I own a restaurant in a mall. We have Wi-Fi for our own office use. I'd like this to double as a Hotspot for mall shoppers and restaurant customers. As I understand it, all we need to do is implement software for logging on customers and collecting payment. Can anyone point me in the right direction?
Taking a moment's reflection, George mused: | | I own a restaurant in a mall. We have Wi-Fi for our own office use. | I'd like this to double as a Hotspot for mall shoppers and restaurant | customers. As I understand it, all we need to do is implement | software for logging on customers and collecting payment. Can anyone | point me in the right direction?
Well, you have some decisions to make first. Since you're doing this for $$$money$$$, youl need to decide if you're going to handle the billing, handle the cash, or farm it out to some service company such as Boingo, T-Mobile, or iPass. The service companies are a nice deal in that all you supply is the hardware and bandwidth. They deal with the credit cards and authorizations. You get a check in the mail every month.
revenue isn't huge, but methinks worth the effort.
If you're really greedy, there's always the Wi-Fi Vending Machine:
If you want to do it yourself, you need to decide if you want to assemble the system from components, buy a read to run system (including local billing), or just hire a hot-spot installation company to set it up for you.
Ready to run systems such as:
kinda pricy, but work well enough if you can manage the system yourself.
If you want to go cheap, you can configure a Linksys WRT54G to play hotspot. For example:
features are in the router, but you'll need to setup a captive portal, probably based on NoCatAuth:
I suggest searching for "hotspot billing", "hotspot equipment", and "captive portal" using Google.
I forgot to mention the "dark side" of hot spot ownership. I've had to deal with each of these. All are major time wasters.
Viruses, Trojans, and worms. Customers arrive with worm or Trojan infected machines that try to attack the other customers or monopolize all the bandwidth.
File sharing and Bittorrent. These are capable of monopolizing all your bandwidth. Same with users that go to free hot spots to download huge updates from Microsloth and others. Some form of bandwidth management is a must.
Spammers. These usually sit outside in a van with direction antennas and use your hot spot to spew their junk to the world. I identified one of them and nearly got run over for my trouble. Local District Attorney wouldn't prosecute without a positive ID. Monitoring traffic on port 25 for abuse with Snort is a good idea.
Campers. These are people that sit for 8+ hours per day, sipping one cup of coffee, and surfing. The unwritten rule is that users of the wireless must buy something, but most do not. When confronted, they usually get irate and mumble something about having bought something a few days ago. I don't think you'll have the problem in a restaurant, but it's serious in a coffee shop. Also, note that many gargantuan laptops will occupy the equivalent table space of several customers. Don't assume you're immune because the customer is paying. Monthly plans are flat rate. Several local hot spots turn off the wireless at 6PM to discourage campers.
Neighbors. Many residents in the neighborhood believe that they can get free broadband service by simply installing a big directional antenna and using your bandwidth. With for pay wireless hotspot service, they may actually obtain an account. I've found it best to identify the culprits and cut a deal with them. In two cases, I have them helping to police and monitor the system in trade for bandwidth.
Tech support. Whenever the system hiccups, everyone seems to drift towards the cashier or hostess to ask "is the system down"? Having someone waste time checking the wireless is a big time burner. I went to one establishment that added "tech support" to the posted menu.
[Drivel: I've been tempted to design an automatic ping probe box with big lights to indicate if the wireless is up, down, or constipated. Maybe a moving graph display with the network traffic in/out displayed. Yet another product idea. Will they ever end?]
Slip and spill. Some customers seem to think the proprietor is responsible for their clumsiness. Coffee in the keyboard and dropping the laptop are two I've seen. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has been sued, but there have been attempts by customer to recover repair and replacement costs on the grounds that the coffee shop did not provide adequate protection against their stupidity.
802.11 phones. These are not too common but I predict will be epidemic shortly. They act exactly like a cell phone, but use 802.11 wireless and VoIP instead. The users act exactly like the standard variety cell phone users and yell into the phones disrupting everyone. It's worse with 802.11 because the shared bandwidth is not guaranteed resulting in frequent dropouts, which inevitably inspires more yelling into the phone. At this time, the laptop users have Skype and other VoIP service that used with a headset and a laptop. These generally do NOT create rude customers because the side tone (earphone audio) is sufficiently load that the user is not induced to yell. However, the VoIP phones are apparently designed by the same [insert appropriate expletive] that designs cell phones with insufficient side tone, resulting in the inevitable yelling customer. Be prepared to have your establishment turned into a giant, multi-abuser telephone booth.
Interference. On problem with mall's is that everyone seems to have a hot spot. It's also common for the mall to install wireless, along with any municipality, government entity, and WISP (wireless ISP). We have a local mall with such a situation, where I estimate a density of about 5 access points per acre (200x200ft). On large department store has some rediculous number of access points to cover their floor space, that generates most of their own interference. Some nit wit installed several wireless repeaters that generate even more intereference. I strongly suggest you do a site survey to see what's already there before installing.
Microwave ovens. Microwave ovens and 802.11 do not mix well. Restraunts and coffee shops use microwave ovens. It's always fun to sit in a coffee shop and hear all the laptop users utter a collective groan as someone nukes their meal. One coffee shop intentionally heats a glass of water when a noisy VoIP user needs a clue. Keeping the door seals clean, and proper location are a big help, but the interference never seems to go away completely.
Jeff, the depth of your knowledge and experience with wireless never ceases to amaze me. You should expand this post and submit it to a magazine. I never imagined that a public hotspot would spawn such problems and bad manors.
Would you share the source of the utility programs you mentioned?
I noticed that downtown San Jose. I never went in to the business, I'd just park outside. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, and then I realized it was consistent with time of day.
That would be a friend of mine. Set up the USB-dongle in a can to shoot down the street at a paid UPS store. The UPS store always seemed like such an odd venue for a hotspot. Nobody's going to sit there and surf. The residential usage pattern would be after UPS store hours, so it wouldn't impact their business day much. It was also quite apparent that someone else was using the bandwidth, sometimes.
Sort of "me", currently. I have a Cisco Softphone on my laptop, and a USB headset. As nearly as I can tell, it's about 10KbpS while talking. That shouldn't be a noticeable load on a network. Running downloads while I'm talking to a customer doesn't seem to hurt the telephone quality, although it does occasionally go into a motorboat sounding digital breakup, with no obvious usage at my point of entry. I don't talk on the phone while in a coffee shop, so that social annoyance isn't part of the mix, just the WiFi usage. (see #4, above.)
The features are in the router, but you'll need to setup a captive
I just recently returned from the Outer Banks in NC and I visited a coffee shop that had wireless for $4/15 minutes. All the did was use a Linksys router with a password. If you wanted to use it, they gave you the password and then charged you for the time that you were on line. I didn't ask if they used anything special but I just entered the password in the WEP setting for my laptop and it connected. It appeared that is all they had set was WEP.
EWRT is another WRT54G based firmware that's specifically designed for creating wireless hot spots.
I've never seen anyone do it that way. All it takes is for the WEP key to leak out and everyone gets to use it for free. They could change the WEP key daily, but I doubt that most owners would do that for more than a few weeks. You could probably do it successfully without changeing the WEP key in a tourist area, where tourists generally don't act as repeat customers for more than a few days.
Yeah, it's a bottomless pit of experience. I tend to see the systems that do NOT work. I'm sure someone out there puts together a wireless system that works the first time, but I never see those.
Sure. You wanna answer my email for me? Incidentally, the few articles I have (ghost) written were butchered beyond recognition. I've also been misquoted, plagerized, and been impersonated far too often to consider it a coincidence. No magazines for me.
Neither did I. The surest signs of success is pollution and abuse. I guess Wi-Fi is considered successful.
It's too big a PITA to administer. So far, the lesser evil is bandwidth limit by port, reduce outgoing bandwidth on port 25 exponentially by traffic, and use Snort to detect any abuse. If anything looks wrong (i.e. too many outgoing messages), then the offending MAC address gets added to the block list. Snort does that automagically.
It's fairly common. This is kinda interesting on why one coffee shop turned off their wireless: |
I like this quote: "Wi-fi etiquette? Keep using it until we kick you out."
The UPS Store was formerly Mailboxes Etc which rented computah time in the store. They were one of the first to offer (paid) wireless. I guess this is just a continuation of the service. It might also be just for in-house use. Also, not all the USP Stores have wireless.
That would be G.729 codec. 24K without whatever cRTP does. 12K with cRTP. |
Skype seems to the current service of choise. Runs nicely on most laptops and Windoze PDA's.
You might wanna go inside and buy something. However, if you feel guilty about perhaps talking too loud, you could invent the portable inflateable telephone booth or just put a paper bag over your head while yacking. Perhaps Maxwell Smart and the "Cone of Silence"?
Usually you would have to either acquire special harware (router with web portal - expensive) or dedicate on PC with special software to do all the routing, loggin-in and redirecting (m0n0wall, NoCatAuth... etc
So I am working on a simpler solution that only requires a straightforward configuration of your wifi router as follows:
I- enable DHCP
- set DHCP parameter "DNS" to 18.104.22.168
then reset your wifi card, open your favorite browser and try it, login with password "test" without the quotes.
THis system is ZERO investment, and though it is not a solution for large-scale hotspots, it is a good means of exploring the viability of your business plan before committing to an investment of time and money in prime software and equipment.
So, before you take the dip, probe your market with this simple system.
I use skype. Much better quality than the Cisco, but it's not my "office phone". I also hesitate to add people to my contact list because it is so obvious when I am available.
I just don't enjoy the ambience of most Starbucks. There is one near Saratoga and Stevens Creek that is nice and comfy. I generally buy a coffe, but only because I want one. Their WiFi is already being paid by subscription, and they got their increased foot traffic from my one purchase.
I recall seeing at a convention that D-Link (I think it was) sold a public hotspot device. You then signed up with a service, set prices, and they did everything else, sending you a check each month. This was over 6 months ago I saw it, but it looked interesting and MIGHT fit the needs of the original poster.
It's blocked anyway. Most sane ISP's require authentication for SMTP, or impliment POP3 before SNMP, both of which require a login an password. Neither is available to the user, so port 25 is effectively blocked anyway. What the typical dumb spammer does is spew traffic to a Trojaned machine or use a stolen account login/passwd to send email. Traffic analysis only catches the dumb ones because the smart spammers have bots on the Trojaned machines that only need a large list of victims email addresses, and a document to send.
That might work if the staff wants to placate irate customers and deal with the additional workload. In addition, the commerical service companies such as Boingo, iPass, and T-Mobile all sell "unlimited" connect time contracts. Measured rate has its benifits over flat rate but not when you consider the labour and effort involved.
Many road warriors buy external laptop power supplies that run on gel cells. It's very common in the electric wheel chair crowd. There are also commerical products to extend the battery life. We have a local company that builds laptop battery life extenders. I have several:
also saw one maniac run an AC extension cord out to his car and supply his own charging current.
Also, I've worked on battery life extension schemes:
However, the real problem is the same as all the other great solutions. Does the staff want to play enforcer or policeman? Probably not.
I'm working on a scheme that would calculate the range of a wireless client and effectively block any wireless client that was located off premisis. It works, but is too complex and expensive. It's also not
100% reliable and is subject to false alarms due to reflections.
Overkill but will work. I've had quite a bit of experience with SNMP, MRTG, RRDTool, and such. Too complicated for such a simple thing. I figured out how to do it with a WRT54G and just enabling the front panel ethernet port lights. If I want to get fancy, I could send traffic values to the JTAG port, and use an RS-232 LCD display to do the graphing. If wanna get REALLY complicated, Sveasoft Alchemy has MRTG and SNMP in firmware. Same plan... send RS-232 to the JTAG port and then to an LCD display.
Yet another project).
Yep. It was there in 1992, when they tried the first FDDI local backbone. That was in the daze when Interop still help bake-off sessions for interoperability testing. Of course, nothing worked right. I showed up (late) to help and found myself drafted into troubleshooting crummy connections, misconfigured hardware, and "cable stretching". 1994 is when it became Networld + Interop and the bake-offs went into the background in favour of commercialization.
Anyway, someone had a huge analog meter showing the aggregate system traffic. The design was crude but effective. One of the (SMC?) routers had a front panel LED bar graph display of aggregate draffic. The designer wired a bunch of resistors, with binary incrimental values to the LED's and effectively created a D/A converter. That went to an op-amp and eventually to the big meter. Crude, simple, fast, cheap, and effective. However, it did go insane several times during the show when somone punched the buttons on the front panel to do something or other, and caused the LED's to display diagnostics, errors, collisions, or something else.
Seat belts? The American legal system is currently based upon the principle that you cannot sign your "rights" away. The most basic right, that our forefathers fought serveral wars to secure, is the right to sue. All anyone has to do is claim that they did not understand the terms, and many courts will claim that the "contract" is unenforceable. To proceed, click here [ ] that you understand what I just mumbled.
It's a mixed bag. The Dell Axim series is that one that I'm most familiar. The Pocket PC version of Skype:
well on the higher end models. These have 802.11 both Bluetooth. I haven't been able to convince Bluetooth and a Plantronics headset to do VoIP with Skype over 802.11, but I eventually expect to get that working. Anyway, the typical Pocket PC based handheld (iPaq, Axim, etc) does have a browser. There are also
3rd party browsers available.
Done. It's called "Frequency Selective Surface" and looks like wallpaper:
Customer that run power cords, and extension cords, across the floor and tables, to power their machines. Some cafes do not permit customer to plug into their outlets. You can cover all outlets, but this can be a pain when it's time to clean, and you need power for vacuum cleaners, etc.
It could be a liability to have wires all over the floor.
Just turning off the outlets probably won't work, as then you'll have complaints about outlets not working.