This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.
With an estimated 800 million new Wi-Fi-enabled devices entering the mobile market each year, new Wi-Fi networks are emerging to connect businesses and users inside public venues ranging from malls and airports to hotels, schools and universities.
One technology that will power the further development of this mobile ecosystem is Hotspot 2.0, an interoperable Wi-Fi authentication and handoff technology that allows mobile users to move from Wi-Fi hotspot to hotspot without selecting connections and entering passwords, the same way phones travel between cell towers without intervention.
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Hotspot 2.0 is based on three core technologies: WPA2 (802.1X/802.11i), EAP and 802.11u. WPA2 has been used in enterprises since 2004, when it became available to ensure mutual authentication and encryption between the mobile device and network. Encryption is critical in public hotspots for security and to avoid unwanted listeners who can tap into personal communications with readily available tools such as Firesheep.
The Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) is a protocol that defines how security credentials are moved between a mobile device and the security server. Hotspot 2.0 supports EAP-SIM that allows the SIM card on a smartphone to be used on Wi-Fi networks. Hotspot 2.0 also supports EAP-TTLS that assigns a username and password to support mobile devices, such as tablets that do not have SIM cards.
Lastly, 802.11u is the most recent technology that allows a mobile device to collect information from a Wi-Fi network before association and authentication. As we enter the next major innovation cycle of mobilizing the Internet and move from a mobile voice world to a nomadic data world, the adoption of new technologies, like Hotspot 2.0, will require consensus between mobile operators, OEMs and mobile OS vendors.
With the first phase of testing completed, the second phase of Hotspot 2.0 will focus on bringing dynamic policy to the mobile device connection manager and help manage cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity between mobile applications. Phase 1 of Hotspot 2.0 delivered the global interoperable Wi-Fi authentication standard to market and is the foundation of the seamless cellular, or Wi-Fi roaming, experience. Phase 2 brings intelligence to the selection process between networks. In addition to enabling a seamless roaming experience, Hotspot 2.0 with 802.11u will allow the mobile device to discover other local services supported on the network, enabling mobile users to access local mobile apps and services within two simple clicks.
While Hotspot 2.0 Passpoint brings interoperability to the Wi-Fi authentication process, there is also the need for an ecosystem of clearinghouses to move security credentials between networks and mobile operators. This ecosystem exists for cellular and is being leveraged for Wi-Fi networks. Additionally, the Wireless Broadband Alliance is working with the industry to help standardize how security credentials are passed between networks.
The indoor mobile experience
Within indoor venues, Hotspot 2.0 allows consumers' mobile devices to communicate with the network before association and authentication, giving the mobile device access to roaming services and other local services available in the venue. In the future, consumers will be able to specify what type of local network service they are interested in and how they want to be notified, similar to other mobile applications.
In addition, network services discovery will allow businesses to detect, connect and engage mobile users that are now connected to the venue's Wi-Fi network. Hotspot 2.0 will allow mobile devices to securely communicate with nearby Wi-Fi networks before association and authentication. Mobile users of the future will be able to specify what local network services they are interested in and how they prefer to be notified, similar to how users can configure the email and SMS notifications on an iPhone.
New mobile concierge services will allow organizations to engage with mobile users through a native application on a mobile device, providing opt-in services to deliver deals and other relevant local information.
Lastly, location analytics technology provides real-time location information, allowing businesses to send location and time-based deals and coupons, as well as historical trends that help businesses plan staffing and stocking. Airports successfully improve business operations by tracking how travelers are moving through and dwelling in the airport using location analytics, while retailers use analytics to optimize worker productivity in a store and better understand customers on their mobile devices. When trigger-based marketing systems are integrated with the real-time location analytics of the Wi-Fi network, indoor venues can now engage visitors with messages sent to their mobile devices based on their location, time of day and interests.
Indoor venues, such as shopping malls or hotels, deploying these solutions and seeking to improve relationships with consumers via a connected mobile device should also clearly communicate the security protections given to consumers. Businesses using these technologies can collect anonymous customer data, when consumers opt in, such as location and purchase history, and apply this data to deliver loyalty programs and personalized services. However, properly deployed solutions will have transparent terms and opt-in conditions that allow businesses to make informed decisions. As is the case when any user connects to a network, consumers must be informed and engage only when businesses are transparent regarding data collection and privacy.
The future of mobile
These technologies have already enabled a connected experience at some indoor venues. Within the next five years, the new connected, mobile experiences will become the norm in most venues as mobile Internet connectivity increasingly becomes a service on par with water, light and heat. Looking forward, we will see improvements in indoor location technology, collaborative filtering and local service discovery protocols that will continue to make it easier for consumers to have access to local services and information on their mobile devices within two clicks.
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Business and venues interested in providing indoor location based services should make sure their indoor wireless network has been optimized for location and can provide the real-time location analytic policies and trigger-based marketing tools that engage consumers and employees within indoor venues.
A complete infrastructure overhaul is not necessary. Location-based services can be enabled via additional network and business intelligence on top of a business' existing wireless network infrastructure. Improved location accuracy can be achieved with incremental investment to the existing wireless network, making the future of the mobile experience more realistic for businesses and their consumers.
About the author: Friday is chief technology officer for the Wireless Networking Group, part of Cisco's Network Services Technology Group. He manages strategic wireless initiatives for the Wi-Fi (wireless LAN) and WiMAX broadband (wireless WAN) businesses.
About Connected Mobile Experience: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/netsol/ns1205/index.html