Archive for the ‘Wireless’ Category

Always intrigued by the varieties of FirstSpot usage. Here is an article written by our FirstSpot partner Triad Wireless about WISP deployment:

Triad Wireless is one of our active FirstSpot partner. They are based in Phoenix, Arizona.

By nature, hotspot management is a problem with great variety. Even with FirstSpot is in its sixth major version (v6), we continue to hear new requirements that we can add to FirstSpot as enhancements. The popularity of smartphone devices and the need to push message/advertisement to client devices further add complexity to the hotspot environment. Every customer seems to have their own unique requirement (login page look-and-feel, tracking model, etc…) for managing their hotspots. Based on our experience, a lot of customers value flexibility in their hotspot solution.

The hardware upgrade path is another important consideration. Due to hotspot growth, hardware failure or even server consolidation (e.g. VM), customers need to change hardware periodically. We believe the above two needs favor a software (rather than a hardware box) approach for most of the hotspot management scenario.

As we mentioned previously, Smartphone continues to be quite hot despite the tough economic situation. Please consider:

Wi-Fi Smartphone Shipments Continue to Grow

The revolution started by iPhone not only benefits Apple, but also enlarges the whole smartphone pie quite a bit as well. It is crucial for hotspot technology providers like us to be aware of and respond to this trend. Those who don’t will be left behind by the customers.

Please consider :

Wi-Fi Hotspots Get a Second Wind

We had been hearing this debate since we started to develop FirstSpot in 2002. The short answer is that Wi-Fi Hotspot will always have its place (e.g. data roaming situation, a lot of people in one small place, basement conference centers). After the more ambitious (but sometimes flawed, especially if it doesn’t have a solid financial backing) municipal wireless projects taper off, hotspot operators are more pragmatic about what Wi-Fi Hotspot can do. We see that as a healthly long-term development for the hotspot market.

In the past (before FirstSpot v6), the only way to communicate from Hotspot operator to client is through our InfoBox popup which utilizes browser popup technology (in a nutshell it uses JavaScript method named . We include a way to push message to the client within InfoBox popup (we can this feature “Announcement”).

Due to the increase popularity of browser anti-popup and smartphone client like iPhone/Windows Mobile (which usually doesn’t offer complete JavaScript support), we feel the need to invent a new way for this kind of communication. Our solution is In-Browser Message which is included in the latest v6. In essence, FirstSpot inserts a small overlay at the top of the browsing page. Extreme care has been taken to ensure that it will not affect the normal browsing experience. In fact, FirstSpot only turns on In-Browser Message -> disconnect reminder as default. FirstSpot operators are encourage to experiment with other types of In-Browser Message (We will include a new type called “Top Banner Mode” in the upcoming v6.0.2 update).

Continuing from the previous post, please consider:

Rethinking the iPhone’s Role in Computing,2817,2348658,00.asp

Is the iPhone a personal computer that just happens to make phone calls, or a phone that just happens to run apps? And if it’s really a PC that fits in your pocket, does that change how you use it?

Several subtle design decisions that makes iPhone Internet surfing experience much better:

  1. By not including a keypad/keyboard altogether, the screen can be larger and phone be lighter

  2. The touch-screen design (which acts like a mouse in PC) with nice UI. Since iPhone isn’t designed to work with a stylus, user can operate using one hand. Also, UI focuses more on “swipe” or “gesture” (i.e. multi-touch) action instead of pinpoint button clicking (current Windows Mobile version still does that a lot), it feels more native to a small-screen phone and greatly improves the Internet surfing experience

  3. accelerometer makes it easier to surf the Internet in landscape mode

In a sense, iPhone innovates a lot in the Internet experience but gives up a bit on the normal phone experience (by giving up a keypad). After the pioneering work of iPhone, lots of smartphones borrow the design ideas and really make the smartphone a viable platform for Internet surfing. In fact, we are seeing smartphone becoming more important in the Wi-Fi Hotspot market.

With the increase popularity of smartphone in the hotspot segment, it creates both opportunity and technical challenge for hotspot management solution vendor like FirstSpot. The main technical challenge for us is the delivery of message to the hotspot users (which we will discuss in future posting).

There are probably many statistics in the Internet to confirm this. But based on our experience from FirstSpot, iPhone is really the first smartphone widely used in Wi-Fi Hotspot. In fact, before iPhone, we rarely encounter any technical issues/requests from smartphone “client”. Most of the FirstSpot-powered Hotspot serves client devices originating from PC and PDA. So the old version (like FirstSpot v4), apart from PC browser, we mainly test Windows Mobile (which powered most of the PDA in the “past”).

BTW,  we see the decline in PDA usage and in fact Windows Mobile is moving more to smartphone too.

Interesting article from New York Times about Wi-Fi plan at hotels :

From the feedback from our FirstSpot customers , many budget and midscale hotels uses Wi-Fi service as a way to differentiate from bigger hotel. While some of the them offers free Wi-Fi, they use FirstSpot for various control and tracking mechanism like bandwidth throttling and logging.The key is that Wi-Fi is a necessity for all level of hotels. Also, our new In-Browser Message feature can provide a additional channel for hotel to commnuiicate with their customers.

We finally release our long await FirstSpot v6 beta 1 at the end of April.

We manage squeeze in many features. But one of them we definitely want to highlight is “In-browser Message”. Our vision in the hotspot market is that it’s business model focus go through several phase:

1) direct payment (e.g. credit card)

2) indirect payment (e.g. consume a product, then get a prepaid card for access for 60 minutes)

3) value-added hotspot (e.g. message broadcast, advertisement)

We feel that we are at the early stage of phase 3 right now. Part of the reason it is early stage is that the technology is quite new. FirstSpot’s In-Browser Message feature is one of the first (if not the only) hotspot management software in the world to support this.