Intel is developing a new wireless management technology that will combine existing software to pull the full range of wireless devices under a single umbrella.

Wireless devices, such as smart phones, PDAs or handhelds have made their way into IT departments as employees bring the devices from home. But management of such devices can be a headache and potentially expensive.

In the past few years, Intel has developed a number of components to help manage wireless devices. In April, it began a pilot with the University of Arkansas where smart phone applications and operating systems could be controlled using popular management software.

The company's strategy is based on the Common Information Model (CIM) schema for managing different types of hardware and networks.

Intel has developed firmware for a prototype handheld communicator and CIM-based server software that can interact with the device before the operating system boots, Nikhil Deshpande, a director in Intel's corporate technology group, said. Wireless devices can already be identified across networks once the operating system has booted, but not all management software works with all of the different types of mobile operating systems used by smart phones, he said.

IT managers could provision the operating system and applications using a management software application, such as CA's Unicenter software, which was used by Intel in its proof-of-concept with the University of Arkansas. Developers have programmed Unicenter to recognise specific firmware on the wireless device and assign the appropriate software image to that device, eliminating the need for an IT staff member to individually set up each device, Deshpande said.

Intel's strategy may be a little ahead of its time because it assumes that phones will be centrally purchased and managed by enterprise customers, something that rarely happens today. PC makers offer custom configuration services, but the smart phone industry hasn't reached that level of maturity at this point.

Intel's technology is about three to five years away from commercial readiness, Deshpande said.