Location-enabled Wi-Fi: The Mind Swirls with Possibilities

By Joe Francica

Dartmouth College, the Ivy League institution where John Kemeny authored BASIC, the computer language many students first used in order to learn programming, is now first in another computer phenomena: micro-LBS.Dartmouth is installing LocaleServer™, a software platform from Newbury Networks that is a supplier of an 802.11b-based Location-Enabled Network™ (LEN).This new network will be used to "push" class materials to students with 802.11b-enabled PDAs or laptops."Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering is currently using Newbury's Digital Docent™ application for content provisioning, e.g.to "push" class notes, course information and other relevant materials to students in classrooms using 802.11b supported handheld or notebook computers - based on their location.For example, Digital Docent ensures that only students in that particular classroom receive this timely, location-aware information," according to a recent press release.

Dartmouth could roll this out to other schools and libraries in the coming months.The information released by Newbury also stated that, "As part of a campus-wide rollout over the next several months, Dartmouth expects to use Newbury's HotSpot Manager™ application for location-based network provisioning.It will be used in classrooms to ensure students have access only to specific content pertinent to that class.This enables professors and teaching assistants to restrict students from email, instant messaging, and Web surfing, for example, so they remain better focused and productive in class.So much for "IM-ing" the cute coed for cordial conversation while concurrently conquering calculus.

In addition, Dartmouth is investigating the use of Newbury's location-enabled network solutions to address in-campus e911 emergency services." What this is saying in not too many words is that "where" you receive information is just as important as knowing where you are in the first place.And so, professors who deem it necessary to release information to students only when they enter a certain "area of significance" can broadcast data for "just-in-time" delivery of information capital.For example, perhaps tests are distributed only in certain classrooms at the appropriate time.Maybe bluebooks turn into blue "tabletPCs" for exams.Send your test answers back over a secure network, which only goes to the class professor.

And, of course, the mind reels with thoughts of marketers once again trying "push" advertising to your PDA as you enter the Nordstrom's to pick up a few choice bargains for birthdays and holidays (because you already received the in-store coupon as you were parking the Volvo that was within a "broadcasting zone").Let's not stop there.You definitely want to know where the nearest Wi-Fi enabled Starbucks is located as you stroll briskly before work.And when you get there, the manager has already tuned the location-aware Wi-Fi network to know that your favorite cup of warm brown water is a nutty Ethiopian Harrar that could be waiting for you.Why stand in line, right?

Dartmouth may be only touching the tip of the iceberg where LBS applications are concerned and what better place to experiment than at the college that has always been at the forefront of computer technology.As I mentioned in my review of the CTIA Conference, many of the "macro-level" LBS applications, (those that address a wider geographic area) such as the "buddy-finder" scenarios are gaining more acceptance and are becoming more than just a "cool app." However, I will be very interested to hear more about this "micro-LBS" phenomenon in Wi-Fi technology.Hopefully some of my colleagues in Hanover will keep me informed.

Published Sunday, April 27th, 2003

Written by Joe Francica

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