WiFi, short for wireless fidelity, enables a person with a wireless-enabled computer or personal digital assistant (PDA) to connect to the Internet when in proximity of an access point. The geographical region covered by one or several access points is called a hotspot.
One of the core things that people who use Wi-Fi want to know is where to find free hotspots. One person whos making it his job to plot and map hotspots is Drew Celley, founder of WiFiMaps.com.
DANA GREENLEE: Give us a higher-level view of what Wi-Fi maps is all about.
DREW CELLEY: It is an interactive Web-based map of war driving data. We also display roads and landmarks and water so you can see the general layout. We also have streets of the U.S. that you can really zoom way in and take a look at a neighborhood.
GREENLEE: What were you seeing out there that you felt like you needed to create this guide?
CELLEY: What I didnt see out there was a Web-based map of war driving data. I even begged some friends of my parents to borrow their GPS for awhile. I drove around Pittsburgh and found all kinds of access points and wanted to see them on a map.
GREENLEE: What kind of things are people particularly doing when they come to your site?
CELLEY: There are some people that look at their neighborhood to see the coverage or the number of people who have access points or how they are configured. We also see people in cities looking where they can get free Wi-Fi. Weve had people tell us theyre looking at their office building to find rogue access point. Were seeing even unintended uses.
GREENLEE: What cities are covered?
CELLEY: We cover the whole United States. We also map data from all over the world. We have data from Korea, Australia, Canada, the UK many other places. We just dont have the street maps for those locations.
GREENLEE: This really is a community project because people will just send you this information freely, correct?
CELLEY: Yes. We provide the Web-based maps and they can do this data as a service.
GREENLEE: You have a war driving contest, too.
CELLEY: We have a game called “Catch the Bunny” posted on our Web site. The idea is to catch a bunny that hops around your town by grabbing your laptop and Wi-Fi card or PDA. You drive around trying to catch the bunny and bring it to your goal your goal is a free Wi-Fi hotspot and that should encourage people to war drive and visit their free hotspots.
GREENLEE: Lets talk about war driving. It sounds a little ominous.
CELLEY: Theres nothing ominous about it. Lets say I take my laptop, my Wi-Fi card and my GPS. I hopped in my car and fire up my program I use NetStumbler (www.netstumbler.com), that is a war driving scanner. It listens to the wireless card and the GPS. As I drive around, the NetStumbler is going to find the radio frequencies for access points and will record the unique numbers and signal strength in the GPS locations. Thats war driving. The file is then uploaded to our Web site.
For the full audio interview with Drew Celley, founder of WiFiMaps.com, go to WebTalkRadio.com.
Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalk Radio, a Tacoma-based radio and webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.