Norwood demos Bluetooth office network

Norwood Systems had kept quiet for several months about its wireless office network technology based on Bluetooth, but for ComNet, the Australia and U.K.-based company decided it was time to move into full-disclosure mode.

Founded just over a year ago to develop Bluetooth-based wireless networks for voice and data, Norwood appeared to be the only company at the show actively promoting a Bluetooth product. This was somewhat surprising given that the Comdex trade show in November showcased the technology in products from several vendors. [See "Show to Host Bluetooth's Coming Out," Nov. 13.]

Bluetooth allows devices to communicate wirelessly within a range of up to 10 meters at a transmission speed of about 721K bps (bits per second). The market is projected to explode to 1.4 billion [b] Bluetooth-enabled products worldwide by 2005, according to market watchers Cahners In-Stat Group.

Norwood Systems, based in Richmond-upon-Thames, U.K., and Perth, Australia, introduced and demonstrated its EnterpriseMobility telephony platform at ComNet. It will go into trials in February at Ernst & Young, one of the largest banks in the world, said Paul Ostergaard, [cq] chief executive officer of Norwood Systems. In addition, the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with a U.S. systems integrator and a maker of telephone PBXs (private branch exchanges) to become channel partners in the distribution of the technology.

"We've been running in stealth mode and only just came out publicly with our solution," Ostergaard said.

EnterpriseMobility will allow office workers to remain connected to their company's information systems with the aid of base stations that are placed around the office, picking up radio signals from a number of devices, including Bluetooth-enabled PCs, headsets and Palm Inc. handheld devices, Ostergaard said.

Ostergaard demonstrated how a user can dial a telephone number from the key pad of a Palm and connect a cordless headset to a regular fixed-line desk phone. Companies that have shown interest in the product include those that want to increase the productivity of their workforces by liberating them from their desks, Ostergaard said.

The price of the system, which is due on the market in May, will be comparable the to per-user price of a fixed-line, PBX-based office system, or roughly US$450 per user for 50 to 100 users, Ostergaard said. One base station will support about eight users, he said.

The EnterpriseMobility system uses software written by Norwood Systems, Bluetooth-enabled hardware from Axis Communications Inc. in its base stations, Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) for chips, and L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co. and GN Netcom Inc. for the headsets. The product also includes tools designed to reduce the skill level needed to manage coverage or increase capacity, Ostergaard said.

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