It is a longstanding problem for manufacturers. They need to be able to efficiently track and locate production materials inside a warehouse, or yard, but typically have to rely on painstaking searches and paper-based inventories.
That is, until now. Santa Clara, California-based WhereNet, a supplier of wireless location and communications software and hardware, claims it has developed a
technology that enables companies to generate real-time data about the location and status of an item to within 10 feet.
Founded in 1997, WhereNet has developed a combination of browser-based software and radio frequency transmitters that work over distances of 300 feet indoors and up to 700 feet outdoors.
These technologies come together to form the WhereNet Real Time Locating System (RLTS). The core component of RTLS is its WhereLAN product, a wireless location sensor and access point device that is compatible with Ethernet-based local area networks (LANs), and the increasingly popular wireless networking protocol, 802.11b. Users access location information from a browser on the wireless device of their choice. WhereLAN can also support non-WhereNet location applications.
The other key components of RTLS are WhereTag, a wireless transmitter device that attaches to assets, such as a pallet or vehicle; and WhereNet’s Visibility Software Server (VSS), a set of development tools for integrating third-party applications, for example supply chain management software. VSS acts as a central repository for data generated by WhereLAN, which can be graphically displayed or used to generate reports.
WhereNet’s technology has already attracted several blue chip customers, including car maker Ford, grocery chain Meijer and American Airlines’ cargo facility operation. The company has so far received a total of $54 million in funding, including $20 million from Ford Motors and Sun Microsystems.
At present, WhereNet has few competitors apart from Cary, North Carolina-based Pinpoint Networks, which sells its software and services to mobile operators. However, the company may ultimately face competition from mobile operators that acquire, or develop, similar technology.