Cisco has launched a device that locates clients in a wireless LAN, tracking valuable assets, locating threats such as rogue access points and blocking drive-by hackers.

The Wireless Location Appliance 2700 was developed by wireless switch vendor Airespace, which Cisco bought at the start of this year. For now, it works with the Airespace switches - which have been re-branded as the Cisco Wireless Control System and will be integrated with other Cisco products according to the giant's strategy announced this week at Interop.

"The 2700 is the first fruits of the Airespace acquisision," said Andy Oldfield, technical marketing manager for wireless technologies at Cisco. "Location has a large amount of growth potential, for asset value tracking, security and management."

The appliance costs $15,000 and will mostly be used for tracking valuable assets, such as technical equipment in hospitals, or large plasma screens for conference rooms. It can track up to 1500 objects, but will mostly be used in sites that need to track around 100 things, said Oldfield. Tracking large objects with Wi-Fi, it is complementary to RFID systems using low-cost tags, he said.

The device is an extension of existing Airespace products such as the Wireless Location Services software, launched in May 2004, which works with tags from Aeroscout (as used for tracking lost children in Legoland).

"Location is about services and applications on top of the basic function," said Oldfield. The new appliance takes the output of the Airespace controllers and APs and aggregates it to give intelligent services, such as alerts when an asset leaves the building, or a history of where it has been.

Some observers think that location actually adds little to other security methods, but Airespace argues strongly in its favour (read a White Paper).

The appliance will work with Cisco's Aironet APs, when they have been upgraded to support Airespace's LWAPP protocol in the second half of the year, said Oldfield. Till then, it's for people with Airespace products. In theory at least, this would include those who bought through Airespace's former OEM partners, Nortel and Alcatel, admitted Oldfield cheerfully.

Oldfield expressed doubts about Trapeze's claim to offer integration with Aironet now. "They claim they can manage Aironet APs," he said. "But to what depth isn't clear. The devil will be in the detail - if it doesn't solve customer problems, then it's just a piece of marketing."