Ruckus Wireless has announced a major initiative with the City and County of San Francisco, the City of San José, CA and Global Reach Technology to create the first large-scale municipal Hotspot 2.0 service that allows millions of visitors and residents to automatically and securely connect to and seamlessly roam using San José and San Francisco free WiFi services. The new Hotspot 2.0 service is now live and operational.

An innovative approach to providing public WiFi access, Hotspot 2.0 is a new technology specification developed by members of the WiFi Alliance (WFA) that radically simplifies and automates how users securely connect to and roam between WiFi networks without requiring users to manually select a network or sign-on.

Leveraging new Hotspot 2.0 technology, users in San Francisco and San José now can enjoy seamless and secure WiFi data connectivity that mirrors today’s cellular experience, with the added benefit of working on WiFi-only devices such as tablets and laptops. The initial Bay Area WiFi Hotspot 2.0 deployment supports Hotspot 2.0 enabled iOS 7 devices (iPhone 5/5s/5c, iPad 3, iPad Mini, iPad Air, iPad Mini Retina, and iPod Touch 5th Gen) as well as Apple laptops running OS X Mavericks.

“With the adoption of Hotspot 2.0, we are literally transforming the user WiFi experience,” says Vijay Sammeta, Chief Information Officer for the City of San José. “Hotspot 2.0 makes our infrastructure smarter by eliminating tedious and cumbersome device configuration. Now people can securely connect to and roam using our networks in a transparent fashion. Things don’t get much easier.”

“People want their devices to automatically connect to trusted WiFi networks whenever they are in range, and to use strong encryption as well,” says Marc Touitou, CIO for the City of San Francisco. “This is precisely what we have achieved.”

“With unprecedented cooperation, we have developed the world’s largest municipal deployment of Hotspot 2.0 technology that is open to the public and available to anyone with a supported device,” added Flavio Aggio, chief technology officer for the Department of Technology of the City of San Francisco. “With this Hotspot 2.0 network in place, we expect more and more peering with other network and authentication providers which will allow us to realise our collective vision for global WiFi roaming.”

Ruckus Smart WiFi equipment, which has been Passpoint Certified by the WiFi Alliance, is being used to power the new Hotspot 2.0 service across both the San Jose and San Francisco WiFi networks. Simple device provisioning and unified authentication services are being provided through a cloud-based system operated by Global Reach, a Ruckus technology partner.

The Global Reach software platform includes the AAA servers (Authentication, Authorisation and Accounting), Hotspot 2.0 device detection, and landing pages with the Hotspot 2.0 token.

The Hotspot 2.0 provisioning feature, developed by Global Reach, configures devices with an ‘anonymous’ credential which is used to automatically connect to any network honouring the credential and is also a component in the process used to generate the encryption keys for the secure connection.

Users simply click to connect securely. Global Reach then provides each user device with a one-time provisioning file that automatically configures the requisite WiFi settings and encryption without any human intervention. Once a guest registers and is provisioned with the Hotspot 2.0 credential, they can automatically and securely connect to either of the cities’ WLAN infrastructures whenever they are in range.

Historically, to connect to a WiFi hotspot, users have had to perform the arduous task of manually selecting from a number of WiFi networks that may or may not be able to provide them service, and then perform the tedious process of navigating through a ‘portal’ page before having access to their services.

Using Hotspot 2.0, information advertised by Smart WiFi infrastructure tells devices how to automatically connect to the WiFi network if they possess a credential accepted at that hotspot. The credential itself can be a SIM card, a security certificate, or a username and password that WiFi operators agree to accept for authenticating users on their networks.

According to San José and the City of San Francisco, the new Hotspot 2.0 service may also be made open to other organisations looking to establish WiFi roaming agreements with either or both cities.

The new Hotspot 2.0 infrastructure gives users the option to register for the free Hotspot 2.0 service if they choose, or if they decline, the ability to stay on the existing, unencrypted service. To ensure complete user privacy, the two cities are using anonymous credentials. Each user who elects to use the Hotspot 2.0 service for either WiFi network is issued a credential without having to provide any information such as an email address or name.