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Three proposals for ad-based Wi-Fi

Cities need to address location tracking, user-built content, and the Internet of Things, says Institute for the Future.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor on
Wireless Bologna As citywide networks become popular, a model of ad-supported free Wi-Fi is on the rise. That's an issue Andrew Townsend at the Institute for the Future addresses in a recent blog post. The trend brings up three key issues, Townsend writes on the IFTF blog: guaranteeing citizens' role as content providers, finding a balance for location privacy, and enabling the "Internet of Things."

First, he says, a key development is the growth of sites where users colloborate and create content,a la Craigslist and Wikipedia.

In order to guarantee that municipal wireless networks willl enhance citizen’s roles as content providers, cities should:
  • Require that wireless franchisees provide significant community access to wireless captive portal pages and splash pages. Ownership, control and access to this resource can be organized in any number of ways – having local students document and chronicle local events and other open content authoring models.
  • Cities should demand access to any future advertising channel deployed on ad-supported municipal networks for public service announcement-type content.

While privacy advocates argue strenuously against location tracking, users have shown a willingness to share this kind of information in exchange for useful services that exploit location awareness.

What is needed then is a solution that balances users’ desires for location-based services that content providers and advertisers seek to deliver, but also allows users to safeguard their personal location information. One technical solution to this dilemma comes from Intel Research Seattle, whose PlaceLab software allows a Wi-Fi laptop or cellular smart phone to accurately determine its position without any outside help, and then let the user chose when and where to share this information with 3rd party content providers. Such privacy-observant location technologies should be on the top of any city’s demand for wireless franchisees seeking to deploy user-tracking technologies.

Finally, the Internet of Things:

as we move out beyond five years, increasingly the value of universal wireless converage will start to come from the browser-less objects that can benefit from being connected to the Internet. Yury Gitman’s MagicBike has shown the potential of what USC professor Julian Bleecker calls “blogjects” or objects that blog, and record data about themselves to the Internet.

We don’t know quite yet what these Internet-connected objects will really be useful for, but that’s sort of the point. The cities that create an enviroment that is friendly to experimentation with these new technologies and the ways of urban living they will enable, will become a natural incubator for an entire new generation of technology companies. The Internet of Things is going to be invented in cities – which possess the most complex ecosystems of things, people and places - but the question of which cities is still a very much open matter.

So, cities should require franchisees to devote some minimal network resources to networked objects for experimental purposes, and separate out VoIP from this experimental usage.

In other muni wireless news, With the launch on June 12 of its Iperbole Wireless Project, Bologna will be the first major Italian city to offer Wi-Fi in a historic center, News.com reports.

The network was deployed by Hi-Tel (a RoamAD partner), and Acantho, a local ISP. The project was supported by the University of Bologna, the City of Bologna, and Laboratori G. Marconi.

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