L.A. Weekly looks at a future full of info to go:
- OF COURSE ANGELENOS UNDERSTAND mobile culture. We practically invented it. Our city evolved around an earlier era’s breakthrough personal mobile technology — the car — and we were arguably the first and most conspicuous U.S. adopters of cell-phone culture. Los Angeles is the hometown of drive-in, drive-through and drive-by: We’re a city in a state of perpetual motion.
Imagine Los Angeles’ unwired future:
* Your car pulls up to the corner station. You not only refuel (or recharge), but download maps, up-to-the-minute traffic reports, and new songs for your wireless car-audio system. Press an “instant buy” button on your dash to pay for fuel and music, and off you go.
* You’re on the wireless mailing list for a hot, exclusive new dance club. The club promoter text-messages you the afternoon before the launch party with event details and a secret password. You bypass the interminable line at the front door, flash the SMS credentials on your PDA screen to the bouncer, and walk right in.
* Traffic snarls no longer rule your road experience, because the only traffic report you need is custom downloaded for your commute. Your wireless-enabled car “talks” with others on the road and with data buoys, in a peer-to-peer data-sharing network that delivers up-to-the-minute road-condition information on exactly where you’re headed.
It’s all coming, according to the technologists, entrepreneurs and wireless innovators who recently told me about what they see in the Southland’s untethered future. Yet while the advent of wireless technologies like Wi-Fi/802.11b, ultrawideband and high-speed packet data services could transform our urban culture and civic life, we won’t know exactly how until the networks actually arrive.
Despite a crescendo of promise and hype, wireless Internet in Los Angeles remains in its embryonic state, lagging behind the technology in other cities such as San Francisco and Seattle. And the U.S. wireless marketplace, which is jammed with multiple, competing protocols and myriad technical, regulatory and commercial challenges, lags behind other countries. While our telecom industry, in the midst of its recent epic woes, struggles to implement 2.5G and 3G (third generation) data services, ultra-unwired Finland and Japan have plans in the next 10 years to introduce 4G — mobile communication technology that transmits data more than three times faster than the current standard. It’s to them we can look for a more advanced vision of what would be possible in Los Angeles.
A drop of water is like a drop of wireless bandwidth: Each costs virtually nothing, but the complex networks that enable their delivery are anything but cheap or easily constructed. Soon, both may seem equally essential to the region’s quality of life and economic health. And just as technological breakthroughs in the last century enabled water to flow throughout L.A.’s arid terrain — generating new growth in its path and indelibly altering our social landscape — unwired bandwidth may soon transform our cultural topography.
You can be sure L.A. will have it before Cleveland does.