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How can people tap into a wireless 'cloud'?

By Marsha Walton
CNN Sci-Tech

ATHENS, Georgia (CNN) -- Applications for a wireless "cloud" may not seem obvious at first, but organizers of the high-tech project in Athens, Georgia, say there are many ways in which it can be used.

The University of Georgia has joined with local government to create WAG, the Wireless Athens Group. They're building a cloud over several blocks of the downtown area where anyone with the right equipment can have free Internet access. The cloud now covers about three blocks, and it will soon expand to 24.

CNN's Marsha Walton looks into how users can tap into it.


The Wireless Athens Group successfully tested the network by providing live coverage and instant replays at a local baseball game. Spectators could view the action on handheld devices.  

Isn't it always your luck? You get up from your seat at the baseball park to get some nachos and a beer, and boom! you miss an awesome catch by the right fielder, or the first triple play in a dozen years. University of Georgia students already have successfully tested some options to solve that dilemma. They used wireless technology to provide instant replays on personal digital assistants (PDAs) at a recent college baseball game.

"We have a live camera where fans can watch the whole game from different angles in the stadium, and then a highlights reel where you can watch, specifically, great plays," said Jarrod Carlson, a student working on the project.

And for the really devoted (or lazy) fan, students have come up with a prototype for this possibility: Beam your beer and snack order directly to a computer at the concession stand, punch in your seat number, and the food will be delivered. You never have to miss a pitch, a hit, or an argument with the umpire.


On any given night in this college town, 40 bands might be taking the stage at local bars and coffee houses. For a student unfamiliar with most of the performers, and unwilling to part with a $3 cover charge for music he or she doesn't like, the wireless "cloud" could provide a chance to sample a song or two from some of these bands. Clubs could have audio files of performers' songs on their Web sites; they could even broadcast live from their stages.


People walking out of class or an office and in a rush for lunch could pull up a menu from a local restaurant, place an order, even pay online via their PDA. By the time they walked a few blocks to the cafe, their food would be ready to go. Merchants could encourage these orders with coupons or other incentives unique to wireless customers.

World market

Karim Delgado, CEO of Buena Vista Wireless, hopes to use the same technology as the wireless project in Athens to bring low cost phone and Net connections to developing countries.  

A wireless cloud in central or south America could empower people who have little access to telecommunications infrastructure now, according to Karim Delgado, CEO of Buena Vista Wireless, and a developer of the WAG project.

"You're going to be able to communicate at a very cheap rate," said Delgado, who has traveled extensively in Latin America.

"For instance, a village in Costa Rica that makes leather boots could be included in the world economy by selling their boots online," he said. "Wireless technology could make it possible for them to sell their goods on the world market. To me, that's what technology is all about."


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