Wireless broadband provider The Cloud is taking Wi-Fi access technology from Devicescape to make it easier for customers to find and use hotspots.
The company claimed that its software client, called mycloud, will provide seamless log-ons to home, office, public and free networks.
Owen Geddes, The Cloud's business development director, said the company also hopes to use the software to deliver targeted content to its users, even over other networks. The Cloud has 10,500 hotspots around Northern Europe and several roaming partners.
"Mycloud will become an umbrella for all your Wi-Fi across Europe," he declared. "It will understand how you use Wi-Fi, where you go to use it and what you use it for, so we can offer appropriate content."
To use mycloud, you tell the service which networks you have access to, plus whatever passwords and encryption keys are needed. The Devicescape technology scans for SSIDs - network identifiers - that it recognises from your list, including your service provider's roaming partners.
It then uses the DNS protocol to side-step the normal login page, instead pulling your credentials from a secure central store and logging into the wireless LAN on your behalf. This method not only removes the need for manual logins, it also means that your WLAN passwords aren't stored on the mobile device.
Users can also choose to accept or reject connecting through open hotspots, said Devicescape CEO Dave Fraser. He pointed out that while there have been prosecutions in some countries for unauthorised use of unsecured Wi-Fi, some hotspots are left open deliberately for others to use.
Initially, mycloud will be offered for Windows XP and Vista only, said Geddes. However, Devicescape also has versions of its own client for MacOS X, iPhone and iPod Touch, Windows Mobile, Nokia Series 60 and others - the phone versions have proven especially popular, as phone browsers often have difficulty with hotspot login pages.
Geddes added that the technology will also allow network operators to shift data traffic off their cellular networks and onto Wi-Fi, where possible. He said The Cloud already had a deal with O2 to provide iTunes connectivity for the iPhone, for instance, and that he didn't see this changing even with 3G and HSDPA.
"Wi-Fi is faster than 3G," he said. "Also, 80 percent of data transactions are inside buildings, and 3G's in-building penetration is not great."
Hotspot users may have a sense of déjà vu at the software's name, as there are (or were) many hotspots called mycloud. Geddes said that's just a coincidence - it was the SSID chosen for some of The Cloud's early networks.
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