Putting Hotspots on the Map

As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. In the world of Wi-Fi, hotspot providers are having trouble even getting their horses to water—if users can’t find hotspots, they can’t log on. San Francisco-based ISP system software developer Aramova (formerly Rockstar Software) has developed a new technology, which it believes is going to revolutionize the Wi-Fi directory world and make hotspots easier to find and safely log on to.

Aramova’s new Hotspot Mapping Portal (HMP) Service, launched yesterday, is marketed to WISPs, network aggregators and service providers and claims to be a whole new breed of directory solution. It works in conjunction with Aramova’s MobileManager smart client software and features a full set of mapping functions that enables end-users to quickly and easily find precise—and accurate—details of location, type of venue, network status and information about adjacent hotspots by typing in search criteria, or by clicking on an interactive Flash map.

“We believe that we will have the fastest directory service offering in terms of speed and getting information back with the highest quality,” says Pete Szalay, CEO of Aramova. “One of the biggest hurdles is actually getting hotspot information correctly into a directory. A lot of times addresses entered by WISPs or aggregators have spelling mistakes and sometimes the locations are not 100% correct. When that gets entered into a directory service, sometimes the hotspot won’t even show up in the right location.” Szalay says that Aramova’s technology eradicates this data-entry margin for error.

“We remedy that through a unique approach—our secret sauce,” he says. “Some of it has to do with our client technology, understanding proximities, some of that is correlated through some interesting techniques we deploy with our smart client.”

While Aramova is not yet ready to release to the public the ingredients in their “secret sauce,” providers are signing on to taste their product, including WeRoam and Orange. [Editor’s Note: Updated to accurately reflect Aramova’s current customers.]

One of the most appealing aspects of the HMP service involves searching while offline. If a user’s preferences in the smart client have been properly pre-set, he or she can search the directory and locate hotspots without having to first connect to the Web.

“We think it’s unique,” says Szalay. “Basically, with other directory services, you must have access to the Internet in order to find access to the Internet. Some people want the option to quickly locate a hotspot without having to get connected first. So, what we can do is we can push that information into the smart client and that makes it readily available whether the user is connected or not.”

Essentially, before traveling, a user can set his or her preferences and download the appropriate portions of the directory ahead of time. That way, finding a hotspot while sitting in the Tulsa airport or in a hotel lobby in New Orleans, is a cinch, even from a cell phone.

“Our new mission in life is to proliferate mobility as the next way of doing things,” says Szalay. “We’ve been really focused on ‘how do we bring new, interesting solutions to the market that will enable roaming?’ ‘How do we manage roaming relationships and authenticate people across multiple barriers, switching over various types of networks?’ In the past, the focus was on fixed-line carriers, now we have a new vision of mobility.”

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