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Silicon.com says widespread Wi-Fi ignorance among tap pullers: Silicon.com found that the service is up and running as expected in many locations, but that staff on site have no blooming idea what in Hades you’re talking about. The Cloud, which equips 1,000 pubs with Wi-Fi, is working on an education campaign for its locations. Their marketing head was quite honest about its use, too: “Wireless internet use in pubs is fairly sporadic but we see them as an excellent target looking forward to the next few years.”
This makes perfect sense: As handheld devices increasingly have Wi-Fi, it’s much more likely to be used by those who frequent a pub. Laptops? Not so likely.
Thames Online Service adds eight miles of river-covering Wi-Fi: Ah, punt down the Thames in London (if you dare) and use free Wi-Fi during this trial phase. It will later be US$5 an hour.
Six solar-powered, Internet feeding lights will be mounted in Dundee: The lights will use LEDs, which use enormously less power for equivalent illumination with substantially longer lamp lives. Internet access will be powered by the same solar array. The company will install a whopping 4,000 more such lights later this year in a student village. It’s a fascinating idea for spreading municipal access through infrastructure that already has power and the right position.
Former WNN staffer Nancy Gohring writes about the European group Fon, which aims to spread grassroots Wi-Fi roaming: The Fon system requires the use of a Linksys gateway with new firmware they provide; they’ll offer the firmware for other gateways in the future. Fon has an eco-system of Bills, who charge for hotspot access; Linuses, who offer it for free; and Aliens, who pay to use hotspots. Linuses get free access on the Fon network, no matter what kind of hotspot, because they’re offering free service.
The idea is quite similar to the original business models of both Sputnik and SOHOWireless, and the failed Joltage (second item on linked page). All three firms tried to build grassroots or community-organized hotspot networks that would rapidly expand. They suffered from a lack of hardware and a lack of momentum. In an era when any dense neighborhood has plenty of accidentally public networks and purposely free ones, Fon may be already behind the time.
A US aid agency project combined with computers from China have brought Internet access to all primary and secondary schools in the former province of Yugoslavia: The 460 schools enabled On.Net, a Macedonian Internet provider, to build a business with guaranteed revenue, which in turn boosted their infrastructure to serve others. They’ve used wireless to span “bumpy” terrain. The company is using mesh networks within cities. The country is landlocked, and one member of parliament spoke of the Internet as the missing sea they need to compete in a world market.
A church in Wales is now offering Wi-Fi via BT Openzone: The vicar of the church found he couldn’t use the Openzone network, which covers much of Cardiff in Wales, mostly due to the thick walls of the church. So he asked Openzone to add an access point in the church and they complied. The access isn’t just for the vicar though—he said he’d be happy to have business people stop in for a quiet spot to do some email. One of a few downsides to this story is that like all Openzone hotspots, this one won’t be free to access.
This paper describes progress in Finland to deliver cheap broadband access to residents of apartment buildings: Housing cooperatives did a remarkable job working together to bring high-speed access to residents. The next step is to add Wi-Fi. The plan is for apartment buildings to place antennas on their roofs to offer coverage for the building next door. In this application Wi-Fi isn’t meant to be used as a primary form of access, but the author of this report describes it as the “icing on the cake.” Presumably it would allow people to use the Wi-Fi network as they move around the neighborhood.
BT Openzone said that it targets hotspots at major events that will attract reporters: The company began to see demand from reporters covering events last year and now anticipates such demand, particularly at sporting events. Staff reporters can surely expense the cost of accessing the networks so it’s a good opportunity for BT to take advantage of real demand for the access.
A handful of car makers have received a grant from the German government to work on a standard for wireless communication between vehicles: The idea is to allow cars, trucks, motorcycles, and even bicycles to automatically trade information about traffic conditions, bad weather, and accidents. Their work will contribute to that of a consortium that is developing a standard for such vehicle communications in an effort to avoid different, incompatible systems being used by different car makers. The system is likely to be based on 802.11.
This piece doesn’t mention it, but I’ve read elsewhere about similar efforts that also aim to interact with traffic signals. Cars in line in a big backup on a roadway could cause a traffic signal to change, potentially alleviating the backup.
If such systems are primarily ad hoc, where cars mainly communicate with each other and not base stations, cities and countries can avoid the need to build extensive and cumbersome Wi-Fi networks. Apparently these groups are focusing on the ad hoc concept. So, perhaps base stations could be located only at certain traffic signals or other spots and the radios in cars could pass information from car to car until in range of a base station.
The auto industry typically takes ages to incorporate new technology into vehicles, so this sort of concept might take many years to pop up in cars. The technology first has to be developed, the auto makers have to agree on a standard, vendors have to make the hardware, and then the car makers have to incorporate the systems in their cars, potentially starting with only certain lines of vehicles.