I first met Saul Kato at Stanford back in April, 2001. At the time, he was demoing the first-generation Jack product at Stanford Stadium. The Jack was able to beam a copy of its browser application to a Palm device, which would then communicate with the Jack to retrieve relevant information about Stanford sporting events. In 2001, I described WideRay as “technology to deliver broadband distribution of interactive content to handheld computers and other mobile devices.” The marketing message is a little clearer today (from WideRay’s web site):
WideRay provides the first integrated, single-box solution to provide on-location two-way wireless data services to mobile devices, using high-speed short-range wireless technology (WiFi, Bluetooth and Infrared) integrated with a centrally managed, globally available wireless back-end.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ve probably seen Jack systems at PacBell Park, the Sony Metreon, and your local Land Rover dealer. They now support Palm handhelds, PocketPC’s, and Symbian-powered cell phones.
WideRay’s Jack is also ideal for remote data connectivity purposes. Placed at the edge of a wireless GSM network, Jack Service Points will be able to extend the reach of wireless data into areas that lack any communication infrastructure. Instead of outfitting workers with handhelds capable of supporting wireless data, you can supply your field workers with the cheapest handhelds around (with IR ports) and use them to capture and record data in the field. When they are ready to send, they return to a Jack Service Point and upload. Periodically, the Jack will “wake-up” and transmit the information back to the network and your data-center. Furthermore, since the Jack devices can beam the appropriate applications and data to the devices, there’s a reduced need for the handhelds to return to the main office. Everyone knows what happens when a Palm or PocketPC device runs out of batteries — everything on the device just goes poof! Now, if that happens, all you have to do is replace the batteries, point it at a Jack, and everything is back to normal!
WideRay has teamed up with Satellife to allow health care workers in Uganda to access and share information without wires. Saul mentioned that surveys which originally took 6 months to collect and process now take 2 days! The more that I think of it, the more I feel that WideRay’s approach makes sense in developing countries.
Photos from the past few days at the Fellowship. Recently, had a great lunch with George Kembel (of DoDots days), dinner with Raphael, Segeni, and Heather at the CoHo (I do miss the old CoHo, though), and the Software Development Forum panel discussion with Brij, Khalid, and Sukumar.