Poo-for-wifi swaps just the start as wifi becomes valuable global currency

Swapping poo for free wifi access sounds like a quirky news item, until you realise that this is just one of many ways to leverage off our desire to have constant wireless access to the internet. Bartering with wifi is far more valuable than charging for it, explains leading South African trends watcher Dion Chang.

The ability to identify, and then ride, the wave of a major trend as early as possible is what has made many people very, very rich. Dion has made it his business to identify clues to these next trends for entrepreneurs.

In his latest blog, published here on Biznews.com, Dion points to the ever-growing power of the internet and its currency, wifi. Connectivity is now a daily need, almost like the need to have eight glasses of water, so think about how you can leverage off our insatiable demand for it.

It annoys Dion tremendously to have to pay for internet access these days. He notes that it is only a question of time before we’ll all be able to simply sit down on a bench anywhere and access the cyberworld.

As for the doggy doo idea, Dion suggests a South African twist. He proposes giving people free access to the worldwide web in exchange for picking up litter at taxi ranks and bus stops. – JC

I connect, therefore I am: the currency of wifi

By Dion Chang

South African futurologist Dion Chang sniffs around for clues about where the next business opportunities will be in some of the strangest places. Doggy doo in Mexico might not spark any great ideas in our heads, but Dion Chang sees lucrative opportunities ahead in the bartering trade around wifi - and that includes swapping excrement for free internet time.
South African futurologist Dion Chang sniffs around for clues about where the next business opportunities will be in some of the strangest places. Doggy doo in Mexico might not spark any great ideas in our heads, but Dion Chang can see how the principle of swapping something unpleasant for  access to the internet could easily become a major trend.

It irks me no end when hotels charge for wifi, especially the expensive, five star ones. I don’t understand why the more affordable hotels are happy to offer free wifi, but the luxury ones can’t, or won’t. Cap my usage and make me pay thereafter, make me watch an ad before I can log on, or simply restrict me to hotspots in the lobby, which some hotels do, but just give me some sort of access, for free. It is no longer an extra option, but rather a standard amenity that is expected.

In fact, the United Nations declared Internet access a basic human right last year.

US ambassador Eileen Donahoe said of the ruling, (which was supported by the General Assembly’s 47 member countries), “It’s the first ever UN resolution affirming that human rights in the digital realm must be protected and promoted to the same extent and with the same commitment as human rights in the physical world.” In hindsight the declaration was way ahead of the curve and should be applauded.

Research has shown that for every 10% point increase in broadband, a country’s GDP increases by 1%: so connectivity is now essential to an economy.

It is not surprising then that wifi access is fast becoming the deal breaker when booking a hotel. We’ve reached a very real tipping point in terms of connectivity as a commodity. Leveraging this need for connectivity has sparked a new wave of innovative thinking in terms of consumer engagement and brand loyalty, the biggest challenge faced by all marketers and advertisers in a digital era.

In Mexico City, free wifi access was used as an incentive to clean up public parks of dog excrement. Terra, a broadband supplier, devised a clever system that encouraged dog owners to clean up after their dogs, bag the poo and deposit the bags into specially marked bins. The bins weighed the droppings and converted the weight into free wifi that was then beamed free across the park. Imagine using the same concept, but swapping dog poo for litter and offering free wifi at taxi ranks, bus shelters or even community centres: any place where people congregate and litter is a problem.

In fact bus shelters and benches (in parks or in shopping malls) are already being used as new wifi hotspots. “Smart benches” will soon be seen in shopping malls across South Africa and will offer shoppers a chance to not only rest their feet, but also to connect whilst doing so.

One of the more unusual innovations involving “wifi bartering” is embedding the wifi hotspot into movie posters, as they have done in South Korea. Movie theatres are battling to compete with streamed or downloaded entertainment platforms, so embedding a wifi signal into a poster not only forces wifi junkies to stand in front of a specific poster, but also provides an extra opportunity to dispense digital information about the movie when a person logs on to the service. It takes branding and capturing consumer attention to another level.

We’ve reached a stage in our lives where connectivity is a daily need, and leveraging that need is where the unusual business opportunities lie. Bartering wifi for your attention is far more valuable – in terms of brand communication as well as loyalty – than simply charging for it, which is such 20th century, bottom line thinking, and is as outdated as an old dial up modem.

First published in Sawubona, SAA’s award winning in-flight magazine.

Dion Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. For more business trends visit: www.fluxtrends.com 


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