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Software Makes the Most of Your Internet Connections

Connectify Dispatch lets a computer find the best combination of Internet connections for a particular task.

You often have a slew of ways to get online—a hard-wired Ethernet cable, various Wi-Fi networks, or maybe a 3G or 4G wireless device. What if you didn’t have to choose and could also surf the Web faster than any one connection would allow?

A company called Connectify plans to make this possible with software called Connectify Dispatch that routes your computer’s data demands over numerous connections simultaneously.

The Philadelphia-based company already offers software called Connectify Hotspot. It lets a  Windows PC act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for several devices. A free version allows users to share Wi-Fi connections with others while a $30 “pro” version enables the ability to share 3G and 4G connections.

“The more we thought about this, the more we realized you could do it the other way, too,” says CEO and founder Alex Gizis. “You could take a whole bunch of Internet connections and make them look like one Internet connection to your computer.”

Connectify is trying to raise $50,000 via the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to help it develop a commercial version of Dispatch for Windows PCs. After about a week and with roughly three weeks left to fundraise, they’re a little less than a third of the way there. Gizis says a group of existing customers are testing a prototype of Dispatch in a private beta test.

Normally, when you want to access the Internet on a computer, you first choose a single network, or the computer automatically chooses one based on past usage or the quality of the network. But Gizis says that with Dispatch running, whenever any program on your computer attempts to connect to the Internet, the software jumps in and determines which combination of Internet connections would be the best for this particular program. It does this by looking at factors like how fast, how busy, and how reliable each one is—constantly scoring your different connections.

When you load a given Web page in your browser, for example, it might be making a dozen requests to different sites to bring up text, photos, and ads. Dispatch could load a site more quickly by sending data through multiple Internet connections.

Gizis says that while the speed increase won’t be as fast as the sum of your Internet connections, it does get close. And users will be able to prioritize their various Internet connections, telling Dispatch, for example, to make their home Wi-Fi network the first-choice network, and their 4G USB dongle second or third choice.

Giovanni Pau, an associate adjunct professor in computer science at UCLA who has built and tested similar software, says Dispatch is a good idea, but it will need to work flawlessly.

Those who donate at least $40 to Connectify’s Kickstarter project will get a license for Dispatch, plus a yearlong “pro” license for Connectify’s Hotspot software. If the campaign fails, Gizis says, Connectify will then evaluate whether moving forward is worth it—he says he doesn’t want to spend years supporting just a handful of users.

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