Merry Christmas to one and all!

We're taking a bit of a break to be with our loved ones over the holiday, and we hope you are too. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and we'd like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" for your readership. We'll be back posting again tomorrow once we can burn off some of the egg nog!

WiFi access may be coming to Illinois state rest stops

Transportation officials in Illinois are considering the possibility of making WiFi access available in all of the state's 53 rest areas.

The state is in the process of soliciting bids from vendors to provide the service, and plans call for offering a free half-hour of access to all users. According to one state official, the network will be supported by advertising and sponsorships, and no money will be spent by the state.

We've seen a number of states set up WiFi networks at their rest areas. It's still a bit of a question as to whether these networks are used that much by travelers, but if the states are not spending any money on setting them up, then they really isn't a lot of room for concern.

Clearwire to bring wireless internet service to Seattle homes

Clearwire, which has launched wireless internet home service in a number of markets across the country, including Honolulu and Jacksonville, Florida, and is now adding Seattle to its portfolio.

The company, led by Craig McCaw, says this rollout is the largest geographic area and most populous area it is attempting to service. Seattle is one of the technology bellwethers of the nation, so this move could put Clearwire on the map or could set them back.

We've discussed Clearwire's use of WiMax technology here many times before, so there's no need to go over it again. The company says its service is easy to use, so that definitely is a selling point. It'll be interesting to see how the Clearwire service will do in this market.

Wisconsin police department to work with wireless robot

"Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is a crime happening."

While this may not be as dramatic as Robocop, the Waukesha (Wisconsin) Police Department are in the process of implementing a wireless robot in certain tactical situations.

The department has been working with students from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in developing a robot designed to function with both cellular and WiFi technologies and embedded with video capabilities, a Taser, and two-way communications.

It certainly needs some work in order to meet expectations, but in situations such as search and recovery, this wireless robot might be a useful tool for emergency responders everywhere in the not-too-distant future.

TWR's Top 5

As we put the cap on another busy week here at The Wireless Report, we ask that you take a glance at our Top 5 stories from the past seven days before we shelve them and get ready for another week of wireless news and information. Enjoy!

  1. Have vehicle, surf web
    Many folks like me can't get enough of the web. We surf the web at home, at work, at the airport, on vacation, and on and on. But there is still one place where most of us haven't tried to surf the web yet--until now.
  2. Astrology dictates mobile phone love usage
    I wonder if the global wireless providers look at subscriber birthdates and group customers into astrological signs in order to predict revenue levels? They should, according to Virgin Mobile UK, which recently conducted some research which it claims is rather revealing in the way in which your astrological sign impacts upon the way you use your mobile phones.
  3. What's on your wireless holiday shopping list?
    As I'm sure you are quite aware, the holiday season is just around the corner. (In my family, I think it started the day after Halloween.)
  4. Can RFID e-Passports be hacked?
    With newer international passports being enabled with RFID technology, can these systems be hacked and compromised easily? There are some that say any electronic representation that communications beyond its own chips can be hacked given enough patience and persistence. When it comes to electronic passports, though, that is a scary potential situation.
  5. Despite growth of smartphones, many of us still carry more than one wireless device
    Despite the proliferation of smartphones and other wireless devices that can do it all--telephone, e-mail, web browser, camera, text messaging, streaming video, downloading of music, and so on--it seems that many of us have more than one device to perform one or more of these applications.

Proposed new Oakland A's stadium to feature wireless technologies

It seems that every other professional sports team in this country is jockeying to have a new stadium or arena built for them.

Baseball's Oakland A's are the latest franchise to announce that they are hoping to have a new ballpark built down the road in Fremont, California, and it appears this stadium will be equipped with some high-tech applications courtesy of Cisco Systems that may draw just as much attention as the team itself.

According to the A's owner Lew Wolff, who presented his vision of the ballpark to Fremont City Council members, the stadium, which would be named Cisco Field, applications such as the ability for fans to swipe electronic tickets stored in their cellphones as well as viewing instant game action replays from their seats with laptops were highlighted as part of the entire fan experience at the ballgame.

In addition, a wireless network would be constructed as well, which some stadiums and arenas have already established.

Of course, all of this technology costs money, and it remains to be seen if Fremont or any other city that is being pitched to build a facility to house a professional sports franchise would be willing to invest the many millions of dollars it would take to accomplish these goals.

Have vehicle, surf web

Many folks like me can't get enough of the web. We surf the web at home, at work, at the airport, on vacation, and on and on. But there is still one place where most of us haven't tried to surf the web yet--until now.

The recently introduced TracNet system from KVH Industries allows auto passengers (NOT drivers!) the ability to surf the web wirelessly while the car/van/truck is in motion. In fact, the company says their system turns the entire vehicle into a rolling hotspot.

TracNet is available to anyone who can afford it--it's $1,995 for the product, $10 a month for MSN TV service, and $59.99 a month with a two-year contract for internet service. It's not cheap, but the company says there is some demand for it from consumers and that businesses such as car services would be able to offer it as a value-add for their customers.

Basic features from the MSN TV portal include e-mail access and instant messaging, as well as web access. Other features include a wireless keyboard and remote; compatibility with WiFi-enabled laptops, PDAs, and other wireless devices; and upload/download speeds ranging from 400 to 700 kbps with a capability of reaching up to 2 Mbps.

In any event, it'll be interesting to see if the TracNet system will find a niche in the wireless marketplace. As mentioned earlier, the car service sector might be a good place for it. As for consumers, we'll have to wait and see.

Santa Fe takes a step closer to a citywide wireless network

The Santa Fe, New Mexico city council said it will be exploring the possibility of providing wireless access in city libraries and other facilities throughout the city.

A proposal has been approved to study the deployment of wireless access in these facilities with the idea of expanding the network throughout the entire city. There have been some objections to deploying wireless technology due to a number of residents expressing health concerns, but the feasibility study should address these issues before recommendations are made to local leaders and the public at-large.

American Airlines to offer WiFi service at Logan International Airport

You knew it wouldn't take long for other airports to begin offering their own WiFi services at Boston's Logan International Airport. After the FCC ruled this week that the Massachusetts Port Authority could not block Continental Airlines' WiFi network from operating so that Massport could offer its own $8-a-day wireless service, American Airlines says it will be moving quickly to get its own WiFi service up and running. You can bet there will be more to come in the near future.

Airport authorities like Massport will quickly find out that the airwaves cannot be monopolized and they're going to have to allow other players to step into the WiFi services playing field at their facilities.

Free WiFi being considered for Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

Officials in charge of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport are pondering the idea of bringing free WiFi service to travelers.

A plan is in place to seek proposals from vendors to build the service, which airport officials hope will bring more revenue to the facility through advertising and sponsorships placed on the network.

WiFi is fast becoming a nearly essential service at many airports, and we're sure to see more announcements of wireless networks being established in airports around the country.

Take a rest, surf the web

The state of Illinois is looking at the possibility of offering free WiFi access by early next year at state rest stops. The state's Department of Transportation says they would like to install WiFi services at all 56 rest areas.

Officials say the service will give travelers the opportunity to access information such as weather and road conditions as well as local attractions while at a rest area. There was no indication as to how the service will be funded, but details should emerge in the near future.

No more free WiFi on the ferry

If you are a rider of the Washington State Ferries and have been using their WiFi service to surf the web for the last couple of years, the free ride is about to come to an end.

By the end of this month, WiFi access on the ferry will now set you back $29.95 a month. The ferry service has contracted with Parsons Transportation Group to execute this changeover.

A ferry spokesperson says the new service will offer passengers the ability to connect to the web from the ferry terminals and waiting areas as well as the passenger deck. Previously, the passenger deck was the only place that people could get online from.

The service will be phased in over the various routes the ferries cover over the next few months.

T-Mobile to give Sony mylo users one year of free WiFi access

The Sony mylo, which is a unique handheld WiFi access device, will soon be given a nice treat by national (and global) GSM wireless carrier T-Mobile, who also runs a 7,000-location WiFi Hotspot network across the U.S. as well as a national GSM footprint. With its recent $4billion win in the FCC's AWS auctions, T-Mobile's footprint probably stands to become quite larger in the next few years.

T-Mobile says that it will offer a full year of free WiFi access at its entire national network of WiFi Hotspots to owners of the Sony mylo, in a rather neat deal that is hard to see who benefits (besides the consumer, of course). Sony must have paid a customer fee to T-Mobile every time this happens, with the apparent goal of selling more mylos as well as getting consumers hooked on WiFi access -- so they will continue it after the free year if up. Not a bad strategy really.

Wireless system to be installed at Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. says it will be deploying a Common Wireless Access System that will allow for greater cellphone coverage in all of its museums and for free wireless access to come to the entire National Mall by 2008.

The system will be phased in over time, with WiFi and extended cellular service to begin this fall and completion expected with the 2008 reopening of the National Museum of American History. Areas designated to have WiFi access include cafeterias, auditoriums, and conference rooms.

Caltrain successfully tests WiFi system on fast-moving trains

A test to determine whether WiFi access would work on a fast-moving train has proved successful, according to Caltrain officials.

The transportation set up a WiFi system on one of its trains running between Millbrae and Palo Alto in Northern California. The train acheived speeds up to 79 miles an hour, and access to the internet was not interrupted. The company says it will do some more work on the system before it introduces the system to their entire transportation line.

Obviously, this is an important development in that commuters will be able to access the Web while in motion instead of either moving at very slow speeds or while a train is idling. Other train companies are sure to follow in Caltrain's footsteps.

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