VON Visions: Making Connections
Connectivity is the vital resource. Voice is just one of the applications enabled by connectivity.03-Oct-2005

Connectivity is the vital resource. Voice is just one of the applications enabled by connectivity.

While returning from my son's graduation last week, something on I- 90 punctured my tire. I pulled over and changed the tire as cars whizzed by me. I did call 911 on my cell phone but it seemed pointless to wait. The spare was rated at only 50mph and the idea of crawling nearly 300 miles at that "speed" was too horrifying to think about.

I had to get the tire fixed or replaced. It was only two miles to the next service center but it only provided gas and food. I finally realized I could call the car's support number even though my plan had expired. I used my cell phone, pressed 00 to avoid the prompts and got a human who gave me a list of (possible) nearby tire places. It was Sunday at 15:00 but there were a few open till 17:00 or 18:00. I tried to jot down the info on a scrap of paper but the scrawls weren't that readable. Voice isn't a good way to transmit data and I wanted more control over the search.

I then remembered that I was connected- I have a Pocket PC/Cell phone with 1xRTT and my laptop has an EVDO card. Sure, I'd like "real" or native IP connectivity rather than re-hosting IP over the cellular network, but I use what I can get. Despite its limitations and costs, cdma2000 (1xRT, 1xEV-DO, etc.) does have the advantage of being available wherever I am. I found that I could use it all along the Thruway. Even at my hotel it seemed to be a better choice than the hotel's network which was capped at 256Kbps at US$10/day (assuming I can even get that speed). There was also an external third party competing for my hotspot business! It had a lower price but I didn't feel safe because their signup screen was transmitted in the clear (http vs https). Still, it's nice to see such competition; even so, I decided to use EV-DO.

While EV-DO is expensive, my goal is connectivity, not free phone calls. The marketplace will drive the price down but only if I take advantage of whatever connectivity is available. I can go to the web and find a place where I can get my tire repaired or replaced along my route. In fact, instead of going to the service center I could've found a repair service even before I changed my tire. I would've still had to change the tire because it only takes five minutes, which is better than waiting an hour for someone to come and "rescue" me. The time saved would've been vital if I had had the flat at 17:00 rather than 14:20, though futile at 18:00.

I checked out one of the suggested service centers, called them up and then used the GPS system to find my way there.

I didn't immediately think of taking advantage of my connectivity because I'm amazed I can get the pieces to work together, let alone take advantage of them. I experiment with the capabilities but don't normally carry my laptop. Instead, I use the GPS installed in my car but it's pretty lame-updating it requires sending it back to the factory and it still doesn't show the "big dig" which redefined essential traffic patterns in Boston. It's not connected.

The car navigation system doesn't provide the location information as a resource so I have to use a separate GPS unit for the laptop. Bluetooth allows me to connect it with my laptop but doesn't make it easy to share either. In theory I should be able to use the GPS information to locate myself on the map and then search for a nearby service center. It's just a small matter of software-at least if I can assume simple connectivity.

But we still don't have simple connectivity. I was using my laptop to listen to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on my car radio using an RF modulator. I can mix in other audio sources from the laptop but I can't share the speakers with broadcast radio as a source. The car is full of capabilities but they are each tied to their particular solution and thus I'm denied any opportunity to add value.

Connectivity is the vital resource. VoIP is Voice, one of the applications enabled by connectivity.