Network authentication solutions

The number of companies joining the Bluetooth Special Interest Group totals over 1,800, including 20 Israeli companies. It includes giants such as Intel, Ericsson, Nokia, IBM, Lucent and Motorola. The cooperation by companies developing wireless technology under this communications protocol aims at the integration of products of various companies. For example, an HP printer will be able to print a picture file sent wirelessly from a computer or digital camera. The traditional cable spaghetti cluttering the floor of our workstations at the office or at home is therefore likely to disappear.

It all sounds fine, but recently an increasing number of articles are saying that this communications protocol is causing a great deal of fanfare over promises it will find difficult to fulfill. What does this mean? It simply means that what we do today with communications cables, we'll be doing without any cables. It includes sound system loudspeakers, the earphones, the printer, computer screen and so on. Is this a revolution? Not really. So why are all the giant telecoms investing billions in this area? First Access deals mainly in electronic security solutions and with its flagship product, employees stand before the computer, are recognized and given access without touching the keyboard. Identification is done by smart card. The integration of the Bluetooth "vision" took place immediately after the company joined the Bluetooth group in February this year.

With this question in mind, we approached Israeli start-up First Access, which recently joined the group of companies developing the communications protocol.

"Globes": Why Bluetooth?

Executive vice president of business development Noam Ziv: "We produced a similar and interesting product. Analysts are debating whether it's a revolution and technological change, and many say it's not a revolution, since it merely involves changing communications cables."

Why then are giants such as Intel and IBM nonetheless investing considerably in this area?

"Everyone is entering the field primarily because there's a great deal of money in it. In addition, some of the giant companies with vision are looking at something else under development. It's not the chip, which will replace the cable but what is called Personal Bluetooth Device (PBD), an accessory everyone will carry around with him in various appliances, serving as a digital identity card throughout the electronic world. It's already a revolutionary vision of simulated reality. People will in fact turn into a network junction. When a person enters the office, all electronic devices will recognize him immediately. Moreover, most appliances will be hooked up to LAN, through which it will be possible to know your physical whereabouts in the organization."

Is this where your uniqueness lies?

"No, not yet. I wish we were big enough to produce the PBD, but only giants such as Nokia, IBM or larger can do it. Our product is not really Bluetooth technology, although it's in the field, and at the moment it partly realizes the vision."

In praise of neutrality

What about privacy problems arising from linking the chip to the organization's employee?

"If a person doesn't want to be monitored, he closes the chip. Don't forget that the cellular telephone does exactly the same thing in telling everyone where you are. On the other hand, it provides many services. It's true that it's problematic. We have some customers who deducted pay from employees who were found to be enjoying themselves in the cafeteria for too long during working hours. Our product is able to print a picture of the building, showing the location of each employee in the past ten seconds, which can be handed over to the fire brigade when necessary.

"The big news, however, is not the fact that everyone's whereabouts can be gleaned, but m-commerce, and we've already been approached by giant companies in the mobile commerce field. It's too complicated to use WAP to order a bottle of CocaCola." Ziv hopes that in the future we'll come closer to vending machines with payment automatically debited to our bank accounts. The machine, equipped with the chip, will identify the customer through the Bluetooth chip he is armed with, and send the debit instruction accordingly.

Business Card

Name: First Access

Founded: September 1996

Product: Network authentication solutions

Employees: 42

Market: Private consumers, organizations.

Customers: Private consumers, organizations.

Ownership: Moshe Elgressy, JVP, Shamrock, Neurone and Keppel T&T of Singapore

Published by Israel's Business Arena on 9 August, 2000

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