Eyetease extends the "connectivity as advertisement" mentality to London cabs

By Nathaniel Mott , written on December 10, 2012

From The News Desk

Connected is almost always better than unconnected. There are exceptions -- someone may prefer to be truly isolated while "gettin' their Thoreau on," for instance -- but, generally, a minute without Internet is a minute to be avoided. And as LTE and other high-speed technologies are adopted, we're getting to the point where a minute with a so-called crappy Internet connection is worse than having no connection at all.

Eyetease, which is the name of a London-based startup and not someone's, erm, "street name," is set to make sure Londoners don't have to deal with a poor connection ever again -- in a taxi, anyway. The company today announced that it would be offering free WiFi in London taxis in early 2013, and is in talks with "a global credit card company and a leading mobile phone manufacturer" to sponsor the rollout.

Taxi-goers will be able to use the WiFi connection for 15 minutes, preceded by the viewing of a 15-second video advertisement. Drivers will also be utilize the connection, though how this would be implemented (hopefully without the whole "watch an ad" requirement) hasn't been detailed.

Eyetease's solution is reminiscent of Google's efforts to advertise its Offers product earlier this year. Google sponsored free WiFi connectivity in some 250 locations around New York – including six subway stations – in exchange for putting Offers in front of people who otherwise would have gone without a connection. WiFi, and connectivity in general, is increasingly powered by (or providing an alternative to) traditional advertising.

Someone trying to connect to the Internet with their smartphone is offering their undivided attention to whatever flashes on screen. In Google's case, this was a page heralding Offers – in Eyetease's case, it's a message from whoever was willing to sponsor the connection. A combination of mobile devices' tendency of displaying just one item on-screen, a desire to be connected to the Internet, and an aversion to anything that doesn't come free offers a powerful incentive to go ahead and sponsor that connection.

Will it work? We won't know until the service has finalized its partnerships and has been used out in the field. But is it an interesting concept, and one that's far more appealing than New York taxi's built-in television sets that are often turned off at the earliest opportunity. Connectivity is king in the mobile age, and Eyetease is just one of the latest to attempt to capitalize on this fact.