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Wireless@SG goes places with new engine

update Singapore's wireless broadband network now supports location-aware apps and services through new Centralised Location-based Engine.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor on

update SINGAPORE--The country's government-funded free Wi-Fi service, Wireless@SG, has opened a location-based engine to allow developers to build location-aware apps and services over the network.

At a press briefing here Thursday, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) demonstrated the new Centralised Location-based Engine (CLBE), aimed at enabling a slew of new services such as advertising, friend-finding and searching for nearby retail outlets.

This is made available today through a new process it calls Seamless and Secure Access (SSA), where users need to download an authentication application from the IDA to get connected to hotspots marked "Wireless@SGx". This differentiates the hotspots from the traditional Wireless@SG hotspots, which require users to go to a Webpage in order to sign in.

Wireless@SGx hotspots will allow automatic logins through mobile devices and PCs, and also link user profiles to the CLBE. This allows location-aware apps and services that can call up the CLBE database to push alerts and advertisements to users.

Users will not be able to opt out from receiving these ads but can choose to continue using the traditional Wireless@SG hotspots for connectivity, without the additional apps and services, according to operators present at the briefing.

iCell Network CEO Ken Chua said the company has been able to upkeep a profitable service through advertising, and is looking to the new platform to increase advertising revenues as well as additional revenues from services provided atop Wireless@SG.

For example, Chua said, Wireless@SG may take a cut from a cashless transaction or taxi booking through the SSA.

Developers wanted for location-based apps
Alex Tan, product development head at MobileOne (M1) Connect, said Wireless@SG operators are looking to court developers to build third-party apps for their individual dashboards.

The network's three operators--iCell Network, M1 and SingTel--offer their own versions of the SSA installer, which will come with app dashboards carrying app selections unique to each operator. Users are allowed to use any of the three dashboards--or all of them, if they so choose.

As a result, Tan said the operators are looking to attract developers in order to differentiate their service offerings.

M1 has also been tasked to host and manage the CLBE, which it will make available to developers via APIs (application programming interfaces). According to M1's Web site, interested parties should apply to M1 and will be charged S$200 (US$141) per month for access to the CLBE.

Tan said the mobile operator is anticipating heavy usage to the tune of "hundreds of thousands" of API calls to the CLBE database, and has made the necessary capacity provisions on the backend.

He added that developer-submitted apps will first be screened by operators, before they go through a final approval process with the IDA, for inclusion in the app dashboards.

iCell's Chua said the operator receives 10,000 new sign-ups every month, with approximately 50 percent of users accessing its network through mobile devices.

Wireless@SG's speeds were upgraded from 512Kpbs to 1Mbps in September last year. In addition, the IDA last June committed S$9 million (US$6.3 million) in the wireless network over four years, pledging to provide the wireless broadband service for free until March 2013.

Launched in 2006, Wireless@SG encompasses 7,500 hotspots located across the island-state and supports some 1.5 million users, as of December 2009.

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