Aerohive, the enterprise Wi-Fi company that sells access points that co-operate without the use of a central switch, has started European operations, and announced its first customer here.

The company, which claims that eliminating the central controller can cut the cost of Wi-Fi networks by half, has six staff in the UK, and distributors across Europe. The first installation announced is at Bart's Hospital in London.

“A Wi-Fi switch is a single centralised point of failure. No other part of the network works in this way,” said Aerohive chief executive David Flynn, chief executive of Aerohive. “This is the best way to deploy wireless,” said Gareth Green, the new vice president of European sales. In the UK, Aerohive will be distributed by Vadition.

Barts Hospital, part of an NHS trust which also includes The London Hospital, has installed 77 access points in its accident and emergency department and two wards, but head of ICT client services Doug Howe sees this as a pilot which could could extend over the entire Trust.

“It goes live in June,” said Howe. “This meets a real need - our clinicians have been complaining of poor communications” The system will be used to support Vocera voice communications badges, as well as active RFID tags to track expensive clinical equipment, and a mobile clinical system.

Green and FLynn argue that centralised switches were only necessary because in 2002 the price of memory and processors made it impractical to make access points smart enough to handle everything locally.

Their opposition to centralised network devices for Wi-Fi is interesting, given their history. Like most of the senior Aerohive personnel come from Netscreen, now part of Juniper, which was a leading vendor of firewalls - network devices that are inevitably centralised, and which, before the rist of centralised Wi-Fi switches, were suggested as a means to manage wireless access points.