Hot spots hot topic

There were plenty of Wi-Fi hot spot enthusiasts on hand at the Wireless Data Forum conference in Auckland yesterday.

There were plenty of Wi-Fi hot spot enthusiasts on hand at the Wireless Data Forum conference in Auckland yesterday.

Malcolm Fraser, whose job takes him between New Zealand, Australia and Singapore, says his office consists of a slender briefcase containing an ultra-portable notebook computer and accessories.

“I roam locally and across the Asia-Pacific region,” says Fraser, who sets up training courses in a joint venture with Southern Cross University of northern New South Wales.

When he steps off a plane in Singapore, a Wi-Fi network gives him access to email; the fact that the same isn’t possible at Auckland International Airport is a serious deficiency, he says.

However, Fraser says there are numerous locations in Auckland where he can log on, including Mecca, Totem, Deschlers and Starbucks.

“I can browse my email with my Microsoft Smartphone and get out the notebook to reply to the ones that need it,” Fraser says.

Chris White, IT manager at Cookie Time in Christchurch, says he accessed the conference’s wireless network from his Apple notebook.

“When you hear Intel talking about how great Wi-Fi is, we say, yes, we’ve been using it for three years already,” White says. Intel is behind a big wireless push in the US, having launched the Centrino portable processor with built-in wireless capability.

White, a conference speaker, says one feature of Wi-Fi which goes untalked about is that connections are only as fast as the slowest device on the network.

“Essentially it’s a hub, so everything runs at the slowest speed.”

Email is a suitable application for Wi-Fi, but the technology falls down when called on to shift large volumes of data.

White’s company has deployed another wireless technology — CDMA-based handsets — which allow the biscuit maker’s 43 distributors to lodge sales data without recording anything on paper.

An account manager at ECONZ, a wireless application developer, Stephen McCormick, says numerous Wi-Fi networks can be discovered in Auckland — not all of them public.

“Driving down the motorway from the North Shore to my home [in Meadowbank] there are about 20 networks to be seen,” McCormick says, who uses an application called NetStumbler to detect them.

He’s part of an initiative to build a mesh of wireless networks throughout the city.

McCormick was connecting to the conference's wireless network to run a demo of the company's EService hosted wireless dispatch and management system.

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