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Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – Devicescape, creating a seamless WiFi layer

Devicescape

Last week I met up with Dave Fraser and Simon Wynn at Devicescape to talk about their plans for the future. I’ve blogged about Devicescape before – it’s a simple software client that manages WiFi connections for mobile devices across private and public WiFi hotspots. It automates the sign-in process using pre-stored security credentials for secure networks and automatically logs on to authorised private and public hotspots. All major WiFi service providers are supported and smaller ones are being added all the time. I’ve been using Devicescape to manage the WiFi connections on my PCs and handsets for over a year now and with about 10 WiFi devices in the family it saves a lot of time and hassle fiddling about with SSIDs and WPA keys!

Devicescape (the company) has been around for three years and has a background in WiFi security products. The company’s vision is to create a seamless WiFi layer to unify the multiplicity of private and public WiFi networks available to users. Approximately 80% of Devicescape users are using Devicescape on a mobile handset and to date most Devicescape users have downloaded the Devicescape client from the website and configured it themselves. However, as Devicescape’s focus is on simplifying the WiFi access process and customer experience, increasingly the client is invisible to the end user. As an example, DeFi uses Devicescape ‘under the bonnet’ to manage WiFi network access; making the whole process transparent to the user.

Devicescape now comes in four ‘flavours’:

• Locked to one operator – OEM selects, user enters a username and password, works on one network and its roaming partners

• Locked to one operator – user selects the network of their choice

• Locked to one operator – operator provisions device, no user setup required, just works

• Unlocked Devicescape client – premium service, enabled by Subscription Service

More and more operators are seeing 3G and WiFi as complementary technologies and Devicescape partners are starting to use the client to load balance across 3G and WiFi networks. To reduce the data overhead on the 3G network, traffic is seamlessly routed over WiFi when available. Because Devicescape automates the WiFi network selection and login process, it creates a seamless user experience.

Is there anything missing from Devicescape? The one piece of functionality I would like to see is the ability for a user to prioritise the order of login to networks on the unlocked client. Prioritisation is currently set by Devicescape and applies to all users. This is based on prioritising the most cost effective networks to use, so it uses your home WiFi before a paid for one. However I’d like to be able to prioritise private access points as I sometimes have more than one running and need to control which is used.

I’ve just had an email from Devicescape confirming that Devicescape is now in the Apple Store so it’ll be going on my son’s new iPod Touch later this week!

38 replies on “Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – Devicescape, creating a seamless WiFi layer”

hmmmmm…an app that lets you easily connect to a service that in the age of flat-rate 3.5G data is redundant, and thus that no-one uses….handy for uber-geeks (who could do it anyway), but the rest of us?

Nice, but 3 years too late chaps, sorry!

It may seem redundant to you but with variable 3G coverage & capacity issues it's of real interest to the 3G operators. Hence seamlessly integrating Devicescape into their connectivity software.

More and more operators are seeing 3G and WiFi as complementary technologies and Devicescape partners are starting to use the client to load balance across 3G and WiFi networks. To reduce the data overhead on the 3G network, traffic is seamlessly routed over WiFi when available. Because Devicescape automates the WiFi network selection and login process, it creates a seamless user experience.

But WiFi is *so, so* utterly unsecure compared to 3G, it's like comparing your child's wendyhouse with Fort Knox. What happens if a customer suffers a loss due to being hacked on a public WiFi spot? Who pays? Who handles the CS?

And *you* have to travel to where *it* is, and drink the crap coffee / rub elbows with the Mondeo Men crammed into plastic chairs shouting into their mobiles.

We are 2 years max away from LTE delivering true multi-megabit bi-directional speeds to addressable devices – which will be the same sort of price as the WiFi devices now. There are literally millions of 3G Data dongle subs in the UK now, and I've not heard any consumers say speeds have suffered for it.

3G covers over 90% of the population, 3.5G will cover 98% within 12 months (T-Mo/3, other operators are available).

IF they were here 3 years ago and IF the driver for access via multiple WiFi devices existed, then Devicescape would have been relevant….but they weren't, it wasn't, so they aren't.

And no MNO will have the customer connection over without a very good reason – and even owning their own WiFi isn't that good a one, as the customer can also connect to their WiFi competitors too. No, keep them on-net is the mantra these days.

/m

3G indoor coverage is very variable & WiFi is still a good alternative. It amazes me just how poor UK mobile coverage still is. If the networks offered in country roaming that would help but without this none of the networks offer ubiquitous coverage. And I'm not talking about rural coverage – my experience is in London & close by.

“We are 2 years max away from LTE delivering true multi-megabit bi-directional speeds”… err, right, if you says so.

“3G covers over 90% of the population, 3.5G will cover 98% within 12 months (T-Mo/3, other operators are available).” … so how is geograhic coverage, how is indoor coverage? It aint 90%.

The fact is WiFi is useful. It’s faster than 3G (esp. latency). It’s always-on when you’re at home or office, vs. 3G which needs to set up a bearer or has slow idle-to-active transition each time you use it.

How come all the desirable devices now have WiFi?

Your security argument is a red-herring. There are risks, but it can be done. Losing your phone on the bus is a bigger security risk.

I love 3G/HSPA, but you might as well be realistic.

So is walking / driving to the nearest WiFi spot somehow less convenient?

Let's quantify that we are talking about Devicescape enabling users to access public WiFi as opposed to their home WiFi. Home WiFi is a different case, but from an end-user setup POV still requires waaaaay too much geekness for normobs.

Ok, one needs to quantify the argument: my supposition is that indoor 3G coverage, while not perfect, is good enough and getting better. 4 out of 5 networks have major sharing deals underway that will see the coverage so good that T-Mo is going to *remove* 5,000 sites from their network over the next year. 3 will probably do a similarly large number, although their sites were designed from the start for 3G as opposed to T-Mo's, so might be the ones that get kept.

Incidents of dropped calls on 3G as issues for magazines like Which? or the tech ones have pretty much disappeared. When was the last time mass-media ran a “Crap 3G” story?

To me, the argument is completely irrelevant anyway. Public WiFi is only available in places where 3G coverage is usually perfect – high streets, travel hubs. It's usually backhauled by crap ADSL. You've had to pay someone for it. WiFi roaming is (after a promising start) now imploding, The Cloud locking out BT subs after negs failed.

/m

I don't say LTE is coming, everyone else does – vendors, MNO's analysts. It's a relatively simple upgrade for any BTS made in the last few years. It exists now in wide trials, with speeds in the 10's of MB being achieved under typical mobile scenarios, not inside labs.

Coverage is population-based, so 98% = where 98% of the pop. live/work/play.

You fail to mention that WiFi also kills your battery flat in half a day if left on. And if you session-base it, the startup/acquire IP address/connect latency is way, way worse than establishing a 3G connection.

Not having a use case for WiFi didn't stop Nokia hoping to take traffic off-net from MNO's, but it failed to take off. So now it's in there, but is the most underused feature apart from the radio ;-). Just because you can and do build it in doesn't make it a sensible thing to do. One one has it, customers think it is necessary, and competitors copy so as not to appear to be cheap.

Security is not a red herring. No MNO thinks so. Securing the customer's experience is a major focus.

Realistic is accepting that People_Do_Not_Travel_To_Hotspots. They didn't for Rabbit, they haven't for WiFi.

/m

Remember that Devicescape is moving more & more to be 'under the bonnet' & invisible to the end user to make it normob friendly.

I see the network sharing deals as a red herring in terms of network coverage. I suspect they are much more about saving cash than improving coverage. As you say, 3 & T-Mobile have a network sharing deal. However neither of them offers good in-building coverage here. I've taken to manually selecting GSM only (Orange) on 3 when I'm at home to stop the constant searching & jumping between 3G & GSM. And as for T-Mobile round here – it's shockingly bad. I've discussed coverage with 3 & they admit that whilst it's 'very good' outside the nearest cellsite is too far away to offer high quality in-building coverage.

LTE may be a wireless panacea but it's not here yet so not really relevant.

My main mobile use at home is now WiFi & …. it works!

OK agree with the hotspot part. There are security issues there and you wouldn;t travel to use it.
But at home WiFi works great. Anyone can use it. It’s not geeky. It doesn’t kill your battery these days. It is much lower latency than 3G. Seems pretty popular among iPhone users.
Funny how everyone can use WiFi on laptop, but as soon as it gets to a phone, it’s way too difficult for us all.

In an ideal world ubiquitous 3G would do the job but we aren't there yet & I don't see us getting there in the short term, so a combination of 3G & WiFi is better than either alone. A few years down the line we will be looking at a very different wireless landscape. Need to throw WiMAX into the pot too 😉

Remember that Devicescape is moving more & more to be 'under the bonnet' & invisible to the end user to make it normob friendly.

I see the network sharing deals as a red herring in terms of network coverage. I suspect they are much more about saving cash than improving coverage. As you say, 3 & T-Mobile have a network sharing deal. However neither of them offers good in-building coverage here. I've taken to manually selecting GSM only (Orange) on 3 when I'm at home to stop the constant searching & jumping between 3G & GSM. And as for T-Mobile round here – it's shockingly bad. I've discussed coverage with 3 & they admit that whilst it's 'very good' outside the nearest cellsite is too far away to offer high quality in-building coverage.

LTE may be a wireless panacea but it's not here yet so not really relevant.

My main mobile use at home is now WiFi & …. it works!

OK agree with the hotspot part. There are security issues there and you wouldn;t travel to use it.
But at home WiFi works great. Anyone can use it. It’s not geeky. It doesn’t kill your battery these days. It is much lower latency than 3G. Seems pretty popular among iPhone users.
Funny how everyone can use WiFi on laptop, but as soon as it gets to a phone, it’s way too difficult for us all.

In an ideal world ubiquitous 3G would do the job but we aren't there yet & I don't see us getting there in the short term, so a combination of 3G & WiFi is better than either alone. A few years down the line we will be looking at a very different wireless landscape. Need to throw WiMAX into the pot too 😉

But WiFi is *so, so* utterly unsecure compared to 3G, it's like comparing your child's wendyhouse with Fort Knox. What happens if a customer suffers a loss due to being hacked on a public WiFi spot? Who pays? Who handles the CS?

And *you* have to travel to where *it* is, and drink the crap coffee / rub elbows with the Mondeo Men crammed into plastic chairs shouting into their mobiles.

We are 2 years max away from LTE delivering true multi-megabit bi-directional speeds to addressable devices – which will be the same sort of price as the WiFi devices now. There are literally millions of 3G Data dongle subs in the UK now, and I've not heard any consumers say speeds have suffered for it.

3G covers over 90% of the population, 3.5G will cover 98% within 12 months (T-Mo/3, other operators are available).

IF they were here 3 years ago and IF the driver for access via multiple WiFi devices existed, then Devicescape would have been relevant….but they weren't, it wasn't, so they aren't.

And no MNO will have the customer connection over without a very good reason – and even owning their own WiFi isn't that good a one, as the customer can also connect to their WiFi competitors too. No, keep them on-net is the mantra these days.

/m

3G indoor coverage is very variable & WiFi is still a good alternative. It amazes me just how poor UK mobile coverage still is. If the networks offered in country roaming that would help but without this none of the networks offer ubiquitous coverage. And I'm not talking about rural coverage – my experience is in London & close by.

“We are 2 years max away from LTE delivering true multi-megabit bi-directional speeds”… err, right, if you says so.

“3G covers over 90% of the population, 3.5G will cover 98% within 12 months (T-Mo/3, other operators are available).” … so how is geograhic coverage, how is indoor coverage? It aint 90%.

The fact is WiFi is useful. It’s faster than 3G (esp. latency). It’s always-on when you’re at home or office, vs. 3G which needs to set up a bearer or has slow idle-to-active transition each time you use it.

How come all the desirable devices now have WiFi?

Your security argument is a red-herring. There are risks, but it can be done. Losing your phone on the bus is a bigger security risk.

I love 3G/HSPA, but you might as well be realistic.

So is walking / driving to the nearest WiFi spot somehow less convenient?

Let's quantify that we are talking about Devicescape enabling users to access public WiFi as opposed to their home WiFi. Home WiFi is a different case, but from an end-user setup POV still requires waaaaay too much geekness for normobs.

Ok, one needs to quantify the argument: my supposition is that indoor 3G coverage, while not perfect, is good enough and getting better. 4 out of 5 networks have major sharing deals underway that will see the coverage so good that T-Mo is going to *remove* 5,000 sites from their network over the next year. 3 will probably do a similarly large number, although their sites were designed from the start for 3G as opposed to T-Mo's, so might be the ones that get kept.

Incidents of dropped calls on 3G as issues for magazines like Which? or the tech ones have pretty much disappeared. When was the last time mass-media ran a “Crap 3G” story?

To me, the argument is completely irrelevant anyway. Public WiFi is only available in places where 3G coverage is usually perfect – high streets, travel hubs. It's usually backhauled by crap ADSL. You've had to pay someone for it. WiFi roaming is (after a promising start) now imploding, The Cloud locking out BT subs after negs failed.

/m

I don't say LTE is coming, everyone else does – vendors, MNO's analysts. It's a relatively simple upgrade for any BTS made in the last few years. It exists now in wide trials, with speeds in the 10's of MB being achieved under typical mobile scenarios, not inside labs.

Coverage is population-based, so 98% = where 98% of the pop. live/work/play.

You fail to mention that WiFi also kills your battery flat in half a day if left on. And if you session-base it, the startup/acquire IP address/connect latency is way, way worse than establishing a 3G connection.

Not having a use case for WiFi didn't stop Nokia hoping to take traffic off-net from MNO's, but it failed to take off. So now it's in there, but is the most underused feature apart from the radio ;-). Just because you can and do build it in doesn't make it a sensible thing to do. Once one has it, customers think it is necessary, and competitors copy so as not to appear to be cheap.

Security is not a red herring. No MNO thinks so. Securing the customer's experience is a major focus.

Realistic is accepting that People_Do_Not_Travel_To_Hotspots. They didn't for Rabbit, they haven't for WiFi.

/m

Remember that Devicescape is moving more & more to be 'under the bonnet' & invisible to the end user to make it normob friendly.

I see the network sharing deals as a red herring in terms of network coverage. I suspect they are much more about saving cash than improving coverage. As you say, 3 & T-Mobile have a network sharing deal. However neither of them offers good in-building coverage here. I've taken to manually selecting GSM only (Orange) on 3 when I'm at home to stop the constant searching & jumping between 3G & GSM. And as for T-Mobile round here – it's shockingly bad. I've discussed coverage with 3 & they admit that whilst it's 'very good' outside the nearest cellsite is too far away to offer high quality in-building coverage.

LTE may be a wireless panacea but it's not here yet so not really relevant.

My main mobile use at home is now WiFi & …. it works!

OK agree with the hotspot part. There are security issues there and you wouldn;t travel to use it.
But at home WiFi works great. Anyone can use it. It’s not geeky. It doesn’t kill your battery these days. It is much lower latency than 3G. Seems pretty popular among iPhone users.
Funny how everyone can use WiFi on laptop, but as soon as it gets to a phone, it’s way too difficult for us all.

In an ideal world ubiquitous 3G would do the job but we aren't there yet & I don't see us getting there in the short term, so a combination of 3G & WiFi is better than either alone. A few years down the line we will be looking at a very different wireless landscape. Need to throw WiMAX into the pot too 😉

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