Wireless LANs join Marines in the war zone

When Marines went ashore on Iraq's Faw Peninsula last month, they checked out their equipment with 2,000 gun-shaped, handheld computers acquired under the Defense Department's $248 million Automated Identification Technology-2 contract.

'Everything'bombs, boots, bullets, Exocet antiship missiles'gets checked in and out of inventory control' with bar codes, said Barry Issberner, a vice president of Symbol Technologies Inc. of Holtsville, N.Y.

The Marines' Microsoft Windows CE handhelds, which cost about $1,000 and weigh about 10 ounces each, incorporate a scanner, an Intel mobile processor, and a high-capacity, 10-hour battery recharged from vehicle batteries.

The handheld units communicate via IEEE 802.11b wireless networks set up on the spot. Wireless security isn't a big concern to the Marines in this instance, Issberner said, because they're transmitting only inventory numbers, not command and control data.

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