The Wi-Fi Passpoint or Hotspot 2.0 technologies have been made available to allow those of us with mobile devices to benefit from public-access Wi-Fi without having to deal with Web-based sign-in routines every time we want to use these facilities. But they have been pitched primarily at mobile phone operators and ISPs who want to offer Wi-Fi service for their subscribers.
But San Francisco and San Diego have implemented this technology as part of their free public-access Wi-Fi setup, which I see as being a first for this class of public-access Wi-Fi. Typically these services implement a Web-based login routine which occurs at the start of each session and this may be provided in order to assent to the service’s terms and conditions. With these setups, it becomes impossible to continue a usage session even if you move out of the network’s scope temporarily and it also becomes impossible to roam between the different locations ran by the service without having to log in again.
What they have done is to prove that the Wi-Fi Passpoint or Hotspot 2.0 technology can work well with single-location or multi-location public-access Wi-Fi setups whether free-to-access or pay-to-access. For example, a chain of restaurants, a public-transit system or a community Wi-Fi setup can benefit from this by allowing the users to move between locations without a need to log in again.
The next question that may be raised is to simplify the provisioning experience, especially when it comes to provisioning the same service across multiple devices owned by the same user. This may range from setups where you simply assent to terms and conditions through services where you establish a session-based account like most docket-based hotspot setups to the services offered by WISPs and telcos which are based on an existing customer account.
Who knows, this could be the trend for easy-to-use secure public-access Wi-Fi as different scenarios are being tested.