Open Garden's crowdsourced Wi-Fi appeals to carriers, automakers

Open Garden is talking with mobile operators as well as car manufacturers, with both groups hoping to leverage the startup's crowdsourced application that combines bandwidth from Wi-Fi and cellular networks and enables the automatic creation of on-the-fly mesh networks.

The company this week rolled out version 2.0 of its application, which takes the software beyond personal use to leverage the community effect. Whereas version 1.0--which has reached over 2.1 million installs---was aimed at enabling users to share mobile data between their tablet and their laptop, the new version enables more advanced functions such as channel bonding and multi-hop offloading, Micha Benoliel, Open Garden CEO and co-founder told FierceBroadbandWireless.

Channel bonding enables two or more carriers--whether Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G--to be combined into a single channel for more bandwidth. Multi-hop Wi-Fi offloading lets a smartphone offload traffic from the mobile network to a Wi-Fi network indirectly by connecting through another device on a mesh network created using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections across a range of mobile devices, which can include smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.

Open Garden

Version 2.0 of the app enables more advanced functions such as channel bonding and multi-hop offloading.

Verison 2.0 of the app is available for use on devices operating on Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Mac OS X and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android OS. People can download the app free of charge from Google Play or from Open Garden's own website.

"It will take us a few weeks to stabilize this new version," said Benoliel.

Moving forward, the company intends to develop social features to help users share the app, said Benoliel. Further, Open Garden will work with partners monetize its technology.

In particular, Open Garden is in talks to license its technology to mobile operators, which Benoliel contends need to find innovative ways to offload bandwidth-hungry services such as video streaming. "Consumers will blame carriers if their video quality is subpar," he said.

TechCrunch noted, however, some operators are not pleased that Open Garden can enable users to circumvent their own mobile hotspot features, and added that AT&T (NYSE:T), which operates an extensive Wi-Fi network, blocks the service.

Open Garden is also in discussions with players in the car industry. "Car manufacturers came to us because today retrieving information from the sensors in the car is very expensive for them," said Benoliel.

Owners of high-end cars may be willing to pay monthly fees for LTE connectivity in their vehicle, but owners of less-expensive vehicles are unlikely to pay for this type of connectivity. Embedding the Open Garden app into a car would enable the auto to send data to another Open Garden-equipped device, including, for instance, a smartphone belonging to a user who is merely walking by. When that smartphone next connects to Wi-Fi, the car's data would be automatically uploaded to the car manufacturer's Cloud.

"It's an effort to move this data at a very, very low price," said Benoliel.

Open Garden, which has eight employees, recently added James Blom to its team as an advisor in charge of corporate development. Blom is the founder and managing partner of Marin Venture Partners.

Open Garden first launched a beta of its initial tethering solution in May 2012 at the TechCrunch Disrupt event, where it won accolades as the Most Innovative Startup.

The concept of crowdsourced Wi-Fi is lending itself to a number of business models. Another company also hoping to build a business on crowdsourced Wi-Fi connections is Fon, which this week announced a partnership with Deutsche Telekom(DT) to launch Germany's largest Wi-Fi network.

The new service, branded WLan To Go, will offer free access to millions of hotspots worldwide to DT customers who share their home Wi-Fi with other users. Later this year, DT will also launch the Fon service through its subsidiary operations in Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.

For more:
- see this Open Garden release and this release
- see this TechCrunch article
- see this GigaOM article
- see The Next Web article

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