Google plans to entice SMBs to part with their data and the data of customers in return for cheap wi-fi hardware and software.
According to tech blog The Information (subscription required), Google will "heavily" subsidize commercial-grade wi-fi network hardware and software for SMBs.
The publication cites a confidential document and a person close to the project, and says the project could be unveiled as soon as this summer in the United States, before being launched abroad. Businesses including restaurants, libraries, gyms and doctor's offices will be targeted in order to boost the quality of Wi-Fi services offered to customers.
Such a scheme will provide wider connectivity in our cities, but could also provide Google with a valuable data channel that can be monetized through advertizers and marketing companies. SMBs signing up for the project, and customers using wi-fi hotspots, may be required to "sign in" with a Google account when using the service, giving Google the opportunity to gather data on customers and clients. This, in turn, could let Google recoup losses from the subsidized tech by selling on data for targeted marketing.
According to the report, Google will share some data with business owners to sweeten the deal and let them learn about their customers' habits.
In August, Google inked a partnership with Starbucks to replace AT&T as the provider of connectivity for coffee shop wi-fi hotspots.