A Wi-Fi Friends & Family Plan
July 17, 2007
Devicescapes upcoming Wi-Fi Buddies will make it easier for you to share your wireless connection.
Theres no lack of companies pushing Wi-Fi sharing, albeit with different methods: FON with their hardware, Whisher with their software. Whats left? How about Devicescape Software giving them all a go?
Devicescapes recently began offering software you put on a Wi-Fi device you can find the list of supported hardware online that makes it easier for you to log onto big-name Wi-Fi networks and hotspots, like those run by T-Mobile or EarthLink. Just about any provider you can imagine can and is supported, though as the user you still need an account with the provider to get access. CEO David Fraser estimates there are as many as 160,000 locations where Devicescape users can log in. More are added every day without any need for the provider to be involved.
Wi-Fi Buddies, the companies latest, is meant to make it easy for you to become a provider as wellbut to limit access to your friends and family, if you so desire.
In fact, Fraser says a top usage model requested by Devicescape users was to share their home network, and be able to request access to others.
A month ago we made a stealth release that allows users to add their own personal network, says Fraser. You plug in your network name, your security keys, etcetera. It was all a precursor to the Wi-Fi Buddies release, where you as network provider also enter in buddy list of trusted users.
Thats easier and more convenient and more secure than what people do today... you have to hand out a network key, says Fraser. Its a security hole. You put that key out in an uncontrolled manner.
Wi-Fi Buddies however, all have to be running the Devicescape client software, which is regularly updated with a list of Wi-Fi networks to which the client software can connect. The buddy list is based on e-mail address, so as long as your accounts listed e-mail matches the one your provider/friend inputs, you are in, transparently and easily, without entering any WEP or WPA keys.
If you change your network security key, just update the info on your Devicescape account and all your buddies will get that info the next time they sync. But they never see it, not even the SSID. The network is identified with a generic name like Erics Network.
And its all free.
Our goal is to get the Devicescape software designed in [to products] by large consumer electronics makers, so its in PCs, cameras, media players, handsets, VoIP devices, game players, thats the idea, says Fraser, describing the company business plan. He says theres nothing to announce yet, but that that theyve been busy going after deals.
So how does this differ from FON and Whisher? Outside of the fact that its not wide open to just anyone, Fraser says its all in the name. We focus on the wider world of devices. Its a system thats lightweight, a tiny foot print for even the smallest device. In other words, its not just for laptop users. When on Windows PCs, the software works hand in hand with XPs Zero Config, the dominant way laptops access Wi-Fi networks these days. However, Devicescape gladly offers the full supplicant manager on other operating systems.
The data stored on devices which includes your security keys, which Devicescape is trying to keep secure, remember is encrypted. We store them in a way that cant be abused, claims Fraser. Sure, a stolen device can still access that network, but if you as the administrator know that persons device is now a rogue, you can delete them from the buddy list. You can even report a device as lost and flag the usage to help recover it.
Users with a product running the Devicescape software can request access to a found, private Wi-Fi network by going to the Devicescape web page. Its built off of how Devicescape currently gets users to signal the commercial hotspots they want. It automates access to an existing buddy list, both for newbies or just for the friends you forgot to list.
So if youre sick of handing out WPA keys when friends come over, consider setting up a Wi-Fi Buddies list. The price is right.