Limo company drives hotspots into passenger’s laptops

In an increasingly wired world, the car was one of the few remaining places a weary business traveler could escape the tether to their office. If a Vancouver technology company has it’s way though, that could soon change.

Vancouver’s In

Motion Technology Inc. has signed an agreement with Rosedale Livery Ltd, a Toronto-based executive car service, to install wireless Internet access in the company’s limousines.

Once installed, the service will allow Rosedale’s customers to connect to the Internet with their WiFi-enabled laptop or PDA during the drive to the airport or the next meeting to catch up with e-mails or connect to the head office.

In Motion president Kirk Moir explained the service, dubbed OnBoard Hotspot, involves installing a box into each vehicle that is monitored by In Motion’s network operations centre. The box is equipped with a CDMA 1X card running on the Telus Mobility network.

“”We see ourselves in the business of enabling business professionals to be productive even while in transit by making wireless hotspots truly mobile,”” said Moir. “”We’re trying to allow (car services) to offer convenient, high performance Internet connectivity, which we see increasingly being a new selection criteria for their passengers.””

Moir said In Motion’s service is certified to Intel’s Centrino standard and no software instillation is required by a user, just a device running a Windows OS with a WiFi client installed. The car service also just needs to install the hardware; In Motion does the monitoring.

“”All the company is really required to do is install the hardware in their vehicles, and we look after it from there,”” said Moir. “”In addition to providing hardware in the vehicle, we provide a complete managed service for them.””

As far as connection speed, in Canada Moir said they’re running on Telus Mobility’s 1X RTT network, which theoretically can reach up to 144K. However, the typical connection speed seems to be around 80-90k.

“”It’s equivalent to entry level DSL in the US and Canada,”” said Moir.

Moir said they’re focusing on the car service market for a number of reasons. It’s a market where a 70-80k-service speed is acceptable, with usually just one or two passengers sharing the connection, and the clientele that values it’s time and needs to be connected.

“”Car services is also a particularly competitive segment of the transportation space, they understand the power and necessity of market differentiation,”” says Moir.

With the company moving from shore-haul airport trips into the road show business which involves longer rides, Rosedale Livery president Craig McCutcheon said Internet access from the vehicle has become an interesting perk to offer their customers.

“”We’ve found they’re constantly asking the question, ‘Hey, can I plug into your cell phone and get my e-mail?’ That kind of stuff,”” said McCutcheon. “”We’ve recognized that people are trying to get better Internet access between meetings, so it seemed like a nice fit.””

At the moment, McCutcheon said Rosedale and another car service company In Motion is working with in the U.S. seem to be pioneering the in-car hotspot concept, but he said he imagines it may well become commonplace.

Right now, Rosedale just has the service installed in one car as a beta test and is evaluating customer reaction.

“”As the laptops start to have that card in them, it will probably become the norm but I don’t know of other companies that are doing it right now,”” said McCutcheon. “”Customers think it’s really neat, the first question then ask usually is I wonder if my computer can do that.””

McCutcheon said one of the hurdles to a wider instillation is the pricing. Rosedale and In Motion are currently negotiating with Telus on what the connectivity to the Telus Mobility network will cost.

“”I think they’re talking about a pretty significant dollar to have the connectivity,”” said McCutcheon, who added he’d like to absorb the cost as part of the regular fee for the ride and have the Internet access available standard to Rosedale’s customers.

“”Ultimately, if a passenger has a laptop ready to go it would be available to them, it would just be an added benefit of service,”” said McCutcheon.


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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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