WiFi

Hurray for Verizon Wireless!27 Nov

I rarely write about developments in mobile computing. But today’s announcement by Verizon Wireless that they will allow phones to use the network even if they’re not hand picked by Verizon is welcome news.

Wireless network operators have historically offered phones on the cheap with the stipulation that you sign a 1-2 year contract for their service. In addition to that lock-in period, the operator typically cripples the phone in areas that may compete with their own offerings. For example, Verizon cripples the Bluetooth features on their phones so that you can’t move pictures back and forth between your phone and your PC without going over their data network. And their Wi-Fi enabled phones certainly wouldn’t support calls over a VOIP service such as Skype.

So how will this affect the typical business owner?

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WiFi

Free WiFi at Starbucks?31 Oct

Ina Sebastian at Jupiter Research wrote about a ComputerWorld prediction that Starbucks will evenutally offer free WiFi service.  Personally, I avoid Starbucks in favor of coffee shops that offer free connections.  My guess is that Starbucks has found this to be a popular stance.  I believe free WiFi will become expected and that SMBs will be able to offer real value to their customers through creative use of this connectivity. 

Question: You run a destination type SMB like Starbucks.  How do you use the WiFi service you are offering them to build a community of your customers?  Do you allow them to engage each other a la Facebook or MySpace?  Do you give them the opportunity to "speak" to you directly?

WiFi

SMB Friendly Wireless Router25 Sep

Not sure why I’ve been on a WiFi kick lately. Maybe it’s the WiFi project in Billings? Maybe the frustration over not having access to iPhone service?

Regardless, one of my clients has retail locations where free wireless internet access is offered. Because a single broadband connection is shared between the hotspot and the corporate systems, they have had to put in a lot of effort to ensure that their corporate systems are secure. As WiFi phones start becoming the norm and as city-wide WiFi projects continue to fail, more and more SMBs will want to ensure that their customers have WiFi access while on-premise.

I think there is an opportunity here for someone to build a router that makes the process plug-and-play. The router plugs into your cable/DSL modem as usual. An unsecured public WiFi network is automatically setup. Also, a second WiFi network is automatically created for internal use with all the key security setups defaulted. Alternatively, an Ethernet port could be used for a secured wired connection to the corporate network.

Seems to me, someone like Cisco, Netgear or Linksys could easily build this. Maybe they already do. If so, they need to make it easy to find on their website because I don’t see it. Am I just missing it?

Business,WiFi

SMB WiFi Applications23 Sep

In the near future, we are going to see most people walking around with WiFi enabled phones. Despite the fact that we can’t get iPhone service in Montana, the iPhone’s success is pushing cell providers to allow WiFi on their phones. So this will happen, even here in Billings.

The next step will be to have WiFi networks readily available. While Billings is working on a WiFi network, and we all know where hotspots are. But it’s going to be a long time before public networks (here or anywhere else) are the rule.

I think an opportunity will exist for progressive SMBs to turn the WiFi trend into a competitive advantage through creative uses of their own hotspots. So I’m going to start a recurring post on this site containing possible WiFi applications for consumer oriented SMBs.

I’ll start off with a real simple one:

Collect instant customer feedback via a 1-click satisfaction rating. SMBs and consumers will subscribe to an as-yet-unbuilt-service with a short catchy name. The SMB will get a short code and some window decals to place by their door. Customers will do a few quick clicks on their way out to provide feedback on their experience. For this effort, they will be provided with a coupon for that or some complementary store. The SMB will receive the feedback instantly and will get the customer information for their marketing database.

Contact Me

Granite Peak Systems, LLC
PO Box 80892
Billings, MT 59108
Tel: 406-672-8292
Email: trupsis@granitepeaksys.com

Kiva

Since 2007, I have funded a Kiva account in recognition of my clients. Whenever I get a new client, or find a microloan that relates to the industries my clients serve, I contribute to the account. You can see my lender profile here:

http://www.kiva.org/lender/gpsclients