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Pocket Wi-Fi sniffers end missing hotspot misery

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Reg Kit Watch Road warriors know the frustration: you're in a foreign city and want to find a Wi-Fi access point. Normally that means looking on the Internet for site directories that can tell you where the nearest hotspots are located, such as WiFinder or WiFiMaps. Most of the time, it's trial and error.

Now, there is a much easier solution. US peripherals maker Kensington has introduced a world first: a detector that will locate Wi-Fi networks. No more booting up your notebook to find a Wi-Fi signal.

Image copyright Kensington

The small device detects 802.11b and 802.11g signals from up to 200 feet away and filters out other wireless signals, including cordless phones, microwave ovens and Bluetooth networks. Three lights indicate signal strength. For $29.95 that's seems a bargain.

However, Wi-Fi Finder is not perfect. There is no display information on the owner of the network or whether the hotspot is commercial, free or private; nor is there any information about the level of security provided (WEP or WPA, for example).

Another US company, WiFisense, based in New York City, has a different approach altogether. Its wearable scanner not only detects the networks' signal strength, it will also indicate if they the hotspot is password protected or not. It then uses patterns of light and sound to announce its availability, quality and accessibility.

But it doesn't stop there: the technology can easily fit in any wearable, everyday object: laptop bags, jackets, belts and the like. Currently the WiFisense is a handbag.

"A haaaandbaaaag?" as Lady Bracknell might exclaim.

There are 64 LEDs embedded in the front of the handbag, which light up to acknowledge Wi-Fi presence at various signal strength. If there isn't any Wi-Fi activity in the vicinity, the LEDs look just like some beads on the bag's surface. Isn't that neat? ®

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