Dublin is in a global contest for tech talent. It needs to maintain the supply to its own Information Technology start up sector and also the Global corporations operating here like Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Listen to any of the proliferating discussion panels giving out advice to players in the talent market and they’ll all say that a city trying to attract the top talent needs to get the basics right: and in the new economy you can’t get more basic than data flowing as easy as other utilities like water and electricity.
This means a world class WiFi infrastructure.
“Cities need to give a good reason to the creative class to really want to live there — like allowing them to feel safe to walk back to their apartment at 2 a.m. You need to give infrastructure like free WiFi. We believe that today, free WiFi is just like electricity and water.” Hila Oren; Bloomberg, 11th June 2014.
What is Hotspot 2.0
HotSpot 2.0, the latest version of the wireless Hotspot protocol, aims to offer just this. Hotspot 2.0 certifies the WiFi hotspot; it uses SIMs and 802.11u and 802.11i standards that provide information about nearby hotspots to the mobile device whether a tablet or laptop.
It bypasses the need to choose the network, the clumsy entry and the infuriating re-entry of details into the authentication web page to login into a new WiFi hotspot.
The protocol automates the wireless connection process: it aims to give users a seamless roaming between WiFi hotspots on their device or a smooth transition from cellular connection to WiFi for data flow. One of the selling points for the new protocol is not having to log into a new WiFi hotspot when you enter a coffee shop or public area offering WiFi.
The WiFi Alliance offers a passpoint certification for devices using Hotspot 2.0; this certification compliance is included in the new Time Warner Cable’s WiFi network.
Last April Time Warner Cable announced that it was rolling out a new nationwide WiFi network in the US that incorporated Hotspot 2.0. This is the largest network using Hotspot 2.0 and TWC’s main rival MSO Comcast want to include the technology in their public WiFi network as well.
All this will boost the new WiFi protocol which is welcome news to the people who are trying to promote it in the WiFi industry because its uptake has been slower than expected.
The disappointment comes despite the many advantages that Hotspot 2.0 offers: Tech Journalist Mary Branscombe writing in ZDnet says that roaming charges for mobile services are also usually more expensive compared to WiFi roaming.
But the problem that was stopping WiFi successfully challenging the mobile carriers harks back to that clunky login process mentioned above, that users had to navigate when trying to use a new WiFi hotspot.
Next Steps for Hotspot 2.o
Last month San Francisco and San Jose stole a march on the global competition and rolled out municipal WiFi networks using Hotspot 2.0. But device compatibility is currently limited to Apple iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks devices.
There’s even the chance that the authorities in both cities are considering to agree roaming access for customers using private networks like those provided in hotels and business centres with the city WiFi networks. This would make the internet a utility just as easy to use as flicking a switch or turning on a tap.
Silicon Valley and San Francisco have no problems attracting talent. The civic authorities there intuitively knowing what role they needed to perform to attract global talent is one of the reasons why Silicon Valley is attracting talent and venture capital like nowhere else.
Despite not having anything like the budget San Francisco municipal authorities enjoy, Dublin civic authorities are making their presence felt in the race to make the city an attractive hub for global talent. In April this year they partnered with Intel to create the first civic Internet of Things in the world.
The Internet of Things, which has been written about in these pages, is a technology whose time will come soon, but seamless WiFi is a technology whose time has already arrived.
Dublin city’s priorities seem a little misjudged. Their IoT project rolled out of a survey that found 94% of Dublin respondents would like the city to be used “as an experimental site for new technologies” and that they would “be willing to participate in the innovation process”. Possibly their research might have been a little more commercially directed at engineers and entrepreneurs.
Dublin was able to attract the right corporate investors like Google et al with a joined up policy including a competitive corporate tax regime, a pro-active investment body (the IDA), as well as an effective marketing and referral programme.
It now needs to implement the same type of plan to attract the right talent to the city from outside of Ireland. This means the top 1% of IT and entrepreneurial talent in the planet. And a public IT infrastructure that functions so well that users take it for granted needs to be prioritised.