Hotbox, a cell-powered WiFi hotspot
Inside a Hotbox is a cellular highspeed data card—EVDO, Edge, whatever you want. The box converts the cellular connection into a local WiFi hotspot. The company that makes it has equipped the particular model above with an M-Tec cellular amp, a high dB marine antenna, and even a VOIP phone, which sounds like quite the package. Unfortunately its Web site doesn’t really detail this setup very well, and also leaves out the daunting $4,500 price tag! The bigger picture, though, is that I’m hearing more and more about this cell-to-WiFi concept, and I like it. I even came across a Norwegian company that’s at least planning a product like this that also integrates NMEA 0183 data. That’s a real wow, because then your boat’s hotspot can both put you online and feed GPS, etc. to your charting program, AND the same data can be send out to the Internet, meaning that, “external users with appropriate software installed can follow the boat’s progress, …a very powerful tool for tracking, monitoring or fleet management.” High speed cellular data is also the foundation of the interesting KVH/Microsoft product (WiFi too) I got a glimpse of in Miami. KVH has now posted a press release, but pricing isn’t on it. I’m told that the system with an external amp and antenna will be “under $1,500” with “all-you-can-eat Internet and MSN TV service under $100/month.” Plus I think you can pop the PCMIA card and use the cell data connection off the boat, in your laptop. Given all that, and KVH customer support, the souped up Hotbox looks a little pricey.