Tee Time For The Wi-Fi Platform
By Mike Masnick, Thu Oct 14 22:45:00 GMT 2004

Wi-Fi isn't just for connections any more. One company has created an entire suite of bundled devices, applications and services that make Wi-Fi a no brainer on the golf course -- demonstrating the power of wireless as a platform.

The evidence is mounting that companies are finally starting to view Wi-Fi as much more than just a way to connect wirelessly, but as a full platform on which to build applications and services that deliver much more than could be built alone. In many cases, this is happening organically, as places like hotels add additional applications and services one-by-one as they come up with them. The same thing is happening at sports stadiums as they start by adding Wi-Fi and slowly add more useful applications on top of the network.

However, a company named GPS Industries is going all out with its Wi-Fi offering for golf courses, with a complete turnkey system that seems to offer more ways to use Wi-Fi than holes on the course. The combined solution shows how a thorough thinking of ways to leverage a ubiquitous wireless network allow users (and providers) to do much more than simply "connect."

These include ways to benefit customers, benefit staff and increase revenue generation, all in one. On the customer front, the system provides more detailed information about the course the golfer is playing -- including location specific information. This way golfers can get an accurate reading of how far they are from the green and the lay of the land between them and the hole. This is the type of information that a professional caddy may have, but the average golfer has to guess about. For the staff, the positioning information lets them have a better idea of what areas of the course are receiving more wear and tear, and therefore may be in need of additional maintenance.

From the revenue generation side, beyond just making golfers happier and more willing to play a course, the system increases golf cart rentals -- since the system includes carts outfitted with Wi-Fi-enabled tablet PCs. It also lets golfers order food while out on the golf course. The company has found that this can mean golfers will order more expensive prepared sandwiches while golfing, rather than a quick hotdog to make sure they don't have to wait around for food. Finally, the original reason why Wi-Fi gets so much attention: by letting golfers connect to the Internet, they don't necessarily have to rush back to work so quickly, and can spend more time at the course.

Looked at in isolation, none of these applications sound particularly revolutionary. However, the entire bundled package recognizes that there are many different ways to take advantage of a wireless network -- and this wider use of wireless can benefit almost everyone at the golf course. This gives just a glimpse of what a wireless system can do when its viewed as a complete platform rather than just a distraction from the action. This idea, of course, isn't just limited to the sporting arena, either. It's just the realization that what makes wireless really useful is the combined services and applications that let many different stakeholders do things that couldn't have been done efficiently before.