Attention all you mobile business tycoons. If you haven't gotten on the Wi-Fi bandwagon, it's about time you did.
Wireless Internet Access is popping up all around us and much of it is free. One of my favorite mobile offices is the food court at Kahala Mall Shopping Center. In the morning, I grab my favorite cup of Starbucks coffee, sit on the stylish hardwood furniture at the food court, and I log-on to the free wireless Internet-access made available by the folks at Kahala Mall Management. What a brilliant marketing scheme.
The folks at Kahala Mall Management are a smart bunch. They've gotten me to visit the mall on almost a daily basis - sometimes two or three times a day just to meet with clients and have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Of course, if you are in business, you write-off these meals, but the attraction is that you can do a full "high-speed" presentation on your Wi-Fi-enabled laptop or gain instant e-mail access on your PDA.
Now, you don't have to be a shopping mall to provide your customers with the benefit of wireless, high-speed Internet access. Another favorite location I enjoy is the Living Stone Cafe at the Pearl Kai Shopping Center.
All I can say is - WOW! That tiny little coffee house has as much technology available to its customers as an entire shopping mall.
Addicted to Caffeine?
Hey, if you are a hard core, hard charging, mobile businessperson, you are going to love T-Mobile - not the cellular part of the company - that part of their business is ok. I'm referring to the new "T-Mobile Hotspot" business that is booming.
T-Mobile had the foresight to bring Wi-Fi to virtually all of the local Starbucks Coffee locations. For about $30 a month you can get unlimited Wi-Fi access at any Starbucks Coffee house, or for that matter, you can get T-Mobile Wi-Fi access at any Borders Books locations, Fedex/Kinko's location, and at any first class lounge at the airport, such as the American Air Admirals Club, Delta Crown Room Club, and United's Red Carpet Club.
There are more than 60 local T-Mobile hotspot locations throughout the islands, and I have been to pretty much all of them.
Coffee House/Restaurant Owners:
If you own your own little coffee house or a restaurant, you may want to seriously look into getting wireless as a value-added service for your patrons. It's a great way to fill the dining floor during the slow periods between meals. Even if you only own a tiny coffee kiosk, Wi-Fi is a huge attractor. You don't have to use the T-Mobile service if you don't want to. There are other providers that are using this technology for businesses that are looking to bring this added service to their customers.
The folks at ClearWire are a new provider in Hawaii. If you are looking for a high-speed Internet connection and can't get DSL or cable, you can now get high-speed wireless service from ClearWire. No more drilling holes in the walls or floors trying to run a few hundred feet of cable.
Or if you already have a high-speed Internet connection, go get yourself a $100 router/access-point and create your own Wi-Fi hotspot. Its not difficult to do, but check with your service provider as some restrictions may apply to your current service.
If you are a business and are not getting onboard with the new wireless technologies, you are missing out on some huge marketing potential for your business.
There are some additional trends that are happening in technology that will impact this nations economy, if not the economics of the world. It is my personal belief that future technology trends are going to be the convergence of inexpensive wireless-enabled computers, high-speed Internet, e-commerce, and the wireless technologies we already see occurring. This is huge.
Remember fiber optics? It was the next replacement for standard copper cable. How many of you have expensive fiber-optic cabling in your home or office today? Not many. Wireless Internet has totally sidestepped any kind of cabling all together.
The folks at ClearWire have recognized this. Fiber optics will be alive only as far as the hubs owned by the service providers. Most end users like you and me will be using wireless access. In the next five years, the majority of all computer manufacturers will be selling all computers with built in Wi-Fi.
Verizon has even jumped in with both feet, converting thousands of pay phone locations to not only digital voice communications, but converting these location to wireless hotspots as well.
Access points are going up across the nation as we speak. New York City will be the first beta location.
The Bigger Picture
Some of the consequences of this new convergence will be the huge opportunities created in related technologies. Technologies such as video conferencing, has been around for years, and the technology is getting cheaper and more compact. Real-time video conferencing is a reality and is also a lucky benefactor of cheap high-speed Internet services. High-speed Internet will foster further growth in video conferencing, and this segment alone will have a huge ripple effect on many other industries.
Future video conferencing will even change the way business people travel. Quite frankly, with video conferencing becoming more and more affordable, many business travelers will stop traveling. Large companies are discovering the savings in not having to shuttle employees around the country to sit in a business meeting to only return to the office loosing three productive days for a three-hour meeting.
This will impact many airlines and will put tremendous pressure on the industry. Many airlines will consolidate or go out of business. Especially with travel becoming increasingly more difficult and less convenient, the business traveler market will begin to shrink as video conferencing becomes more and more prevalent.
Many multinational conglomerates that can afford the technology, are benefiting greatly from the efficiency of real-time video conferencing now. Some of our local banks are holding regular meetings that include folks from across the nation and even between nations, literally breaking international boundaries. This is happening today and it is happening at the local level.
This technology is no longer locked behind boardroom doors. As the technology becomes more affordable, you can be attending a meeting while sitting at your local coffee house, instead of fighting traffic to get to the office late for that same meeting. Just cruise around the corner to your local coffee house with high-speed wireless access and set up your Wi-Fi laptop with video capabilities, and you are in the meeting.
Better yet, as prices drop, you can have high-speed video conferencing in your home and attend a meeting in New York City while still in your bunny slippers. (You may have to put on a coat and tie for appearances, but who's going to see your feet.)
Other cost-saving benefits can be as simple as holding employee orientations or training sessions conducted by an offsite corporate trainer and connected to a dozen locations around the state or around the nation.
Web cams and laptops are becoming so powerful and so affordable that the only missing component is the communication. Of course, T-Mobile, Verizon, ClearWire and others are helping to fill in any holes in the "wireless blanket" that will soon cover everything.It is an exciting time to be in the technology business; the possibilities are endless. Don't even get me started on e-commerce. That would take an entire book.
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