- Disruptive technologies are those that change not just business but society. Personal computers threw the mainframe-computer business for a loop. Airlines replaced passenger trains. HMOs became an alternative to the family doctor. In all these cases, the computer, transportation, and health-care moguls of the time didn’t view the new entrants as real competition, but rather as gimmicks, flukes, toys. And the new entrants were, in their early incarnation, inferior to the technology they replaced. But they appealed to some groups of consumers enough so that they came to compete with, and eventually surpass, the previous technologies. And this is what is happening right now with wireless networking, which promises to change forever the computing and communication industries, creating a lot of business opportunity as it does so.
Wireless networking in this context means strictly unlicensed digital communication using radio signals. That eliminates cellular and other mobile-data networks, which are typically owned by phone companies. What it includes is an unlicensed technology generally known as “WiFi,” because people don’t want to say “IEEE 802.11a, b, and g.”
….The first great idea was the so-called hot spot, a WiFi access point connected to the Internet that allowed those nearby to make a wireless connection to read their e-mail or look at dirty pictures while they drank coffee. Devised in the Internet’s heyday, the not-very-well-thought-out idea was that people who could go online would buy more coffee and pay some sort of fee for access.
There were no great fortunes made in the hot-spot business at the time, primarily because hot spots aren’t cheap to install and run, and there was no regional or national infrastructure to allow potential users to be linked to the Internet when they weren’t drinking coffee.
Only recently, with equipment getting cheaper and millions of people set up for WiFi, are national hot-spot networks starting to appear. Companies you have probably never heard of, like Boingo wireless, Joltage, hereUare Communications, iPass, WiFi Metro, and Way Port, are creating networks of thousands of hot spots in restaurants, in airports, even on commuter trains and airliners. They are aggregating hot spots and creating value where it did not exist before…..