Chaordic Wi-Fi Networks?

January 15, 2003

in COMsumers

Trepia is a new networking application that lets you instantly discover other Wi-Fi users in your vicinity. It apparently analyses base-station access patterns and then creates a contact list of who’s near you.

Thus in an airport I can identify other similarly enhanced Trepia users and send them IM’s and potentially meet them. Will there be a barrier to begin… unless yahoo, messenger or aim buys them… how will Trepia reach critical mass? Plus it’s not entirely clear to me what their business model is.

What are the implications? First, in principle I think it is a great idea. Brings networking with strangers one step closer. I’ve forgotten the Japaneese story about the beeping gigapet type gadget looking for matches in a crowd, possible this may provide something similar. Many other applications may emerge… people in the same area week by week. It also raises a number of issues.

First in their profile example see how it works. It’s too simple for me to make contact to create comfort. I’m not prepared to expose my picture – face, link to statistics and data in a close crowd for anyone that I haven’t put though some form of vetting – exchange process. I’d be happier with a RYZE profile where my photo – images are not put though in the initial listing. There may be other criteria – qualifiers that I may want prior to broadcasting. Currently I believe that what looks like a plausible IM enhancement will fail because the real details that create the interest or broach the introduction simply aren’t there. To work Trepia has to make people interesting. If Ryze contained millions of profiles and WiFi was everywhere it may fuel high utilization in examples similar to Trepia proposes. Short-term with modifications perhaps on campus?

There is no data on proximity (to me) and yet as I understand their example as I move from node to node… their system tracks me and tells me who is nearby even if linked to a different WiFi node. I presume this application could also act to sniff out new nodes as Trepia carriers move about..

This also raises a further set of personal security issues. For example I have Trepia on my laptop and it is on my home wireless network. Does this give driveby snoopers access to pictures and profiles of who is active in the house? Or worse… a poor celebrity decides to use the system providing a new game for stalkers.

Trepia illustrates, the emerging power of WiFi everywhere and how it may help us connect. It also creates another system, logging individuals, with yet more profiles and possibly selling the information about where they coalesce. Each of us needs to retain this information. It should not be in central servers. If a P2P application can provide this functionality in Ryze then perhaps the real-time networks

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