Base uses wireless to track IT

The Materiel Systems Group (MSG) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, recently began using a solution from Aether Systems Inc. that offers managers a wireless way to track information technology assets.

Aether's Corporate Equipment Tracking System (CETS) is a mobile application that enables Air Force IT managers to use Palm Inc. handheld devices to monitor the base's inventory of computers, printers and other technology products, said Chris Bledsoe, director of Aether's professional services.

MSG contacted Aether, a provider of wireless data products and services, last June to review its tracking needs and then develop and implement a mobile system that would enable asset custodians to monitor the location of the base's IT inventory.

Using Aether Fusion as the foundation, the company tailored a solution to the specific needs of command, Bledsoe said. The company describes Aether Fusion as a fully integrated engineering framework that eases the interoperability of wireless technologies in complex IT environments.

Aether completed development of the new system at the base on Jan. 31, and several MSG managers are using Palm m505 devices to securely access IT inventory data, Bledsoe said. He added that the project is generating interest from other divisions at Wright-Patterson as well as from other bases, including Maxwell Air Force Base-Gunter Annex, Ala.

Michael Barry, MSG's handheld solutions business manager, said that the Ohio base previously had difficulty tracking IT assets because of its manual, paper-based system.

With the old system, personnel "couldn't sort or search except manually," Bledsoe said. "But this allows them to sort records by type or asset number, quickly find out who it belongs to...and locate equipment dynamically."

However, CETS was not developed without a few glitches that had to be overcome. The main problem was keeping the size of the database manageable so the Palm devices could quickly process the information. Aether solved that issue by using filters for specific categories, including by the individual custodian or environment, which "shrunk the size of the database necessary on the handheld for [faster processing] speed," Bledsoe said.

Air Force officials are pleased with the results. Based on the success of the mobile systems, the MSG at Wright-Patterson "will be rapidly expanding the program to benefit asset managers basewide and beyond," Barry said.

Wright-Patterson is headquarters for the Air Force Materiel Command, which conducts research, development, test and evaluation. It also provides acquisition management services and logistics support to keep the service's weapons systems ready for war.

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