The Key to the Wi-Fi

BALTIMORE — Operations Support System (OSS) provider Pronto Networks of Pleasanton, Calif., has teamed up with Sweet Spot Solutions of Mesa, Ariz., to make a key to the Internet. Literally.

They’re going to be marketing what they call the Internet Key, a Universal Serial Bus (USB) key that would be used to authenticate users getting on a wireless network running Pronto’s OSS on the backend. Instead of typing in a user name and password to get access, users would simply stick the Internet Key into the USB port of the computer they’re using to log in.

Pronto sells services and products for both enterprise WLANs and hotspots. The key will be made to work with both. Sweet Spot will custom brand the keys with logos for customers who might want to hand them out to users, whether those users are their own employees or customers using their hotspots.

Justin Beck, the CEO of Sweet Spot, says his company and Pronto are also working on potential roaming solutions that would let enterprise users of a WLAN take the key to a hotspot and use it to authenticate in both places. Pronto WISP customers currently can do inter-network roaming if they want.

“It [the Internet Key] has the smarts built in to link back — it’ll authenticate on the home network and with the roaming will authenticate on other networks,” says Beck.

The nearest competitor to this kind of thing is RSA Security’s two-factor authentication that uses both a physical key and a username/password. Beck says that enterprises could roll out two-factor security with this key (probably using simple 802.1X authentication) but he says the Internet Key “one-factor” security is better for public access.

“When I walk into Starbucks or some other public location with a hotspot, I don’t want to figure out if I need an account,” says Beck. “I want to plug in my key and get online. Just like with a cell phone. My Sprint phone should work on any tower. I just want to use it to talk.”

The companies have not released any pricing, saying things would be individually priced based on deals worked out with the carriers/operators and corporations.

Wi-Fi Planet Conference

Wanna see the key?

Join us at the Wi-Fi Planet Conference
& Expo
, June 8-10, 2004 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, MD.

Pronto and Sweet Spot will show the Internet Key and how it works to all who come by their booth.

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