‘Push Button to Connect’

One of the big holes in Wi-Fi setup has been security. In a lot of cases it’s not on by default and many folk have no idea how to set it up or even that their network is not secure.

Linksys reckon they have the answer with something called SecureEasySetup (SES) technology:

The SES technology enables users to create their wireless security protocols and set up their Wi-Fi networks by pushing just one button on the router and another on the wireless device being networked, the company said. The button enables the unit’s Wi-Fi Protected Access security and configures the network’s Service Set Identifier (SSID), eliminating the need for the user to manually create a passphrase to enable WPA protection.

Just push the button on each device and you’ve set up a secure connection between the two.

I like the idea of having a physical button, which removes the need for lots of fiddling about in design-challenged menus (most of the software that comes with routers seems to be have been designed by three year olds with premature acne.)

There is a downside to this, of course: It locks the user into buying both access point and Wi-Fi card from Linksys, otherwise it’s not going to work. And how would it work with more than one device? Could you add a non Linksys, SES-enabled device to a SES network?

But the button thing is good. People will like that. Could this kind of thing extend to other areas where technology runs up against usability? Could buttons make Bluetooth pairing easier, say? Press a button on each device simultaneously and hook them up?

Certainly the whole ‘button vs software’ thing has taken an interesting route. For a long time we thought it was better to have no buttons, or at least designers did. Macs have very few buttons, which looks great but isn’t always a good thing, especially if you can’t eject a bum CD, or the computer hangs. iPods are great examples of what to do with buttons, and later models cut down the number of buttons without cutting down the intuitiveness.

But elsewhere things have started reversing themselves. Laptops and external keyboards have toyed with the idea of dedicated buttons, but with mixed results. I’ve never really got excited about them. Some Logitech keyboards have lots of dedicated keys and even reassigned function keys (which are on by default, a rare example of Logitech silliness.) My ThinkPad has an ‘AccessIBM’ button and to be honest I’ve never figured out what it is. But the physical sound mute and volume buttons are necessary, because you may need to get at them quickly, especially if you’re in a meeting.

I certainly think there’s room, as we move more and more to wireless, for a standard button that creates a secure connection between two devices. It could even be protocol-agnostic: press it and the device does its best to connect securely to whatever other device is having its button pressed, so to speak, with whatever protocol it has at its disposal, whether it’s Bluetooth, ZigBee, Wi-Fi, InfraRed or whatever. Could that break the remaining logjams in user acceptance of these technologies?