IBM has authorized it’s mobile workforce to use McDonald’s WiFi
network. This is mostly interesting as a small milestone in the
mobile workforce/ubiquitous networking realm. It’s also interesting
because the whole McDonald’s WiFi thing usually gets nothing but
snickers from folks: it seems absurd that people would go there and
use their WiFi’ed up laptops.
But, apparently, it’s not so absurd.
I wonder what they use to
monitor those WiFi connections: you’d almost need a special piece of
hardware that simply had a WiFi card and constantly monitored the
connection it was getting to the base station. If you were super
paranoid, you’d hook it up to the wire connection so that, assuming
the wire connection didn’t go down, you could report loss of WiFi
Really, the device could be a super-cheap (used and old) laptop
with the monitoring agent installed on it that you just plug-in
somewhere. Or, you could simply have specially made pieces of hardware that were just becons: if you couldn’t connect to the monitoring agent, or they couldn’t connect to the agent, over the WiFi network then they’d be considered down. Maybe these would low-powered enough to run off batteries instead of having to plug them in.
Once plugged in, the laptop would establish it’s net
connection and start reporting to a centralized place. It’d be really
whizbang if all you had to do was plug the device in and all the
network connectivity was automated: for most WiFi hot-spots I’ve
encountered (without passwords or the need to configure the
connection), this would probably be possible.