Wi-Fi Cruising: Italian Highways Go Wireless
Italian car drivers are getting very excited around the opportunities created by the new cutting-edge business initiative allowing individuals to buy Wi-Fi connection passes to hook up to the net while cruising the Sunshine Freeway (Autostrada del Sole, linking Milan with Rome and Neaples - it is about 750 km long).
Photo credit: Igor Kasalovic
Initially the highway hotspots are available only on certain parts of the A1 and A4 highways in the northern and more industrialized part of the country.
The first highway hotspots have appeared on the A1 between Milano and Bologna and on the A4 between Milano and Brescia.
To access the service, users need first to register on the Megabeam site at www.linkem.com or purchase a pre-paid card in one of the available gas stations. Prices range from 6,50 EU for one hour to 12,90 for 24 hours.
The service has been received very positively by consumers who have doubled in number each month after the initial launch and according to sources, in the near future the service will be extended to more sections of the Italian highway system.
While driving and computing may appear not to be easily compatible applications, there are indeed many useful uses and applications that can be leveraged out of this new service.
First of all passengers of any car or bus can enjoy full access to the Web and their email, something that they did not have available to them until now.
Secondly the web is much better equipped to provide precise and detailed information about traffic, accidents and other just-in-time information which is now traditionally delivered via FM radio. Unfortunately listening to such information on the radio forces listeners to hear ALL of the information for all of the highways with no ability to specify and select the highway sections they are interested in.
Drivers subscribing to ad-hoc P2P networks could share traffic information freely with other drivers joining the same information channel and provide even fresher and more up-to-date news and alerts than the public emergency and patrol services could.
RSS could be easily deployed to alert the driving Web user only if certain information criteria (geographical area, specific highway, risk factor, etc.) are met.
I can also imagine that while the driver could at anytime wear a suitable earphone with mike, the other occupants of the car could well join him on a meeting conversation while being also able to share, view, download and even print relevant documents and images.
But driving long distances is often also an opportunity for relaxing, enjoying the visual beauty surrounding the journey and getting pleasure out of having full control of your navigation ship. I, like many others enjoy listening to radio while driving, and I must truly admit that, with the right music and friends, traveling by car is just a completely different matter. Time just flies. So, imagine for a second how it would be to jam and sing together with others while the music fills your mobile four-wheeler. With Wi-Fi and new collaborative music software my long-time dream is getting very close to become a reality. You could actually find online matches for the music or genre you wanted to jam to, and then join a few other online to perform over your favorite track. However mad it may sound to you, you can count on this and many other crazier applications to spring up and gain grounds well beyond this naive pet-peeve of mine.
And while I compliment the companies behind this initiative, my suggestion for good business is still to "wire the rails before the highways". In trains there are already LOTS of people using their personal computers, and while Wi-Fi would be a uniquely powerful marketing strategy to increase travelers on specific lines, on busy routes it could be an intelligent way to provide a highly-in demand service while bringing a comfortable flow of new money to the railway company.
Wi-Fi is a powerful business enabler. But remember the greatest and smartest business is NOT in charging for the Wi-Fi access but in creating and providing products and services that augment, complement and enhance the activities and needs people will take on while Wi-Fi connected.
What do you think?
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