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How to get safe wifi to the seat

August 7, 2019

Airline and train wifi can be patchy, and even insecure. Richard Williams looks into a potential solution: Cognitive Hotspot Technology (CHT)

Cut the interference
José Gonzalez, co-founder and ceo of Galgus, specialises in Cognitive Hotspot Technology. Galgus’s software, incorporated in the VT Miltope wireless cabin infrastructure, prevents personal devices from making a poor connection onboard. This often happens when, for example, the passenger boards at the front of a plane, which overloads the forward access point (AP). When the passenger moves to the rear, the signal gets weaker and also suffers from interference from the AP that is now closest to the device.

The software function that prevents this is known as inter-AP load balancing which also performs intra-load balancing, as it allocates the available radios of each AP equally among the devices using it. This means that fewer APs are needed; for a mid-sized wide-body typically three instead of five.

Defend against hacks
Perhaps even more important is an enhancement to CHT that Galgus is seeking to incorporate. This is location, positioning and tracking functionality that protects against hacking. It is possible, using a fairly simple and cheap device, to set up a rogue AP on the aircraft, and intercept all the data on the system. The Galgus software has a security protocol between the APs, it detects the rogue AP, cuts the connection, and re-connects to the genuine AP.

Locate any hackers
In a typical hacking scenario, the passenger’s data will be protected; they will continue with their browsing, messaging or work without ever realising that a hacking attempt has been made. The airline will know where the attack originated within a few seat rows.

Focus on objectives
Gonzalez says: “In terms of customer experience, the quality of connectivity is judged on two aspects: having a wifi service that is up to the task and as cyber-secure as possible. CHT running in VT Miltope APs achieves both objectives reliably.” Galgus claims that the software is currently the only product of its type in the mobility market. It may in future be popular with airlines concerned for the security of their passengers’ data.

Fact File
CHT stands for Cognitive Hotspot Technology. (W)AP for (wireless) access point

Intra-load balancing allocates the signal from a single AP equally to each device

Inter-AP load balancing spreads connectivity between all the APs onboard

Wide-body aircraft typically use up to five WAPs; only three are needed with the Galgus