Wireless Business Plan: Bluetooth Hotspots

Okay, so I've been heads down in Wireless and Mobile news for the past several hours and I've run across another idea. The question in my mind is always like this: "Mobile technologies are gee whiz and cool and are going to be insanely popular. But how can I make money developing for them?"

I think the cool next-gen mobile startup idea is hotspots for phones. WiFi hotspots are completely saturated (e.g. Cometa), but no one (that I can find) seems to be doing Bluetooth Hotspots. The idea is to come up with a kiosk or zone that could be placed in record stores, cafes and the like for downloading high-bandwidth data or uploading photos to be printed from your bluetooth enabled mobile device. Specifically mobile phones with media capabilities. This would be killer, especially in Spain, because A LOT more people will have these phones than will have computers, and it will take several more generations of computer before Bluetooth is widespread.

The kiosk could provide downloads for apps, data, a color printer AND using the VoIP idea that I had the other day - cheap telephone calls! Bluetooth supports up to 1 MBPS which is much faster than anything that will be available via the carriers cheaply for the next few years. Maybe when 3G eventually arrives, this idea will seem bad. But for now, it might work well enough to be profitable.

Doing a Google Search on the idea, it looks like NTT DoCoMo is already on it by using Bluetooth to provide iMode services in saturated areas. And I saw some sites in German with what looked like kiosks already to go. There does seem to be some concern about Bluetooth and WiFi hotspots interfering with each other.

The photo above is from BlueUnplugged.com which has a huge selection of Bluetooth enabled devices, including this bad ass Bluetooth Access Point Server. That would rock. It costs $2000. If you could find somewhere to put it where there would be lots of people willing to pay, say $2 per usage (like the $7 I paid at the SeaTac Airport), it'd only take 1000 uses to pay for the machine. Plus you could hook it up to the net for a fee a month... you'd probably have to cut the owner of the cafe or store or where ever for a bit of the profits. Services aren't as cool as software, because there's those continual costs, instead of ever-increasting ROI like in software... Maybe the REAL idea is to develop all the software to make this all work (sorta like Boingo) and see if someone wants to buy it. A Bluetooth Portal...

By the way, I'm warming up to the SonyEricsson P800. I had decided that Nokia and Series60 phones will rule the world - and they probably will - but the P800 is A LOT smaller than I thought it was, has input capabilities (stylus + handwriting recognition) which none of the other smart phones have and - here's my thing - supports Personal Java, which is a much more powerful version of J2ME than the MIDP spec.

Maybe I DO have a use for the "mobspot.com", "mobispot.com" or "spotblue.com" domain names!


P.S. I finally figured out where Alan got his P800! On the Ericsson website, there's a SonyEricsson P800 Development Kit Bundle with the phone and Metrowerks CodeWarrior. At $1100 it's a bit steep... I can wait a few months until it's generally available, if then. Looks sweet though, shame about the proprietary memory.

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