Canary Wireless



Support - FAQs

The following summarizes the questions most frequently asked and discussed on our support forum:

Device Dimensions

The dimensions of the device are 3.19 x 2.13 x 0.65. The device takes 2 standard AAA batteries.

Undetectable Access Points

There are several reasons why the Digital Hotspotter model HS20 may not pick up your home or office network. One common reason for problems is low batteries. If the device appears to be scanning, but generally does not find networks, the problem may be in the batteries. Canary Wireless ships the product with batteries, but these batteries are starter batteries. We always recommend changing the 2 AAA batteries if the device is having detection difficulties.

However, there are some access points that may be configured in a way that they cannot be detected by the Digital Hotspotter model HS20. These access points may be configured to not transmit their SSID and are typically referred to as “cloaked” access points. The HS20 will display “cloaked AP” in these cases.

Generally speaking, the vast majority of our users do not have an issue with the device's inability to detect all access points.

Signal Strength Reading is Low

There are 2 main possibilities for why signal strength readings may be low:

  1. Every access point provides signal strength data a little differently. This is particularly true if you look at access points manufactured over a number of years. We calibrate the signal strength indicator on a bell curve, with the levels matched to the greatest number of access points. There are some access points out there that fall outside the "normal" distribution. For these access points, the results will vary a little bit.

  2. There is a little bit of a random element in the detection process. Over the course of a couple of scans, signal strength may vary a bit due to interference and other factors that can affect RF reception (think of watching an old TV with rabbit ears, where the TV picture can come in or out depending on where people are standing in the room).

Meaning of "Open" Network

"Open" means that the network is not encrypted using WEP, WPA, WPA2, or CCX the types of encryption that are typically built into access points. "Open" means that a radio connection can be established with the access point, but doesn't necessarily mean that an Internet connection can be made through the access point without further action.

If you see an "Open" network with a commercial-looking SSID (for example "t-mobile" or "wayport_access"), you can probably connect to the access point, but will be redirected to a gateway page where you have to sign in before you can actually use the network.

However, many home and office users simply plug an access point into an existing network, without enabling encryption (it is common to see access points with "default" or with the name of an access point manufacturer that are this type of network). If you were to set up your home network by simply plugging an access point into your network, someone within range of your home network would see your connection as "Open", and could likely connect to the Internet through your open connection.

Multiple SSIDs on the same channel indicates that communication with any of these access points may be hampered by interference with the transmissions from other access points on the same (or overlapping) channels. Wi-Fi channels are not discrete, so an access point set to channel 6, for example, will also use radio frequencies that are within channels 5 and 7. If networks within range of each other are on overlapping channels, each network may suffer degraded performance due to interference.

You may be able to see other computers that are connected to the same access point through Microsoft Windows' Network Neighborhood. However, please keep in mind that accessing data on other computers without permission may violate federal and/or state laws.

Battery Life

The battery life is expected to be about 3 months with typical usage (average of a couple scans a day).

The unit ships with "starter" batteries that contain only a low charge. If you put new batteries in the device, they should last much longer.

Rechargeable batteries have not been fully tested with the device, but we have had some negative results, including a persistent (Low Battery) indicator.

Bluetooth, 802.11a

The device does not detect Bluetooth, nor 802.11a .

External Antenna/External Power Source

The HS20 does not support use of an external antenna or an external power source.


The Digital Hotspotter model HS20 cannot be upgraded.

General Tips

The antenna for the Hotspotter is located just above the display. For best results, hold the unit at the bottom while scanning. To improve reception, try holding the Hotspotter vertically in the air.

The following are some of the many uses for the Hotspotter:

  • Finding usable networks - Travelers, students and other roaming Wi-Fi users can use the Hotspotter to find available networks (please check local laws before using an open network without prior permission).

  • Site survey – U se the Hotspotter to determine where your home or office coverage extends, and where the optimal locations for use of the network are.

  • Security - The Hotspotter can be used to determine the security state of your home or office network. The device can detect whether your access point’s signal extends beyond your walls, and whether encryption has been enabled. The Hotspotter can also help you detect rogue access points.

About Wi-Fi Networks

The Hotspotter provides four essential pieces of information about a Wi-Fi network: SSID, signal strength, encryption status and channel.


The SSID is the name given a network by a network operator to distinguish the network from other networks. An SSID may be distinctive enough that it will allow you to distinguish a public network from a network that is intended for public use. Public Wi-Fi service providers often configure their networks to display an SSID that is similar to the service providers name. For example, if the Hotspotter shows a network with a ”wayport_access” SSID or a “t-mobile” SSID, you are likely to be able to access a commercial Wi-Fi hotspot, as these SSIDs are commonly used by Wayport and T-Mobile, two commercial hotspot providers.

By contrast, a default SSID or an SSID that contains the name of an access point manufacturer may indicate that a network is operated by a home user that has not specifically configured the SSID of his or her network.

With most access points, it is possible to disable the broadcast of an SSID. If the Hotspotter detects an access point on which the SSID broadcast has been disabled, it will typically display “Cloaked” instead of an SSID.

Signal Strength

The Hotspotter displays an image of one to five vertical bars, indicating the relative strength of the signals detected by the Hotspotter. By scanning repeatedly, you may be able to determine whether you are moving closer to or farther from a network access point by watching the increase or decrease in the relative signal strength.


Any Wi-Fi certified access point is capable of encrypting Wi-Fi signals using current standards:

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA, WPA2)

Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX)

An encrypted network requires that a user input an encryption key before the network can be accessed. The Hotspotter displays one of the encryption standards' acronyms listed above, (e.g. WEP, WPA,...) when a given network is encrypted, and open when the network is not encrypted.

Network operators use encryption to prohibit roaming Wi-Fi users from accessing a network. A network operator who has enabled encryption is sending a clear signal to a roaming user that the network is not intended to be accessed by outsiders.

You can use the Hotspotter to verify that your home or office network is properly secured, or to detect rogue access points. IT managers may wish to scan their office premises to detect unexpected access points, and to find any access points that are unintentionally unencrypted.


The Hotspotter scans 14 channels. While only 11 channels are used in the US, 13 channels are used for Wi-Fi in Europe, 14 in Japan.

Channel information can be useful in detecting potential reasons for interference. Most access points are set to channel 1, 6 or 11 by default. If you see more than one network on the same channel, it is likely that you may experience problems with interference.

In fact, Wi-Fi channels overlap on adjacent channels, and may cause interference on adjacent channels. You may wish to use the Hotspotter when configuring your home or office network to determine what channels are least likely to experience interference.