I had a text-chat with a faculty colleague a couple of days back, which is representative of an all too familiar experience:
Sometimes, WiFi is just a pain to use. To protect ourselves from being held responsible for unauthorised (and possible illegal) use of our private connections, we deploy stuff such as WPA, or 802.1x – and are encouraged to use good (read: hard to remember, and to type) passwords…which, of course, we have to retype on all our devices when we are being responsible and changing our passwords regularly (right?)
And when we have friends over (or come to their place, or stay at a hotel) we have to type in passwords, authenticate, log in — and for the same reasons. Which, while a hassle, might be possible on a phone, or a computer, or a tablet….but, it remains a hassle – and a “thing” in the “Internet of Things” might not have a screen or a keyboard for entering passwords, requiring all sorts of extra efforts when living in a connected world.
There’s gotta be a better way of identifying an user in a wireless network. A way which works with legacy end-user devices. And which works out of the box without requiring special software or configuration on the end-user device, and with commonly available infrastructure devices / access points.
That is the lofty problem, which my 2nd year students at Ecole Polytechnique, and I, have set out to solve as their research project. We have a plan …
We are working in close collaboration with expert engineers from Cisco France, notably Pierre Pfister (the guy in the green T-shirt in the photo, who himself one of my former students at Ecole Polytechnique, from many moons ago), and with unfaltering support from Cisco’s Paris Innovation and Research Laboratory.
We have only just started, but it looks to become an exciting and innovative academic year: solving real problems by expert application of science and technology is, after all, the DNA of an engineer.