The Wi-Fi Alliance are taking proper steps to make the user experience for wireless-hotspot services more user friendly and secure. This is based on the “Passpoint” standard which covers logging in and a secure usage session.
It has been driven by wireless-broadband providers who want to use these hotspots and their wired-broadband backhauls as a data offload in busy areas. One key improvement is to implement WPA-Enterprise security with session-unique security parameters rather than the common WPA-PSK security which uses a common password.
The login experience has also been tackled through the provision of a consistent experience that isn’t depending on a Web-based form. Here, the credentials could be a username/password combination that is presented by the device’s native user interface, or credentials held on the device or in a SIM card.
This may open up hotspot access to headless or limited-display devices like digital cameras, car infotainment systems or handheld games consoles. But a question that could be raised is whether it could be feasible to have a group of devices seen as a logical network that can exist through the hotspot’s space. This issue may play in to setups like multiplayer multi-machine gaming amongst a group of teenagers or young adults in the same cafe or bar.
Another question worth raising about Passpoint is whether a venue is able to have control over its Wi-Fi access? This would be of concern with anyone in the food-beverage-hospitality industry who would rather that patrons who use the venue’s Wi-Fi are the ones who are buying food and drink or renting a room.
This function has also been extended beyond just logging in to the network and Internet service. A Passpoint setup has also had the ability to factor in application-level authentication needs like content access. An example of this application is the in-room movies service offered by nearly every hotel. Here they could allow a person to stream a movie to a tablet or laptop and view this anywhere around the premises such as the lobby lounge.
One risk that I see for Passpoint or any other “easy-setup” standard promoted by the Wi-Fi Alliance is that the same old situation will repeat itself. This is where Apple won’t implement the standard in their products or platforms even though they consider themselves the “super-cool” IT brand. I have seen this for myself with WPS where just about everything except a MacBook Pro or an iPhone will enroll with a Wi-Fi segment using this “push-button” setup routine.
These standards could be implemented not just with an operating system but also in a software form which is based around a program that can be loaded on to a device by its user and that such software is available through device platform’s app store without any need for the device to be jailbroken.