Long known for its scanners and mobile computers, Symbol Technologies is a provider of mobile data management systems and services with customer solutions based on wireless local area networking for voice and data, application-specific mobile computing and bar code data capture. Lou Steinberg, CTO and VP of the Global Products Group at Symbol, recently took the time to answer some questions posed by ME. Steinberg coordinates with Symbol's global sales, product and marketing teams to define customer needs, develop end-to-end product requirements, validate customer mobility solutions and create marketing communications around these solutions.
Mobile Enterprise: Share with our readers your vision of mobility and how it relates to the enterprise.
Lou Steinberg: Enterprise mobility is all about access to information. In driving and leading the enterprise mobility market, Symbol combines its domain knowledge in advanced data capture, handheld mobile computing, wireless infrastructure and mobility software to offer mobility solutions that help customers achieve productivity gains, lower costs of doing business, offer distinct competitive advantage and increase operational efficiencies. Given the fact that many workers spend the majority of their workday away from their PC, we look to provide workers with access to mission-critical information where and when they need it, not just when they’re sitting at their desks.
ME: Can you define mesh networking and tell us how this will affect mobile workforces?
LS: Conceptually, mesh networking takes a large number of Wi-Fi radios and uses them as repeaters of information. So instead of directly connecting all of the clients to centralized access points, information packets can hop across a series of clients, access points or ports. A close radio receives the message and forwards it on to the next. For instance, in route accounting, if a driver has to make a stop at a hotel to check on vending machines that need product refills or their coin boxes emptied, the driver typically has to stop by each machine, which can take time. Using mesh networking technology, instead of checking each machine, the driver can sit in his truck and send a request for information to one AP and it will repeat the message to other APs to find out exactly which machines need attention. The information goes through the chain of APs and back to the driver.
ME: Many standards are emerging for local- and personal-area networking. Is this injecting confusion into the mobile enterprise space? Do you see these standards competing or converging in the months ahead?
LS: Some will compete, some will displace the older standards and some will co-exist. It’s important to note that PANs are different than LANs and WANs and each serves a distinct purpose. There might be some confusion in the marketplace similar to what’s been seen in the cellular space. What our customers want is advice on what will best suit their needs. We are a trusted advisor for our customers and help them plot a roadmap through evolving technologies.
ME: Some industry pundits are proclaiming the death of 802.11a. Do you agree? And what can you tell us about the prospects of 802.11n?
LS: While some might proclaim its death, 802.11a is still a viable solution for some environments, particularly those with low path loss and high bandwidth requirements. Right now, 802.11n looks good in the lab and on paper, but there is not much need for it. The vast majority of our customers don’t need to provide streaming video to multiple users, which would necessitate using 802.11n or a. What they need is a way to give a finance manager who spends a lot of time away from his desk access to his company’s Oracle database anytime, anywhere in the enterprise. Access to information at the point of business activity is where Symbol’s enterprise mobility solutions are focused.•