Picture the scene: you’re on the London Underground, with no wi-fi and no cellular connectivity, and you’re bored. A poster on the tube train catches your eye. It’s advertising the latest Star Wars movie, and at the bottom of the poster there’s a call-to-action inviting you to log on to the ‘Tube’ wi-fi network to watch the movie trailer. You open your phone, log on and hey presto, a few seconds later, you’re immersed in the trailer.
This is the promise of Meshh, a technology platform created by innovation agency CURB, which plans to create local digital content distribution networks which will enable anyone with a wi-fi-enabled device to download content without any need for a cellular or wi-fi data connection. Meshh does this by locking the wi-fi on a user’s device into a dedicated media channel, rather than just a general connection to the web, without the need for an app.
The key to the idea is the Meshh box, a small unit about the size of an external hard disc drive, fitted with a SIM that provides scheduling and multiple updates remotely. Meshh is working with Vodafone to include the operator’s M2M SIM technology in the Meshh boxes, to provide scheduling and multiple updates remotely. The content is pre-loaded on to the box and can then be downloaded by up to 50 people within 30m of the device. Content can be uploaded and updated remotely, via an internet or cellular connection.
The use-cases for the technology are many and varied, while all sharing the common theme of bringing content to mobile consumers, without the need for a data connection. The movie trailer on the tube is just one example that could apply equally to other forms of transport.
An out-of-home poster advertising a movie, car or anything else could offer passers-by the opportunity to download promotional content that might move them down the purchase funnel. Publishers could offer consumers the chance to download a trial issue of a magazine in seconds. A school could use Meshh to make it easy for pupils to download curriculum content to their tablet to help with their homework.
For event organisers, Meshh could be used to create a presentation download portal for delegates, with all the presentations from the day’s event available in a single download. Or in sports stadia, Meshh could be used to deliver highlights from the first half during the half-time break. Meshh will make its money by charging brands to access the platform to deliver their content, and of course, if it succeeds in building an audience, ad revenues will also logically follow.
Whether it is successful in this respect, of course, depends on a couple of things. Firstly, partnerships. If you want to install small routers on buses, underground trains and poster sites, you need the permission of the owner to do so, so the company is currently in discussion with out-of-home media owners, whose inventory includes not just billboard sites, but things like bus wraps too.
The second challenge is education. As clever as the idea of a content download with no need for a data connection is, it’s arguably almost too clever for its own good, and Meshh concedes that the media owners will need to get involved in educating people if the platform, which will be branded Wi-Fi(+) when it launches at the end of Q1, is to take off.
It’s a smart idea though, and doubtless there are many other use-cases than even Meshh itself has currently thought of. As Meshh CMO Dave Black says: “A Meshh box is essentially a transmittable hard drive, with some clever firmware on board that can be accessed within a walled garden of content you create. It is designed to work with every type of HTML5 digital content for mobile and tablet devices. Publishers can quite literally deliver any type of digital content to users anywhere in the world. It offers true off-the-grid connectivity.
“We have none of the restrictions or connectivity issues of a typical internet, data or wi-fi connection. We create a local network meaning there’s no buffering, no data feed running via satellite or any dependence on bandwidth. That allows content download speeds of up to 300mb/second and the immediate delivery of media to a digital device faster than any 3G or 4G signal. It also means we can create connected interactive content distribution networks quite literally anywhere – whether on a single train, a fleet of planes or across 500 stores around the world.”
If Meshh takes off, we can possibly look forward to a future where we’ll never be bored again, no matter how far we are from a mobile signal or wi-fi network.