Symbol Technologies announced the Wireless Next Generation, or Wi-NG, architecture that lets users centrally manage voice and data communications over multiple networks — including Wi-Fi, radio frequency identification, voice over WLAN, mesh and WiMAX — via a single RF switching platform.

The effort to develop Wi-NG, which took about 18 months, was driven by the proliferation of RFID in the enterprise sector, said Chris McGugan, Symbol's senior director of marketing.

“The quickest growing [technology] is RFID — it's very strong in the supply-chain, manufacturing and health care spaces. But it's also a growing concern for network managers from an ease-of-management, ease-of-use perspective,” McGugan said. “We felt we could solve the problems of security, manageability and deployment by including RFID in our wireless [switching] architecture.”

For example, duplicate reads can occur in environments such as a large warehouse, where multiple RFID readers have been deployed, according to McGugan. The Wi-NG architecture addresses this by allowing the wireless switch to take control of the RFID readers.

“At its core level, it gives the network manager a common command-and-control interface. … It takes care of monitoring the read information coming in from those devices, and it culminates the data coming in from multiple readers so that it's passed to the middleware layer,” he said. “When you think of RFID, it's not just about readers. You have to have an application doing the translation between a string of tag information coming in and whatever it is you're doing with the information.”

However, Wi-NG isn't just about RFID. In fact, its value proposition is that it lets enterprise communications managers integrate multiple RF networks that previously were “ships passing in the night,” McGugan said.

“Whenever two parallel networks were deployed, they had to be managed separately,” he said. “The Wi-NG architecture brings to enterprise managers a common point of management for all types of RF being deployed in that enterprise. … It's a headache-reduction platform from a management perspective, and a cost-reduction platform from an operational and body count perspective. You're not looking for extra staff to manage and deploy these devices.”

Symbol is ahead of the curve with the Wi-NG architecture, according to Craig Mathias, principal with Ashland, Mass.-based Farpoint Group.

“Most enterprise types have not thought along the lines of unified architectures, the idea that you can incorporate wired and several kinds of wireless under a single umbrella with a single management strategy,” Mathias said. “The management capability is the core of this — the ability to set up the necessary structures within the network to support all of these different kinds of traffic.”

Users will be able to add technology platforms in the future via software upgrades. ZigBee is one platform already being considered, McGugan said.