In an increasingly security-conscious world, companies are looking for the best network perimeter protection they can find -- especially as demand for wireless capabilities grow. With that in mind, Datamation readers selected WiFi Watchdog 3.0 from Newbury Networks by a landslide as their favorite in the wireless software category of Datamation's 2005 Product of the Year awards.

WiFi Watchdog is an enterprise-class application that monitors and secures 802.11-based wireless LANs (WLANs). The software provides 24x7 wireless monitoring and security capabilities, enabling organizations to significantly increase the level of protection of their WLANs.

According to Newbury Networks, WiFi Watchdog equips organizations to accurately characterize weaknesses in the network, identify and resolve security holes created by internal users, and prevent attacks from outside intruders. It also keeps a watchful eye on potential threats and alerts IT/security personnel of the physical location of vulnerabilities and attacks as soon as they appear.

Industry observers are not surprised that Newbury Networks was the hands-down favorite in the wireless software category.

Paul Stamp, an analyst with Forrester Research, an industry analyst firm, says the vendor has taken an innovative approach to determining who should and who shouldn't have access to a corporate network.

''The innovative part is determining [a person's] location based on the characteristics of signals,'' he says. Before the software is installed on an appliance, a user can take a survey of wireless sensors in a building. The software then uses that data, along with the strength of signals, to figure out where a person is and whether that is a location where remote access should be granted or blocked.

An example would be a trading floor where someone needs to conduct business transactions through a PDA, says Stamp. Wireless software can be used to find out who the person is and geographically where the person is located when the transaction occurs, he explains.

''The technique they use is a little counterintuitive. They use signal strength, as opposed to various other techniques in radio location,'' notes Craig Mathias, a principal with Ashland, Mass.-based Farpoint Group, an advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobile communications. He adds that Newbury Networks was ''the first to do location-based security, which is a novel concept and broadly applicable, because there are so many different applications it could be used in.''

Because of a significant number of small to medium vendors in the wireless space, Stamp predicts there will be a lot of consolidation in the coming year through mergers and acquisitions. ''The companies doing this are so small, but the technology is mainstream, so some of the larger companies want to get into this.''

The easiest way to get into this area is through acquisitions, adds Stamp, citing the purchase of WLAN provider Airespace Inc., by Cisco Systems earlier this year.

The runner-up in the wireless software category was WSC Guard V 3.4 from Wireless Security Corp. The other finalists were: LucidLink from InterLink Network Inc.; Sendia Wireless SFA from Sendia Corp.; and Colligo Workgroup Edition V 3.3 from Colligo Networks Inc.