Over 2,000 exhibiting companies congregated at CommunicAsia 2011 here this week, touting revolutionary technologies and top-of-line products and services.
As with most trade exhibitions, product demos were the order of the day and most of the major booths had numerous reps ready and eager to showcase their organization's technology works. As expected, many on display were mobile apps.
One of the more interesting exhibits came from Singapore's IDA booth--I always feel so patriotic during global tradeshows--where a rep from the Police Force said it's putting the finishing touches on its iOS app, Police@SG, which is scheduled for release next month. Designed to provide the public easier access to law enforcement services, the app includes an IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) screening tool that would allow consumers to check if a second-hand phone they're planning to purchase is a stolen good.
What I found most fascinating was the data--updated daily--on criminal activities in the various housing estates cross the island, outlining the number and types of crime that had been reported in each area that month. My neighbors would probably be interested to know that criminals lurking in our estate seem to lean toward "outrage of modesty".
I moved on to another demo, this time, a mobile app that allowed residents within a zoned town council to access various services, including renting public spaces for events, and making an appointment for the removal of bulky items such as old furniture from their homes.
But as the guy attempted to show me a feature within the iOS app, the page wouldn't load. Unfazed and obviously an issue he was already familiar with, he promptly said: "Oh, we're in the basement so Wi-Fi access isn't stable here." The exhibition floor was divided over three areas at the venue--the first and third floors, as well as Basement 2.
I thought to myself then how frustrating it must be for exhibitors located in the basement, especially those that depended on consistent Internet connection to showcase their products.
This "black hole", as well as the general lack of free Internet access at the various media events I've attended, is something I've also become accustomed to--which is why I depend mostly on my personal Mi-Fi device to keep me connected when I need to be.
But, shouldn't free Wi-Fi access already be pervasive today, especially at major trade events and conventions?
According to the CommunicAsia show organizer, 81 percent of exhibiting companies were based overseas. It would be a shame if these key industry players returned home thinking Singapore is still lagging behind and hasn't really lived up to its promise of becoming a Wi-Fi nation.
To be fair, this problem isn't unique to Singapore. I've also attended major tradeshows and events at various U.S. cities, including the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, where free Wi-Fi access wasn't readily available.
And who could forget Apple CEO Steve Jobs' embarrassing demo hiccup last year during the company's iPhone 4 launch, when one of the phone's browser windows failed to load. Jobs later deduced the congested Wi-Fi network caused the connection failure and requested bloggers in the crowd to turn off their Wi-Fi devices.
Just two weeks before Jobs' demo gaffe, Google encountered the same problem at the Moscone and requested attendees to turn off their cell phones to relieve Bluetooth signal interference which had affected the ongoing stage demo.
In an era where organizations, societies and nations are increasingly eager to hold themselves up a global technology and Internet hub, shouldn't pervasive free Internet access then be a basic component?