receive real-time asset location information simply by using the existing enterprise Wi-Fi network. And the same way this solution runs in one factory, you can be sure it runs anywhere where there is a standard 802.11 Wi-Fi network in place, hence is it network agnostic. So Ekahau also helps Oracle’s eco-system partners to develop new location-aware Oracle applications that are easy to scale across 100% of the enterprise Wi-Fi market.
To learn more about Ekahau, please visit www.ekahau.com .