Not Wired

The Potential Of Wireless

Cell phones bring a unique advantage to the information-retrieval equation: They know where you are. That's because a relatively obscure federal regulation, E911, requires wireless telephone companies to know within about 400 feet where subscribers are when their phones are on. The FCC promulgated that regulation for safety reasons. (The feature makes it easier to respond to "911" emergency calls.) At first, "the carriers looked at this as a real pain," says Cotton. Not anymore. "Now they see it as a money machine."

Chew on this: You walk into a mall and, suddenly, your cell phone beeps and up pops a special offer on the screen: 10 percent off any purchase you make in the next hour in that mall. It's not science fiction-such offers are already being made, says Scott Ferber, CEO and co-founder of Advertising.com, a Baltimore technology company specializing in new-media advertising. Says Ferber, "There's so much excitement about the possibilities wireless offers."

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Wilson agrees. "Location-based services will be particularly attractive to en-trepreneurs," he says. Why? He bets that many of those services will be offered to businesses by fast-moving entrepreneurs who can seize opportunities before larger corporations. "Conceive of a location-based service that could be offered by wireless," says Wilson," and you may gain first-mover advantage."

How big might this market be? Kelsey Group, a Princeton, New Jersey, advisory services firm, says its research finds that one in every four wireless users' requests for business listings from directory assistance leads to a purchase. That, the Kelsey Group points out, suggests that wireless just might take a big bite out of Yellow Pages' sales-and it projects that advertisements over the wireless Web from local businesses will amount to $5.5 billion in 2005.

Those are big numbers, but everything about wireless has the potential to be big. Fact is, the wireless Web is evolving faster than anybody could have predicted-and that means that attractive possibilities are sure to open up to you as a user or a business participant. Ask yourself this: What would people want to receive via wireless devices? The answers define business opportunities, and here are some of the brightest:

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Not Wired.

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