Autore: ExtremeTech

Mobile data is increasingly important to our everyday lives. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops all need connections to the internet for most activities, so we’re always concerned about coverage and usage. Mobile hotspots are already useful, but what if you got rewarded for being a good Samaritan? That’s the idea driving the research project called Air Mobs. If you share data, you’ll get credit for usage down the road.

MIT’s Viral Spaces research group has developed a peer-to-peer wireless tethering system that encourages users to share as much as they use. The Air Mobs app runs in the background, and decides the appropriate time to turn on and off WiFi sharing to the world. If your mobile signal is weak, your battery is low, or you’re moving around too much, it won’t even bother to turn it on. When the situation is stable, other people can take advantage of your connection. In return, you’ll get credit for the data usage.

MIT Viral mobile dataNow, all of this remains theoretical because Air Mobs remains private. If it went live on, say, the Google Play store, there would undoubtedly be backlash from the carriers. In a recent article MIT’s Eyal Toledano explained that potential uproar from the carriers is keeping him from making Air Mobs public. So, as it stands, the potential of the system remains unreached, and the details about the data credit system are scarce.

Anecdotally, I went to a wedding last weekend and ended up sharing my LTE connection with a few people that had tablets. They were grateful for the connection, and it felt good to be the one who could make that happen. Imagine the same thing on a larger scale. AT&T users in a Verizon-only coverage zone wouldn’t be left out in the cold. People will want to share their connection while it’s good so they’ll be covered when they’re traveling where it isn’t. This project takes those scenarios and escalates them to an enormous scale.

Based on the current obstacles, we may never see this come to fruition. Even if we do, there is a good chance that Verizon, AT&T, and other stakeholders would come in and shut it down. Still, it’s an idea with serious disruptive potential. Instead of expensive airport or hotel WiFi, a user-based wireless mesh with sharing incentives sounds quite effective.

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