What is a Hotspot Finder?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A hotspot finder is a device which is designed to help people find wireless hotspots, locations where wireless signals which would allow people to connect to a network are present. The term “hotspot finder” is also used to describe a directory of known hotspots which people can access and update with new information. Hotspot finders are extremely useful for people who like to work on wireless networks, which includes almost everyone with a laptop, along with people who have phones which can interface with wireless networks, and similar devices.

A wireless hotspot allows people to pick up a signal to connect to a wireless internet network.
A wireless hotspot allows people to pick up a signal to connect to a wireless internet network.

In a wireless hotspot, people can pick up a signal which will allow them to connect to a network and access the Internet or other computers in the network. Some wireless hotspots are open, allowing anyone to connect to the network simply by locking onto the signal. Others are secured, in which case a username and password will be required to get onto the wireless hotspot. Networks are secured to make them safer to use, and to prevent excessive bandwidth usage.

Hotels commonly offer WiFi hotspots.
Hotels commonly offer WiFi hotspots.

A basic hotspot finder attaches to a keychain, lanyard, or another device, with a display which indicates when someone is in range of a hotspot. Classically, the finder simply lights up. Indicator lights may also be used to show whether the hotspot is unsecured or secured, and how strong the signal is. If multiple signals are found, simple hotspot finders simply lock onto the strongest one, while more advanced tools might indicate that several networks are potentially available.

People can use hotspot finders in a variety of ways, ranging from identifying networks to access illegally to simply looking for a place to connect in a new city. Hotspot finders can also be used to map wireless hotspots within a given area to create a directory.

Hotspot finder directories are provided for travelers and other people who are interested in identifying hotspots in a particular region. A good directory is usually map-based, allowing people to enter a location and see various hotspots on a map. The directory typically states whether or not networks are secured, with notes about time limits and any other constraints which may be placed on a network. Users can update the map to keep it current, removing outdated information and adding new hotspots which haven't been listed. People can look up the information on a hotspot finder directory before they travel so that they will know where to go to find access.

Some people use a mobile hotspot when on the road.
Some people use a mobile hotspot when on the road.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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