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Karma: What Comes Around Goes Around
By: Jennifer Graber
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We have all been in that unfortunate situation in which we desperately needed to send an email or check the status of a report and then the unthinkable happens. You are left scrambling all because there is no wireless hotspot available — nary a signal in sight. So what is one to do? Do you keep searching in hopes that someone has left their wireless without a password protection mechanism? Or do you give up hope on your task and offer your boss or employees a mea culpa over your digital drama?
 
What if you could be a wireless hotspot — anytime and anywhere — and could avoid having to pray and wish for any semblance of a wireless signal? Well, Karma is a digital start-up company aiming to "reinvent the mobile provider" by offering pay-as-you-go service on its compact hotspot devices (which operate on the Sprint Clearwire network).
 
Initial purchase price of the device starts at under $100 and can range up to just under $300, depending on the package selected. Karma offers three initial purchase packages that provide a free GB of data usage with purchase, 50% off, or even a free device. Following the initial purchase users are invited to pay-as-you-go at a $14 monthly fee for 1GB of data usage. Data never expires, there are no contracts, and no subscriptions. Sounds great, right?
 
What is even more intriguing about Karma is that it is also utilizing the revolutionary concept of peer-to-peer wireless internet sharing. Karma users can opt to share their hotspot device signal with others. Users electing to share their signal will earn 100MB of free data each time someone else uses their Karma device to connect. The more you share, the more you get in return with an exponential possibility for MBs and GBs of free data. What comes around goes around — in a good way.
 
The catch, if you can call it that, is that Karma device users are never charged for those who connect — they are simply sharing a signal. Connecting users must "pay their own way" and are not leeches of Karma device owners’ data plans. Non-Karma users will be required to register with the site when connecting and will receive 100MB of free data (as will you). After the free data they will be invited to join the pay-as-you-go Karma movement.  
 
So what are the implications for Karma? There could be users that choose not to share the wireless signal. There could be users that simply sign up only for the free data. And then there is the risk that the concept just does not take off because of its foray into an innovative, and unfamiliar, territory for Internet users.
 
Doubts aside, there are some good implications for Karma as well. In the wake of natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy and the Oklahoma tornados, Karma has the potential to provide shared Internet access to victims hoping to reconnect with loved ones. It can also deliver essential access to disaster relief agencies. Additionally, other non-profits can use Karma to provide internet access in low income areas.
 
The Karma device can furthermore be used to positively impact the way we look at meetings and conferences. The wireless device shows us that businesses and organizations no longer have to be confined within the institutional walls of a meeting or conference room. Karma affords us the opportunity to take it beyond the four walls and meet out in the farthest corners of the world.
 
Is the Karma device something you can see yourself using in your professional and personal life? Are there further unknown implications? Regardless of the answers, one thing is for sure: the company’s concept has begun the conversation on the potential alterations of big data company structures, and the way we view mobile and Internet data usage. Look out for Karma.


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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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