The Treehouse + The Cave

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

You are a Node

Most everyone knows that I'm waiting, credit-card-in-hand, for the day that Apple announces the iPhone. Until that day, which always feels just-on-the-horizon, I've given in. IT was doling out extras, and I bit--I have a BlackBerry.

So far the advantages and disadvantages have been balancing each other nicely. I've realized that what I hate about BlackBerry people isn't the device (though the interface has it's issues)--it's the way these folks allow it to alter their personalities while they're holding it.

I like being able to use Google and Wikipedia while running errands. I like being able to write on the train. I like walking into work without an email to read. I like the industrial design (it's not pretty, but it's solid).

I like that I finally have a personal understanding of how this class of devices is affecting our lives. I like the new avenues of invention and thought two weeks of experience with this thing has brought me. One such thought is the proposal that follows.

Pocket Bridge - Portable Transnetwork Access Point

Pocket Bridge Diagram

Picture a smartphone (BlackBerry/Treo/iPhone) running on a consumer EDGE/EVDO network. Just like today's devices, it would be able to make voice calls, surf the web and receive pushed email from corporate email servers--what will be considered the basics soon. One might also throw in a WiFi receiver to be nice.

What I'd add is a WiFi transmitter.

Imagine having a phone that could gain internet access from a high-speed cellular network and retransmit it on 802.11g or N or whatever--a pocket-sized stompbox. Now throw in the ability for an IT person to hard-code a VPN into it at the same time it's being configured to receive pushed email. A worker would commute home, able to check his email or make calls on the device itself at any time. Then, once home, the device would become a wireless access point connected directly into the corporate LAN (through EDGE/EVDO and the hard-coded VPN) and rebroadcasting encrypted WiFi. This way, the worker could open their WiFi enabled laptop and continue to have seamless intranet/network volume access the second they walked in the door.

Basically it would be a WiFi cloud and a VPN in your pocket, available anywhere. Groups of workers traveling, if equipped with even one of these devices would be able to instantly assemble an ad-hoc LAN, no different than home base.

This would of course also work for non-corporate consumers, making things like bonjour-shared iTunes libraries available anywhere there's high-speed cellular coverage. Wait, we're back to iPod-based personal radio stations on the subway...

Anonymous Ian W. thought:

Pieces of what you're talking about already exist today in some form, but it's all spotty and not well supported by networks. For instance, I use my Motorola V710 to get online with my 12" PowerBook via Bluetooth. It doesn't support EVDO, but it's fast enough to be worth using in a pinch. I pay for the monthly wireless web plan, so this is technically something I'm allowed to do, even though Verizon claims that using Bluetooth to connect through your computer is against the rules (and there really isn't much they can do to stop me besides disable Bluetooth in my phone, for which I would promptly drop my plan with them if they did).

Verizon previously did restrict the use of their EVDO network via Bluetooth, but they've since relented and decided to charge $60/month for the service. I'm debating whether this will be worth signing up for when I finally get ahold of a new Motorola Q.

May 14, 2006 at 7:15 PM - Comment Permalink  
Blogger Andy thought:

True enough. I've used my PowerBook connected via Bluetooth to my T610 (one of the few phones I could find without crippled Bluetooth) to get a trickle of internet over GSM. But it was barely usable for email, and most importantly, wasn't sharable. A mobile client is very different than a mobile LAN.

A more accurate example would be a PowerBook user who has an EVDO card who turns on internet sharing over WiFi. I've seen this done, in airport waiting areas for instance--whole groups of people can suddenly get open internet access from one generous seed--it's incredible.


May 14, 2006 at 8:12 PM - Comment Permalink  

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