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Summary:

As Devicescape’s customer base grows, so does its virtual Wi-Fi network as every new user begins sniffing out new open Wi-Fi access points to add to its footprint.

Wi-Fi logo

Devicescape now has 20 million Wi-Fi access points in its global virtual network – likely including some of yours. The company has built its business model off of other people’s broadband, tapping into the vast number of Wi-Fi nodes that homes, businesses and governments leave open for the public to use.

Considering the company had 12 million access points at this time last year, its growth rate is impressive. Devicescape estimates by 2017 its network will surpass the 100 million node mark.

Devicescape started out targeting consumers. Customers downloading its app to their device not only have access to its crowdsourced Wi-Fi footprint, but they also help it to grow as their phones constantly scan the unlicensed airwaves for new open access points.

devicescape_softgps.png

Devicescape doesn’t just dump every free Wi-Fi signal into its network, though. It curates the network, verifying that an access point will provide consistent speeds before it’s included. It collects data on 315 million access points, but only about 6 percent make it onto the network its customers connect to.

A lot of Devicescape’s recent growth came when it pulled the trigger on its revenue model. It’s been selling access to the network to carriers and ISPs, and it recently had a flurry of customer wins among the regional mobile operators and tech companies. Cricket, C Spire, U.S. Cellular, Republic Wireless, T-Mobile’s MetroPCS group and Bouygues Telecom in France all use the Devicescape network in some form. Microsoft and Intel have also begun integrating Devicescape’s software into Windows Phone 8 and Ultrabooks respectively.

As those partners connect more customers to Devicescape, its base of crowdsourced Wi-Fi sniffers has grown. Consequently, Devicescape’s network is strongest in the U.S. where 19 million of its 20 million hotspots reside. In San Francisco alone Devicescape has 30,000 hotspots, making it one of the biggest wireless data networks in the Bay Area.

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  1. Sounds like the business model is based on the stupidity of people who don’t secure their personal, business or government WiFi networks. Will they be held liable if someone uses the service for identity theft or business espionage? Seems like they are doing the same thing as driving away with someone’s car because they left the keys in it.

    1. Are we a but a grumpy today, Ritch? :)

      Actually I think most of these hotspots are purposely left open with the intention of letting the public access them. Look at all of the free government sponsored hotspot networks coming online in NYC and SF. Retail businesses usual offer free Wi-Fi as an amenity. And there’s a growing open Wi-Fi movement. For instance I share a portion of my bandwidth at home to anyone in the Open Garden network.

      I think the number of people who mistakingly leave their Wi-Fi open when they meant to make it secure is dwindling quickly. Setting up security on your home network out of the box is much easier. The majority of people sharing aren’t just opening their entire networks to strangers. They’re usually setting up subnets which only allow internet access.

    2. A factual error in Kevin’s article is the suggestion that homes are on the same footing as governments or businesses deliberately sharing WiFi. Devicescape tries not to include homes that have been inadvertently left unsecured, although there are some homes that explicitly do this (many retail routers include specific guest networks for example).

      Instead, Devicescape is to be a way for locations who are deliberately sharing WiFi to be able to help the people they want to share with gain access – and to get control, analytics, and a way to engage those people directly. The relationship remains between a user in a location and the owner of the WiFi who wants her network to be used.

      So, it’s not about stupid people; nor about stealing cars.

      Dave

  2. Kevin,
    Just a nit, but the diagram is about providing location services based on an access point, not about wifi access.
    Thanks.
    Dave

  3. Did you maybe want to mention that easyWiFi, the app you are talking about, is no longer available on iOS?

    1. Sure. This article isn’t actually about easywifi, which was a consumer facing brand that was mothballed 3 years ago. The current tech is white labeled and several generations different, although some providers do use this name for their own reasons. Maybe because it does make wifi, well, easier. But, I suspect you’re pointing out the lack of support for iOS which is unfortunately true. We’d support iOS if we could but unfortunately the APIs are not available. Hopefully that will change in the future.

  4. Sofia Lucifairy Thursday, February 13, 2014

    I’ve used Devicescapes’ network but I eventually decided to quit because I don’t like giving away free bandwidth to a for-profit company without getting my cut too. — Sofia Lucifairy

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