Hotspot 2.0: Effortless Wi-Fi on the Move

Posted by: T. Lacoma on Friday, April 19th, 2013

Smartphone and tablet users are accustomed to connecting to a wireless network and saving network information such as passwords on their devices. But Hotspot 2.0 technology shows this is only the beginning of Wi-Fi interaction. In the near future, devices will be able to effortlessly switch between networks, providers, and areas of service no matter which wireless technology they’re using.

From Spot to Spot: How Hotspots Work

Hotspot technology is a Wi-Fi authentication and management tool. It defines how mobile devices and Wi-Fi connections interact. Original hotspot technology made it easy for mobile devices to link up with new wireless networks when they came into range. Of course, the usual safeguards such as passwords and network names still apply.

Hotspot 2.0, which is still an emerging technology, takes this traditional wireless service and expands it in several notable ways. The primary focus is on interoperability, or allowing mobile devices to move effortlessly between different hotspots without having to worry about updating or reloading information.

While some interoperability is available with older systems, users often encounter a broad mix of Wi-Fi networks and cellular networks run by a variety of different service providers.

Version 2.0 of Hotspot smooths out the connection process to help networks “hand off” wireless connections to each other without breaking up conversations, streaming services, or other types of data transfer. In its ideal state, this works in much the same way that cell phones transfer signals from tower to tower — only with a multitude of Wi-Fi hotspots instead.

A Brave New 802.11u World

In order to work properly, Hotspot 2.0 is developing several core updates to wireless technology. It exclusively uses WPA2 encryption, the latest and most reliable encryption method. It also uses something called EAP (extensible authentication protocol), which is a protocol that helps move security details between servers. For example, the technology allows smartphones with SIM cards to store Wi-Fi security credentials (with an additional workaround for tablets). This allows devices to move between compatible networks without needing to stop and log in with separate password authentication.

Finally, the technology brings 802.11u wireless communication capabilities to networks. This allows devices to gather information from a Wi-Fi network without actually joining the network, making the entire network-switching process more fluid. The 802.11u technology primarily influences behind-the-scenes work and encourages providers and manufacturers to develop services or products designed to work together.

Currently, Hotspot 2.0 is focusing primarily on small test networks, especially in the commercial sector. Key passpoint technology and more security credentials between networks are still being developed and refined. If commercial endeavors prove successful, the new versions of Hotspot should be widely available in cities, resorts, strip malls, and similar areas within a couple of years.

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