Local Firms Grabbing Piece of Wi-Fi By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter As wireless high-speed Internet technology booms, several Valley companies are grabbing a piece of the action. Wi-Fi, short for Wireless Fidelity, is the fast-spreading technology that’s driving wireless today. “Hot spots,” or areas where Internet users can bring their laptop or personal digital assistants to connect to the Internet wirelessly, are popping up seemingly everywhere. Most Starbucks coffee shops have them, as do an increasing number of malls, universities and businesses. Although it’s a developing technology, Wi-Fi has already made a big enough splash for local firms and entrepreneurs to take notice. David Bleeden, owner and president of Wildcat Communications Group based in Agoura Hills, is in the process of starting a line of Wi-Fi accessories in response to increasing demand. He has a number of Web sites that sell cell phone and Wi-Fi accessories; Wildcat is also trying to build a brand name around Wi-Fi accessories and other telecommunications devices. Bleeden said sales have doubled for Wi-Fi accessories on his Web sites in the first quarter and he projects his company is at “a run rate to double this year,” he said. Wi-Fi is also driving business for Nomadix Inc., a Westlake Village company that manufactures software that powers Wi-Fi hot spots. Called the Nomadix Service Engine, the software is sold to carriers, service providers, wireless Internet service providers and others. The company is focused on the public-access market. The company’s latest coup in Wi-Fi came in the form of a contract to install its software into 500 hot spots in Athens, Greece, for the 2004 Olympic Games. “It’s a good-sized project, and one that we’ve been focused on,” said Mike Gilly, vice president of worldwide sales at Nomadix. Looking at locations Gilly said Nomadix would install its Wi-Fi equipment in 150 traditional hot spot locations such as outdoor restaurants and parks, and 350 in hotels, including lobbies and individual guest rooms. He added Nomadix was in talks with a major Southern California-based hotel chain to install Wi-Fi at its franchises. Wi-Fi has multiple uses, and it’s still at an early stage of development in the United States, while in Europe it is utilized more, Gilly said. A more “open environment” and “aggregated networks” are giving the technology more widespread use there, said. “There are a lot of things going on there that are on the cusp of happening here,” Gilly said, explaining that the dot-com bubble that burst several years ago has made U.S. tech investors cautious. Another company getting involved in Wi-Fi is a Woodland Hills startup called Aiirmesh Communications. The company installed a Wi-Fi network in the City of Cerritos, which did not have high-speed Internet because carriers weren’t interested in laying cable to the city because it was too costly. Now, Aiirmesh is in the mix and may be getting more business from other cities some in the Valley. “We got several discussions with local cities,” said CEO Stan Hirschman.
Local Firms Grabbing Piece of Wi-Fi