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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Focus On SMC Wireless Hotspot Gateway

Wireless technology is commonplace these days and many of us know that if we want to share wireless internet access, we trundle down to PC World, buy a wifi router and remember to configure a security key.

But the requirements of a commercial hotspot are quite different. If you’re adding a hotspot to a business venue, such as a café or hotel, you could just setup a wifi router but you’d be missing out on the the value that a hotspot can add. So in this blog post, I am going to look at what kind of solution would better suit a small business, such as a coffee shop for example.

Luckily, a company called SMC has the solution. The SMC Wireless Hotspot Gateway comes with everything a business requires to set up their own hotspot, but then also conveniently manage the technology and make it an integrated part of the service.

With the Hotspot Gateway solution, you get a good quality wireless router. It's not a modem, so you'd an internet connection with an ethernet cable which you can plug into the WAN port on the router. Like all these devices, you manage it by accessing it through a web browser, so you connect a computer up to it via Ethernet in the first instance. Before attempting to configure, you need to understand what this offers you. It gives you the opportunity to manage sessions by creating time limited access keys which you can sell or give to customers. You determine your own pricing structure. You might want to charge x for 1 hour, or charge y for 2 hours. Or you might want to make the access free, but available when a customer makes a purchase. Once you’ve considered the service you want to offer, you can the create your service/billing options within the management interface.

In my example, I've settled on an hour's access for £1. A customer comes in and wants to use the internet. He turns on his laptop and can see an internet connection but when he opens his browser he gets a logon screen and he needs his own access key for his session. You’re busy running your business and haven’t got time for writing down unique passwords, and here’s where the second component to the SMC Hotspot Gateway comes in – an SMC thermal printer connected to the router. It has three external buttons which can you map to the service plans configured on the router. So whilst you’re making the coffee, you hit the right button and the thermal printer prints out all the details for the session, including start and end time, price, and the all important access password for the session. You can also customise it to include company messages and branding. You give the print out to the customer with his coffee or what have you, and then then enters the access key into the password screen to begin using the internet.

Once the options have been configured, the system can be operated simply using the buttons on the printer, so no need to have a PC setup for administration.

This hotspot gateway solution is a great way to truly integrate a wifi service into your business offering rather than the blunt, bolt on alternative of just having a standard wifi router and having to either leave it with no security or give out one passkey to every user.

Find out more about SMC Wireless Hotspot Gateways from your nearest SMC stockist.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Westminster Launches UK's Biggest Wifi Zone

Westminster City Council, in partnership with BT, has launched the UK's biggest Wifi Zone. The zone covers approximately one square mile of space, and includes all of Soho and the streets around Oxford Street, Leicester Square, Strand and parts of Whitehall.

Westminster council Deputy Leader, Councillor Colin Barrow, said:
"This is a groundbreaking project. Westminster is proud to lead the pack in rolling out this technology in an innovative way. We are excited about the improvements this will bring for Westminster and the opportunities it will create for businesses and personal use.

"Much of the network has already been up and running, but from today we are making it available to the public. People can now walk through the streets getting continuous internet coverage, rather than being anchored to a coffee shop or other wifi spot."

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