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Captive Portal for WasabiNet hotspots. Hello mobile!

on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 4:24pm

Re-posting from a submission originally made to StartLouis.com ...

Just earlier this week I pushed out a software upgrade to all ~50 operating WasabiNet hotspots to display a Captive Portal for users of the free wifi service.  This Captive Portal, which is very basic right now, was built in the Drupal v6 Content Management System for a couple reasons: A) I have an irrational bias towards using Drupal and B) I was able to leverage off a couple contributed Drupal modules that integrate nicely with the CooovaChilli + freeRADIUS setup I use now for managing client connections throughout WasabiNet.

The portal is here: https://beaker.gowasabi.net , although the Javascript-based hotspot features are only activated when you are directed to the portal from a WasabiNet hotspot.  Otherwise it just functions like a typical Drupal site.

The content of the portal, including images, is presently just scraped from RSS feeds for various local entities, e.g. Cherokee Street News, either directly from those entities' websites or from their public Facebook groups.  There are plenty of refinement and polish possible to make this look more pleasing.

The results of turning on this portal, even on WasabiNet's meager 50-hotspot footprint, were pretty dramatic just over the past 2 days.

What's really neat is that the hotspot integration tells the portal which hotspot the user has connected to via wifi, which in turn can be treated in the same way smartphone apps use your current locations via GPS.  I.e. hyper-local connect, along the lines of "We see you're just a block away from Black Bear Bakery!  Do you know they're having a brunch next Saturday with May Day Orchestra performing?"  Indeed, this degree of hyper local portal awareness is already in operation now at hotspots operated by Less Networks (Austin, TX).

But despite effort spent towards cross-browser compatibility for this portal (IE6 is NOT supported, if you were curious), the elephant in the room are mobile devices.  For example, just in the WasabiNet corridors on Cherokee St. in Benton Park West and Fox Park over the past couple days, smart phones are looming large, accounting for over 20% of all traffic to the portal:

This is more than the traffic I see from the desktop browsers Firefox and IE!

So I guess I need to get a smartphone now. ;)  Or borrow someone's.

I can be reached at ben@gowasabi.net.

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