What used to be something you only saw in larger cities and particularly affluent suburbs is expanding at an incredible rate: the availability of WiFi networks is increasing hourly, and according to one report we’ve reached a point where there’s now one hotspot for every 150 people in the world.
Having access to the Internet may be considered a basic human right in many places, but having access to it 24/7/365 is not. That isn’t going to stop companies from trying to provide it, though, and that’s exactly what we’re starting to see. Between offerings at coffee shops, libraries, trains, restaurants, and even just regular homes, it is starting to feel like you are never far from a WiFi hotspot.
One of the most significant increases is due largely to home Internet providers offering a separate WiFi hotspot service through the home router they sell to users, making it so anyone with an account can access a separate network that is broadcasting from your home or business. As a result, there has been an 80% increase in worldwide hotspot availability in the last year alone. In North America, that increase looks more like 690%.
This dramatic increase in availability raises some interesting questions about usage and security. Without individuals using these hotspots at all, the providers still gain information just by having you in their network proximity. These providers can determine how many users enter the range of the hotspot and use that to determine how much advertising should be spent in those locations. Additionally, iPass discovered that locations where there are multiple services are being offered, the service with the lowest barrier to entry is almost always the most popular.
While it’s not a guarantee that the service with the lowest barrier to entry is the least secure, this data suggests there’s a huge opportunity for those who want your data to simply set up a hotspot in a public location that looks legit and is the easiest to access. As more of these hotspots become available in more locations, the chances for local exploits from clever people who just want to collect as much data as possible increases as well.
When combined with efforts like Google’s Project Loon, it’s impressive to see how quickly WiFi is starting to cover the world. Within the next two years it is conceivable that many users will be within range of a hotspot far more often than they are left to rely on a mobile data connection. That’s also going to generate a quantum surge in advertising via WiFi hotspots, and it’s going to be highly targeted. iPass put together the interactive WiFi Growth Map you can see below. It’s well worth spending some time looking at the figures…. see more