Trapeze Networks has released an enhanced version of its 802.11-based wireless location and asset tracking software.

Version 4.0 of its Newbury Active Asset software includes a redesigned GUI, a hierarchical sorting arrangement for assets being tracked across the enterprise and for assigning administrative tasks based on different roles, and improved performance to handle thousands of wireless asset tags.

Active Asset is a system originally developed by Newbury Networks, and adopted in 2006 by WLAN vendor Trapeze as the core of its location tracking product, which included the Trapeze Location Appliance 200.

Trapeze was acquired by Belden in mid-2008, operating as a separate business unit, and at the end of last year acquired Newbury.

Most of the changes in the 4.0 release are aimed at simplifying operational tasks, and make it easier and faster for users to find what they're looking for, according to Chuck Conley, vice president for marketing for the Newbury business. One of the main target markets is healthcare, which is aggressively deploying a mix of wireless technologies for asset tracking and location services.

The complete Trapeze offering includes the company's wireless LAN controllers and access points, the LA200 appliance, and Newbury's AT320 wireless asset tags (about the size of a small matchbox), and the Active Asset server software. No client code needs to be distributed. The Newbury software can track any 802.11 device, not just the tags.

The Newbury product is part of what's sometimes called "active RFID" - using built-in radios (in this case 802.11 Wi-Fi) to continuously stay in touch with WLAN access points. Vendors include AeroScout, Ekahau, Navis, Radianse, Unisys, and WhereNet. By contrast, passive RFID systems use tags that are activated by a signal from a separate tag reader, and then use the signal's energy to create a return signal carrying location and identity data.

The new Active Asset 4.0 GUI can show a text list of all tagged assets, whether people or equipment, and then populate a floor plan with labelled icons for, say, "IV pump" or "heart monitor." Mousing over an icon will pop up data such as its current location. Clicking the icon will bring up more details, including for the first time a 30-day trace of an asset's movements.

With a new hierarchical arrangement, Active Asset now lets an administrator filter and view tracked assets by groups, by types, by keyword, or by location on a specific floor or building. A hospital staffer can see the real-time location of all emergency 'crash carts' on a given floor, for example.

Specific administration tasks and views now can be subdivided among named administrators. A security guard, for example, can log in to Active Asset and see only tagged visitors or patients, not equipment assets. A set of APIs enables Active Asset to make use of WLAN access points from other vendors, such as Cisco, 3Com, Enterasys and others.

The Active Asset 4.0 application is available by the end of April, with a starting price of about $15,000 (£10,000) for managing up to 50 tags.