Open Sesame! - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell

October 21, 2004

Real world factors
Users of a Sesame system go through the initial sign-up process only once. The password is permanently associated with their cell phone number. The next time they come into that office—or any office with a Sesame system in place—they can log on right away using cell number and password.

Sesame has already installed its technology at about 25 facilities—law offices, libraries, ad agencies, municipal buildings—and expects to be in 5,000 in North America by the end of 2005. In 2006, it plans to mount "a European invasion" through prospective partners with which it is already in discussions.

This raised a question in our minds. The user signs up using the SMS process at one Sesame site where he has a legitimate business relationship. Now he can wander into any other Sesame site and without asking log on and use the service. The system does allow host organizations to set up an exclusion list that will block access to specific user IDs, but should they be concerned about strangers freeloading on their bandwidth?

Grossner notes that a good deal of the value proposition of his firm's product is that the service allows users to self-authenticate and that it's simple to use and consistent from site to site. Forcing users to sign up for service at each site would certainly reduce convenience for users, but would it necessarily be a bad thing for host organizations?

In most facilities, Grossner says, it would not be possible for a freeloader to use bandwidth without permission because they'd be clearly visible doing it in public areas. But what about just outside the front door? At sites where Sesame designed and built the Wi-Fi LAN—the majority—it uses equipment that allows engineers to control power output of access points to ensure that coverage doesn't extend outside the facility. "Some clients were concerned with leakage," he admits.

Granted, such interlopers would still be traceable and ultimately accountable—perhaps not as accountable to the company whose Wi-Fi service they're actually using, though.

Company factors
Sesame was founded by president and CEO Tom Hope, a former chief technology officer at Bell Canada, and chairman Marc Bouchard, who was CEO at Bell Nexxia, a systems integrator and sister company to Bell Canada. Sesame outsourced development of the hardware and software to TravelNet Technologies, developers of the DataValet Wi-Fi guest services system for hotels.

Sesame is already working on enhancements to the product. One would make it possible for Wi-Fi voice over WLAN-capable phones to self-authenticate at Sesame sites. Another would allow host organizations to selectively give some guests limited access to "the walled garden" behind their firewall—consultants working for them for days or weeks at a time, for example.

It's an interesting product. With more than 25 implementations in a few months, the company appears to be off to a quick start. Can it really hit 5,000 deployments by the end of 2005, though? It sounds aggressive to us. On the other hand, perhaps $1,500 a year is not such a huge price to pay for a virtually self-managing perk you can offer valued customers and suppliers.

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