Taking warflying to new heights

05 Jun 2007

Academic researchers from Hong Kong and California took Wi-Fi war-driving - and war-flying - to new levels on Monday by test-driving anew technique for surveying wireless broadband security and connectivity.

Intended as a trial run for an annual Wi-Fi survey project in July led by Dr Philip Tsang of the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK), Monday's experiment saw two teams - one from OUHK and another from Stanford University - collaborate to not only detect Wi-Fi access points inKowloon and Hong Kong Island, but also to divine extra data about the APs themselves.

The war-drive also tested the connectivity speeds of HSDPA signals around the city in cooperation with SmarTone-Vodafone.

At the heart of the experiment was new software developed by Christopher White of Stanford University and CEO of White's Consulting, OUHK CT212F student Casper Lau and OUHK tutor Jack Mak.

The software enables mobile computers in a roving van and helicopter to detect Wi-Fi Aps as well as to determine geographic data via GPS and to distinguish between corporate, residential, educational or commercial hot spots.

The software is also designed to account for Hong Kong's urban canyon topography via algorithms that give the app "more of a 3D perspective to counter the effects like shadowing that you get with lots of tall buildings around," said Stanford team leader Professor Bebo White.

Results of the test run won't be available until later in the week, although Christopher White said the software test was a success.

One early result of note is that the street-level wardrive detected over 11,000 hot spots - compared to just under 4,700 detected in OUHK's last war-flying survey in October 2006.

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