If you’ve caught a cab in a major Canadian city lately, there’s a good chance you had access to free Wi-Fi for the duration of your trip. You may even have marveled at how far Wi-Fi has travelled in the last few years. It used to be a luxury, but now it’s everywhere—and TELUS and Colony Networks are powering a large number of these mobile Wi-Fi installations.
Recently, Michael Kuhlman, Colony’s President and CEO, told me how it all started. “The idea came out of conversations with a Vancouver taxi company that’s a TELUS customer,” Michael said. “We discussed offering free Wi-Fi to taxi passengers as a way to provide better service and differentiate them from the competition. It was not as simple as having the driver use his phone as a hotspot as that would lead to many challenges. This was a collaborative experience where we defined use cases and concerns and then leveraged technology to make it happen.”
Today, TELUS and Colony Networks customers can offer guest Wi-Fi in taxis, limousines, airport shuttles, rental cars and even long distance buses that travel inter-city routes. One customer rents RVs to tourists who want to stay connected on the open road and we recently started a pilot study with a school board in Ontario, to offer Wi-Fi on three of their longest school bus routes. Some students travel more than an hour each way and the Board wanted to see whether they would take advantage of the Wi-Fi to get a start on their homework.
We have also deployed a version of the solution for customers who need to provide their employees with high-speed connectivity in mobile environments. “The employee market is growing as fleet and delivery drivers often have mobile forms to complete, or need to connect to enterprise applications,” Michael says. “Having Wi-Fi in their vehicles can help, especially if their devices do not have access to 4G wireless networks, but are Wi-Fi capable, making them cheaper.” Our solution is also being leveraged by businesses that need Wi-Fi for both employees and guests at temporary locations like trade shows, pop up stores and construction sites.
Managing Wi-Fi hotspots
For any business, the importance of managing access to and usage of a temporary or mobile Wi-Fi solution should not be underestimated. Someone can easily position themselves next to a taxi stand just to access the free Wi-Fi. A driver who has Wi-Fi in a company vehicle may be tempted to download content while driving. A student on a school bus should not be able to access mature content. Long distance bus or rental companies need the ability to manage customer usage of free Wi-Fi, while also being able to offer incremental data packages that can be purchased using a credit card.
Together with Colony Networks, we’ve worked with customers to solve all of these issues:
By controlling who can access the Wi-Fi and for how long, businesses can tackle many issues such as misuse, overuse and security. The solution allows an organization to use different methods of authentication, such as requiring a valid email address or phone number, login via Facebook or other social media accounts or whitelisting devices. Session lengths and frequency of sessions can also be managed. What this means is that in a cab, for example, we can put an upper limit on a Wi-Fi session that is slightly longer than the average cab ride. In cases where multiple devices may need to connect to Wi-Fi — video cameras, dispatch systems, digital advertising, etc. — the solution plays a key role in controlling and managing secure access. Today, transportation vehicles are being fitted with multiple devices to provide a better customer experience, increase monetization or ensure safety for the occupants.
2. Content management
The software application uses policies to allow companies to determine what type of content should be blocked or enabled. These policies filter content and bandwidth at the device level to enable the user experience. For example, a company providing Wi-Fi in its taxis or buses would want to block the ability of devices to run cloud backups (photos, videos, etc.) and software updates that typically require significant data. In cases such as the fleet market, companies can disable streaming of audio and video by their drivers. For school buses, it’s imperative to block certain types of content or sites. This can all easily be done with the help of filters.
3. Keeping it secure
No company can take security lightly today and this is especially important with employee Wi-Fi implementations where confidential enterprise data could be exposed, or when young people are accessing the Internet on buses. Once again, we have already taken this into consideration. In addition to user authentication, there are policies companies can use to block websites hosting malware, to prevent phishing or scams and to protect users accessing the Wi-Fi. Plus, at the network level, we can ensure security through the use of a virtual private network (VPN).
4. Predictable data costs
With most technology implementations, a company or stakeholder must evaluate costs and determine whether they are one-time or recurring. Businesses need and prefer predictable costs that are planned for, rather than surprises. With the application, data costs can be contained within fixed amounts. As data usage reaches preset thresholds, the service can switch to modes that use less data—reducing access time, reducing bandwidth, introducing stricter policies and filters and prioritizing end applications or devices connected to the Wi-Fi. For the rental market or long distance coaches, companies can give their customers the ability to purchase additional data using their credit cards via the application’s Wi-Fi access captive portal landing page.
5. Custom branding and powerful analytics
Companies can improve engagement through branded portals with marketing content. The application allows for periodic edits and improvements that can include new offers. Managers will also appreciate the valuable data the solution makes possible. Information collected on each visit can include the time a connection was made, its length, data used, demographics of the user, the device used and more. Extensive analytic reporting is provided in map, graph and table form, delivering business insights into new versus repeat visits, usage patterns and customer loyalty.
To learn more about Public Transportation WiFi and Wireless Bandwidth Content Monitoring solutions, visit the TELUS IoT Marketplace.