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This device can apparently 'charge with internet' at home from my router, then allow me to connect with my phone while I'm out and about. It claims to work on planes and subway trains too.

In the FAQs they make reference to a SIM chip in the device, but this still wouldn't let it work on planes etc.

Have you seen those "Portable battery chargers for smartphones" ?

Well the idea of the device is based on it , but the difference here is the internet part.

Instead of charging the device from pc with electricity you will charge our device ( WiFiEX) with internet from your home-wifi.

To put it bluntly is there any way this could work both economically and technically, or is this a scam?

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I can only charge it with 10GB of internet? But it says if I charge it with more MBs, it's faster. I want to go faster than 10GB. –  Geobits Jul 7 at 13:42
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It is full of something alright... marketing impossible products to the ignorant has a long history older than snake oil. –  Paul Jul 7 at 14:46
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"Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway." –  ChrisW Jul 7 at 14:50
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@Fabian: this is parody: kickstarter.com/projects/324283889/potato-salad, WiFiEX looks more like a scam. Giant red flag would be the fact that they are disabling or deleting any user comments. –  vartec Jul 7 at 15:41
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Here's the response from Indigogo: "Thank you for sharing your concern with us and your comprehensive explanation. Campaign owners on Indiegogo are required to adhere to our Terms of Use (indiegogo.com/about/terms). We are reviewing this campaign and will be in touch with any questions. Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch with us and for helping to keep Indiegogo a safe and secure platform." –  Adam Davis Jul 8 at 13:51

2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Working my way through the broken English, they don't seem to mean "charging" as with electricity, but rather just using that as an analogy.

As far as I can tell, this is how it works

  • You connect the WifiEX device to your home network
  • Through their satellite network, other people connect through your device (and all other such devices currently in "at home" mode), using it as an interface between their satellite network and the internet at large, in a peer-to-peer arrangement. While it's doing this, you build up a credit, which they're calling a "charge", up to a maximum of 10GB.
  • When you disconnect it from your home network, it then switches to "mobile" mode and you connect through their satellite network to others devices for internet and use your built up credit ("charge") to have internet on the go.

I do not pretend to understand how they think this kind of system is at all feasible. Mobile satellite internet systems do exist (e.g. Iridium's GO! ), but the client-side hardware for that is about 3 times this thing's price, and I can't even find out what the actual service costs, though I suspect it comes in around "You don't even want to know", and the main cost on such a system is the satellite network (putting stuff in orbit is decidedly not cheap. Putting a single Iridium satellite into orbit costs in the vicinity of $13 million US. And Iridium's network has 72 (66 active and 6 spares) such satellites. For those playing at home, that's nearly a billion dollars in launch costs, not counting the cost of the satellites themselves), not the downlink. And they're not charging for the satellite bandwidth (which networks operators like Iridium charge lots for, as they need to make back the aforementioned network costs. Just voice appears to cost somewhere around $0.83/minute.), but rather only using customers to save on their downlink bandwidth.

Personally, it smells like a scam and going by the decided lack of funding they're getting, pretty much everyone else in the world also thinks so.

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@ChrisW - Your theory of it being a cache doesn't align with their talk about the device connecting to satellites. –  Compro01 Jul 7 at 15:26
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Worth noting that it's using "Flexible Funding", which means every dollar they raise is theirs, scam or not. –  Bobson Jul 7 at 16:11
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I found a reseller advertising $1.39/minute for iridium data. Wikipedia indicates that while compression is used automatically, the raw data rate is only 2.4k. "You don't even want to know" sounds about right. –  Dan Neely Jul 7 at 17:05
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@ChrisW they claim that it will work even on the airplane. If it is pure cache then you won't get anywhere. Want to Google? Nope, not cached. The best you can cache is pages from sites you visit regularly based on your history. It will be awful browsing experience. Only preloaded content, no dynamic sites, no IMs. It is either scam or people behind it have no idea what they are doing. –  Andrey Jul 7 at 21:26
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I am dissatisfied with this answer. Firstly, it speculates what might be meant, without showing that this interpretation is correct. Secondly, if this interpretation was correct, it seems likely that the web-site would have a very different message and that the updates would have been clarified rather than made it more murky. This answer hasn't ruled out that the claim is technological gibberish, acting as a Rorschach test for technologists to project what they must really mean. –  Oddthinking Jul 8 at 9:29

Being charitable, it sounds like its some kind of Wifi enabled portable cache. Basically, a dedicated wifi connected drive that handles arbitrary data which it streams back like a raw tcp/ip connection. You fill it up with 10gigs worth of data and then take it on the road.

There use of the terms "internet key" and "internet dongle" suggest places like Eastern Europe where a hardwire device providing encrypted system identification are required to access internet service providers. Those areas also usually don't have reliable of high bandwidth cell based internet access.

"Satellite" sounds a lot more like "server" in context within the FAQ.

I think "charging" probably is intended to describe a distributed/swarm based processing system running across all the total customer-base's main computing devices. The caching system likely requires a lot of processing and likely compression and that's a lot of computing power. By requiring all customers to donate some CPU time to the task, they can get a lot of free computing power.

The line "If you turn off the "Surf & Charging" addon you will charge WiFiEX faster. " doesn't make much sense for a straight caching system but would if downloads are competing with distributed computing data exchange.

On the other hand, I wouldn't plunk down any money on this I wasn't prepared to lose.

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1  
"Internet Dongle" is used (at least) in UK as term for mobile broadband USB modems (though it probably does not clarify the page much). –  Maciej Piechotka Jul 7 at 23:31
    
Like the other answer, this reads like an attempt to interpret technological gibberish as a plausible idea, without evidence that this is the best interpretation. The claim that caching requires a lot of processing/compression and that it is feasible to share this task out needs empirical evidence. –  Oddthinking Jul 8 at 9:34

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