From the horse’s mouth
There are a significant number of public-access Wi-Fi hotspots set up in places like hotels, caravan parks, convention facilities and the like for guests to use. These networks include “headline” public-access Wi-Fi networks installed in apartment blocks, retirement villages, resorts and the like.
But a lot of these networks implement Web-based “captive-portal” login arrangements to onboard or authenticate potential users. This is typically about assenting to terms and conditions for using a free network, enabling advertising in an advertisement-funded network, you entering something like a room number to use the network or to facilitate payment whether that be directly or through a voucher you buy from the venue.
These setups require you to keep a Web-browser session or page open to “stay valid” on the network. As well, they can be very difficult to implement on devices that don’t have a Web-browser user interface, such as games consoles, set-top boxes, smart speakers, Internet radios and the like. It can even be difficult if you want to bring your own smart TV to that retirement-village apartment you are moving in to.
I came across this through feedback on a review that I did of the Sony CMT-MX750Ni Internet-capable stereo system and someone couldn’t use that system to its full potential. This was because they couldn’t get get this stereo “on board” the headline Wi-Fi network provided by the European-style “resort apartment” they were living at. Here, they ended up using it with their iPhone and running an app like TuneIn Radio on their iPhone for Internet-radio access.
GoZone, who provide various Wi-Fi public-access-network solutions have just released the SecurePass feature that allows users to use one of these devices with publc-access Wi-Fi powered by their technology.
SecurePass effectively creates a logical wireless VLAN with own SSID and password for each successfully established guest account. This allows a public network user to connect an Internet radio, Amazon Echo, XBoc One or Chromecast to this logical network as if they are connecting the device to their home network or a similar small network. This setup can work with the currently-applicable business model that the public-access network is working on.
Some businesses may take advantage of SecurePass as a way to connect devices like Internet radios or smart TVs that they or their employees use onsite to their network in a secure manner. That is to keep the line-of-business network purely for those devices relating to the company’s business.
But there are questions about this setup where it may be desireable to establish a connection between a device that was used to provision the connection using the Web-based portal and the device that was connected to the VLAN associated with that service. This may be to enable AirPlay / Chromecast / DLNA streaming from a laptop, tablet or smartphone to your media device or to print stuff out from your laptop using your Wi-Fi-capable printer. Similarly, it could be about creating a private device cluster for sharing files between devices using standard network-file-transfer protocols.
Another question which I see relevant to hotel and similar setups is providing access to network resources that are intended for a guest’s use. Examples of these includes streaming to your room’s or a common lounge area’s Chromecast-capable TV or network printers that support AirPrint or IPP/Mopria and are set up for guests to use. This can include opening up printing access to a business printing infrastructure from guest-owned devices either as complementary or paid-use.
Of course there will be security and privacy issues regarding any approach to create private virtual local-area networks within networks typically set up for public Internet access. This can be about issues like using the network infrastructure for observing data being transferred in a point-to-point manner or providing privileged access to private resources through these networks for example.
But what is being realised is that when you are at a place where there is a public network for residents, guests or the public to use, yon need an experience similar to a typical home network while your privacy and data security is assured.