What Where Wi: an Analysis of Millions of Wi-Fi Access Points

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Jones, R. Kipp
Liu, Ling
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With the growing demand for wireless Internet access and increasing maturity of IEEE 802.11 technologies, wireless networks have sprung up by the millions throughout the world as a popular means for Internet access at homes, in offices and in public areas, such as airports, cafés and coffee shops. An increasingly popular use of IEEE 802.11 networking equipment is to provide wireless "hotspots" as the wireless access points to the Internet. These wireless access points, commonly referred to as WAPs or simply APs, are installed and managed by individuals and businesses in an unregulated manner ^Ö allowing anyone to install and operate one of these radio devices using unlicensed radio spectrum. This has allowed literally millions of these APs to become available and ^Ñvisible^Ò to any interested party who happens to be within range of the radio waves emitted from the device. As the density of these APs increases, these ^Ñbeacons^Ò can be put into multiple uses. From home networking to wireless positioning to mesh networks, there are more alternative ways for connecting wirelessly as newer, longer-range technologies come to market. This paper reports an initial study that examines a database of over 5 million wireless access points collected through wardriving by Skyhook Wireless. By performing the analytical study of this data and the information revealed by this data, including the default naming behavior, movement of access points over time, and density of access points, we found that the AP data, coupled with location information, can provide a fertile ground for understanding the "What, Where and Why" of Wi-Fi access points. More importantly, the analysis and mining of this vast and growing collection of AP data can yield important technological, social and economical results
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