From restaurants to retail outlets to corporations, enterprises often are asked by customers, clients and visitors how they can access the enterprise’s Wi-Fi network—a request that requires constant sharing  of passwords or a decision to remove security access to the network altogether. But New York-based startup Hotspotio has developed software that lets enterprises share secure Wi-Fi networks in a manner more beneficial to the enterprise.

If the Wi-Fi network owner—for instance, an enterprise--and a mobile-device user both use Hotspotio, access to the Wi-Fi network can be requested and provided without having to go through the often cumbersome process of finding and sharing the password to the Wi-Fi network, Hotspotio co-founder Simon Schultz said.

 “Hotspotio was an outcome of us being annoyed about not really having access to all of the Wi-Fi [networks] that you can see on your phone or laptop that are available out there but are locked with passwords,” Schultz said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “Most of the time, if you ask for the password, people are quite happy to share it … so, we’re just facilitating what people are already doing—granting each other access to their available Wi-Fi networks.”

In return for providing Wi-Fi access, the network owner can ask the user for something in exchange, such as a Facebook “like” or a Twitter reference, Schultz said, using a restaurant as an example.

“You press the network name and decide what you want to give in return,” he said. “For instance, you can say, ‘I want to like [the Wi-Fi owner’s] Facebook page,’ and when that Facebook page has been liked, you will automatically be logged onto their Wi-Fi network without entering the password.

“On a more technical level, what happens is that, when the restaurant shares their network, we’re encrypting the password, storing it in our backend, and then—when someone connects to it—we’re sending it encrypted from our backend to the user’s application system, and then inserting it into the Wi-Fi management system on the Android device. That’s how we allow people to connect to protected networks without actually entering the password.”

As a startup, Hotspotio currently is not charging for its software solution, which is available to all Wi-Fi owners and mobile users with Android tablets and smartphones, Schultz said. The company is focused on getting Wi-Fi operators to adopt Hotspotio and on developing versions of the application that will work on all types of devices and all operating systems, he said.

“The long-term business plan is to set up premium services for the business-to-consumer market, giving them some more tools to help them create a closer relationship with their existing customers,” Schultz said.