The entire mobile economy is based on a tenuous assumption—that we’ll be able to access the mobile web, whenever and wherever we want it, at ever-increasing speeds. The reality is not so rosy: We’ve already seen mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon stop offering their unlimited data plans—and the struggle for bandwidth is going to be even more grueling as the number of tablets and smartphones continues to explode.
Limited access is more than just an annoyance, it’s a mortal threat to innovation. By 2020, wireless technology is expected to have a global impact of $4.5 trillion. But growth depends on our ability to scale up. We need access that matches the number of devices demanding it.
Readily available Wi-Fi could help fix that problem. Internet and phone companies are already starting to deploy small cells—essentially tiny mobile phone towers that serve Wi-Fi along with 4G—in densely populated areas. But those companies have little incentive to build out the massive infrastructure required to connect the rest of the world.
One company has come up with a uniquely audacious solution—a Wi-Fi antenna in a spray can. Chamtech Enterprises has developed a liquid filled with millions of nano-capacitors, which when sprayed on a surface can receive radio signals better than a standard metal rod. With a router, Chamtech’s antennas can communicate with a fiber network, receive signals from targeted satellites, and set up a daisy chain with nearby nodes, potentially creating a mesh network of low-cost, broadband Wi-Fi hot spots. Because the antennas can be painted onto any surface, there would be none of the NIMBY-ism that greets every new cell phone tower. If that’s not fantastic enough, try this: No more cursing AT&T.