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Archive for July, 2012

As smart phones have grown in popularity, cellular network capacity has become increasingly stretched. As a result an alternative is needed to meet bandwidth demand. Hello, Wi-Fi. Today many cell phone carriers have Wi-Fi offload plans to limit the cost of expanding their capacity.

Take AT&T for example, the large carrier has set up approximately 30,000 of its own hotspots in Starbucks, McDonald’s and other public facilities in part to satisfy its subscriber’s media data network demand.

Small carriers however, are taking a more innovative approach to sourcing Wi-Fi capacity, by using a software called Devicescape. San Bruno, CA company Devicescape has identified an untapped opportunity to utilize unprotected public hotspots to expand cellular network capacity. David Fraser, CEO acknowledges this opportunity:

“There’s a huge network that’s been hiding in plain sight… Why not use it?”

How it Works

Devicescape have created a continually updated database of unsecured Wi-Fi routers owned by businesses and organizations. This database of usable hotspots is growing at a rate of 25,000 spots per day. Currently Devicescape has a database of 9 million unprotected hotspots. Devicescape’s software has been sold to mobile carriers such as MetroPCS and Republic Wireless. These carriers then install Devicescape software onto their network’s handsets. When these carrier’s subscribers make calls (unbeknownst to them) in many cases the Devicescape software will automatically detect and connect to a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot with available bandwidth.

Benefits of Devicescape’s Approach

Devicescape offers significant client benefits enabling approximately 40% of their mobile data to utilize Wi-Fi hotspots. While customers won’t necessarily know the difference, Wi-Fi is typically faster and more reliable reducing connection disruptions.

Threats of Devicescape’s Approach

If every carrier adopted this software, many public free Wi-Fi hotspots would get flooded with users, slowing access speeds. This could then lead to greater use of password protection, reducing the number of hotspots available.

There are also legal risks surrounding the Devicescape software. Harold Feld Senior VP of Public Knowledge a digital rights group, acknowledges that while Wi-Fi siphoning is probably not illegal, it is nevertheless a gray area:

“It’s like a limo pulling up in front of a soup kitchen for the free food.”

Devicescape has been careful to measure hotspot traffic to avoid already overburdened Wi-Fi hotspots. Nevertheless, the company has received complaints from some business owners. In response to such complaints Devicescape’s database has been amended accordingly to abandon using those hotspots. So far this response has been sufficient and the company has not yet been sued. 

Mobile data traffic is expected to increase 78% a year through 2016. With increasingly scarce network capacity in busy (city) areas, Wi-Fi can enable cell phone carriers to offer additional bandwidth without substantially raising costs. Time will tell if Devicescape’s approach can be sustainable, but given AT&T’s increasing purchase of Wi-Fi hot spots; the use of Wi-Fi offloading by cellular carriers looks set to continue.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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If you’ve been to any popular tourist spot, chances are someone on your Facebook friends list has too. After all what frequent Facebook user hasn’t seen a friend’s vacation snap shots of somewhere they themselves have been at some point? Frequently people posts pictures in front of popular tourist haunts such as the Statue of Liberty, Buckingham Palace, with Mickey and Minnie at a Disney theme park or even with that Times Square cowboy. Perhaps such pictures are even better shots than yours. Maybe your Facebook friend had better weather; which lets face it is very possible with the Buckingham Palace example. With so many people having similar vacation experiences, which are now more visible than ever before, it may be harder than ever to have bragging rights when it comes to travel.

An article in the July 23, 2012 edition of Fortune Magazine, suggests that there is a growing trend of one of a kind travel experiences. The article claims that a growing number of companies in the travel industry are starting to offer travel experiences that go beyond generic tourist spots. Here are some company examples:

Frommer’s Remix: this successful travel guide company now offers itinerary creation based on destination preference and interests. Users even receive a custom-made book containing maps to the different activities based on the hotel they are staying at.

An AirBnB option in France, image courtesy of Pinterest

AirBnB: back in May I featured a blog post on AirBnB, a San Francisco start-up, which offers a wide variety of things to rent. The website’s diverse offerings include interesting places to stay and unique activities. There’s an experience for almost any budget. You can go on a street food tour of London with locals or go to an urban rooftop farm in New York or an architecture exhibition in Munich; the options when you think outside the box are endless.

Fortnighter: New York company Fortnighter utilizes the talents of over 100 freelance travel writers’ local knowledge to create custom itineraries based on a user’s interests and preferences. This company custom designs trips of any length and can even help you decide where to go. Here is an example:

“One client asked the company to structure a three-week road trip through New Zealand. He had heard of caves full of mesmerizing glowworms but didn’t know any details, so Fortnighter’s writer did the research, tracked down an outfitter to escort him through the caves, and found hotels for 10 stops along the way.”

Essentially the company creates customized vacations based on local knowledge to save people hours of research.

One&Only Resorts, image courtesy of Pinterest

One&Only Resorts: One&Only Resorts is an upscale hotel company that tries to create memories by surprising its guests. The company’s concept is based on details, if a guest mentions a favorite food or song, the company will find a way to surprise them accordingly, perhaps by playing that song at dinner and serving that favorite food item. Essentially this concept reminds me of creating magical moments, something I did in my days as a Disney cast member.

Based on a True Story: An option for the millionaires out there, Based on a True Story organizes just a few dream come true trips each year. Here is the description of what they offer:

“We take our clients to the most secluded, untouched and awe-inspiring locations on earth and create… a magic-carpet-ride of exclusive experiences…  all in utter privacy. A travel experience that is individually created and truly yours alone. Our holidays provide strategic and seamless discovery, encompassing an eclectic range of incredible events and activities enriched by exceptional private chefs, slick logistics and utterly exclusive and authentic accommodation.”

One group of past clients were enjoying a bonfire after a South African safari, only to be surprised by Zulu tribes people performing a battle and drum performance. Based on a True Story trips include a professional photographer who helps to create a book of the once in a lifetime experience.

What do you think of the growing trend of experiential vacations? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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This weekend while visiting the bay area, my husband and I went to the LA Galaxy vs San Jose Earthquakes sold out (55,000 tickets) soccer game at Stanford Stadium.

6 p.m. on the evening of the event, an hour before kick off we were only a mile from the event’s dirt parking lots. We turned on to the final street the Embarcadero, to find traffic that resembled a parking lot.

7 p.m. game start time, the fly by goes over our heads. We had moved maybe about 0.4 of a mile in an hour. By 7:30 p.m. we could see parking in the distance, SUVs were mounting the curb to cross over the street, while other people were doing illegal u-turns just to get to the event.

The Stanford Stadium event organizers appeared to have neglected logistics. There was no one to direct traffic, no police, no cones, nothing. It was not until we pulled onto the dirt lot that we found a few disorganized attendants attempting to direct people on a car-by-car basis. The radio commentators acknowledged that a lot of people were struggling to get into the event, but quickly changed the subject by talking about how amazing the event was, as if it didn’t matter that a lot of people had bought tickets for a game they would be lucky to see half of.

We finally made it to the event at 7:45 p.m. The traffic was still deadlocked behind us and once parked people were running to the stadium. The final mile had taken over 1 hour 45 minutes, which seems unbelievable even 3 days later; but yes this seriously happened! We made it to our seats in time for the second half.

Here are some comments from various Yelp reviewers on getting to this event:

“Stadium gets 4 stars… if you were able to teleport there magically… Whoever manages the events here deserves to be criminally charged with something… When you approach the stadium there are no signs and no one directing traffic… I have never seen a stadium with such a pathetic and chaotic parking situation… I ended up missing half the game (as did thousands of others as there was still a long line of cars as I made my way into the stadium)…
 It felt like no real thought had gone into how this parking situation was going to work.”

As a result of the traffic situation, the event’s vendors likely missed out on concession and retail sales. When you arrive at an event so late, shopping or stopping at food stands is not an option for many people who just want to see what’s left of the game.

On a more positive note the second half of the game was AWESOME! Two goals were scored, it was really entertaining and there was a great atmosphere. David Beckham randomly started a fight with an Earthquakes player, illustrating the rivalry of the two teams; it was constant action and time flew by. The game ended with a large firework display, which was not bad at all.

My take away from this, is that when organizing an event with 55,000 people expected, you need to think of the details and plan for different scenarios of what will and what could happen and figure out the logistics. Work with the police to organize a traffic system, put up signs and have people there to direct the traffic. Make sure to communicate the traffic situation so that people coming from out-of-town, know to allow hours to get there. Stanford Stadium hosts many large events and have tennis championships coming up. Hopefully they will do a better job at future events of coordinating traffic to ensure people get to see the full event they have paid for.

Attended any badly organized events? Share your experiences and tips on event organization in the comments section below.

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