Wi-Fi Makes Ad Sense For Google

Google quietly launched Secure Access, software to make Wi-Fi connections more secure. It could also make them the key to a lucrative new revenue stream.

Location-based advertising, the ability to target ads to people as they move through their days, has been a dream of the wireless telecommunications industry. The idea is, as you’re walking past a Starbucks, you get an SMS message with a coupon for a half-price latte. You’re right there, so why not?

But the industry stalled, because it’s still too complicated to pinpoint a user’s location, and no telco or third-party service provider had the right kind of ad network.

Enter Google.

Google Secure Access is a downloadable client application that encrypts the Internet traffic across a Wi-Fi connection. Google is providing a virtual private network (VPN) server for the service.

The free service routes traffic going to and from the mobile device through Google’s VPN servers. The company said it would log some information from Web page requests and also routing information, session durations, operating systems and Google Secure Access client version numbers.

On Google’s FAQ page, the company said Google Secure Access was created by one engineer during his “20 percent time,” the 20 percent of working hours that employees are encouraged to spend on projects interesting to them.

The client software was designed to connect to the Google Wi-Fi network, which consists of a few hot spots in San Francisco created in partnership with Feeva, a startup that’s in the business of providing free, ad-supported wireless services.

“The Feeva-fueled wireless broadband networks have the technology to identify, target and deliver relevant and useful information to the user, in collaboration with online media, content, advertising and search services,” according to that company’s Web site.

The Google Secure Access client will tell Google exactly where that user is. Then, Google can set its local advertising algorithms to work and deliver ads from existing advertisers into this new network.

The search goliath has been moving steadily into the mobile service provider world.

In August, the search giant Google Talk, a voice-enabled instant messaging service.

In September, it bought Android, a small mobile development shop. Android was founded by Andrew Rubin, who also started Danger, maker of the Hiptop all-in-one mobile device.

Will Feeva be the next acquisition?

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