Many of those who take the train in New York City are familiar with this image: half the people in a train car simultaneously taking out their mobile devices the moment a train exits a tunnel. That scramble to resume our constantly connected lives may be in the past. Thanks to HTC One and Boingo Wireless, we may never have to put the phones away at all, even when we’re underground.
Our CEO recently tweeted a photo from the Colombus Circle station in Manhattan advertising free Wi-Fi in the underground station. It was just a few years ago that we dreamed about having cellphone signal in subway tunnels, a marvel that at the time seemed impossible. Now 36 stations in the city have Wi-Fi, and it may not be long before we have a connection in the tunnels themselves. The plan is to have connection in the remaining 241 stations in the next four years, bringing us just one step closer to being always connected.
The city itself is becoming a more connected environment. Earlier this year, Google announced the introduction of free Wi-Fi in a neighborhood in Chelsea . It’s only a matter of time before the entire city is one big network that keeps us plugged in everywhere, all the time.
Of course, there are plenty of benefits to always having service - especially underground. Sure, you can check your email or watch streaming videos as you wait for the train. You can use your connectivity to make decisions on the go, even planning your commute while you're on it. But more importantly, your phone will be connected in case of an emergency.
Still, for many people the subway is the only place where they are forced to put their phones away for a bit. Many New Yorkers are concerned that the underground service will mean more people yelling into their cellphones, and more distractions that can potentially endanger the mobile users and those around them. To some, it seems like the advancement of technology might be connecting us to the world, but alienating us from each other.
However you take this news, there’s no denying that the world is moving towards hyper-connectivity. NYC is not the only place to offer more Wi-Fi, as cities like Austin join in to create more connections. Even more significantly, these hot-spots are beginning to out-do our home connections. According to one source, the subway station Wi-Fi is actually faster than home broadband . It’s possible that before we know it, we will be striking internet connection from our list of monthly bills.
Free internet connection in our homes, parks, and trains seems ambitious now, but in a few years it may become the norm. As this project nears its completion, we will think of something else to strive for. What was once a mundane task - taking the subway - has become a completely different experience. As this new advancement becomes the norm, we can only imagine how technology continues to transform our daily lives.