Devicescape is introducing a new generation of its Wi-Fi hotspot network, which promises easy sign-ons and low cost access.
Now, users can buy a device — such as a phone or music player — that is bundled with lifetime low-cost access to participating Wi-Fi networks around the world. Users can see the Wi-Fi locations on a map and sign on to them without the hassle of finding out passwords.
The San Bruno, Calif.-based company’s Easy Wi-Fi Network is a good solution for manufacturers to bundle with their hardware devices. They can give users access to cheap Wi-Fi, but don’t have to go to the trouble of setting up their own separate network. (For instance, when Amazon launched its eBook reader, the Kindle, it had to set up a Wi-Fi network that gave users access wherever they were).
Devicescape’s own recent survey found that 84 percent of users want hassle-free access to Wi-Fi and 96 percent want it to be built into their devices. Another 54 percent want the Wi-Fi to be available free of charge. Yet manufacturers don’t want to provide this network access, with both the hardware and software required, if they must shoulder the costs themselves.
The Easy Wi-Fi Network provides device manufacturers with a solution. Devicescape makes it easy to find and connect to Wi-Fi hot spots, and it offers lifetime Wi-Fi access plans that can be shipped with the products themselves. The solution could be bundled with devices such as netbooks (which are smaller than laptops), media players, phones, digital cameras, and eBook readers, said Dave Fraser, chief executive of Devicescape.
Easy Wi-Fi comes with location mapping capabilities, allowing a device to show accessible hotspots to the user at the current location or from a search. Easy Wi-Fi also includes “soft-GPS”, which provides the current device location without Global Positioning System navigation hardware. So far, the network has 100,000 locations worldwide. Devicescape was formed in 2003 and has 30 employees.
The company has raised at least three rounds and its investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, August Capital, Enterprise Partners, and JAFCO. Rivals include We-Fi and Boingo Wireless. But those companies sell their services to end users, while Devicescape sells its service to the device manufacturers.