Karma is a contract-free and pay-as-you-go 4G hotspot built around the concept called “Social Bandwith”. The company, which raised $1.2 million in fundings in November 2012 through the TechStars NYC program, has joined a digital movement launched by several innovative MVNOs to reshape the US mobile industry.
First, let’s start with a simple explanation of how does Karma work? Users need to buy a $99 device that comes with 1GB of free data (up to 20GB for $280). Built around the idea of “social bandwidth”, the hotspot broadcasts a secure and “open” network which rewards users with 100MB of free data every time they share their Wi-Fi connection with people. The hotspot guest is also given 100MB of free data that can be used all at once or save for later. In order to track how much data a guest has used, Karma uses Facebook. I would like here to insist on one important aspect worth mentioning: the Facebook integration. In order to use the device and its network, users will need to login through Facebook. As Karma explains on its Help Center webpage: “We use it to authenticate you and create your Karma account. We store your Facebook profile picture, cover photo name, email address and Facebook ID. However, none of your friend network is stored on our servers. We will neverever post anything without you explicitly pushing a “share” button.” By using a Facebook integration, Karma was obviously hoping to grow faster But one major downside is that if users do not have a Facebook account (or simply do not want to link their account to their hotspot!), they are simply not allowed to benefit from any Karma AT ALL! That’s not very…karmy?!
Once connected, the device’s network takes on the user’s name (e.g “Elodie’s Karma”). Because Karma is social, its network remains open and cannot be protected by a password. This also raised few security questions. If my network is open to everyone, is it really secure? Can I browse the internet safely? Here again, Karma used its Help Center webpage to give more details on how it works: “To quote the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “If you are running an open network, it is NOT the case that anyone can break into your computer, and you are still, by and large, in a safe situation. 1.Check for https://: Just make sure the URL in the address bar starts with “https://” and you can see a little lock sign in your browser. This means that the connection is secure and the data you send and receive can’t be intercepted. 2.Consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network): If you’re going to be using your Wi-Fi for highly sensitive work, it might be best to use a VPN that would allow you to route all your internet traffic through a separate private, secure network, while using an open network.”
Let’s have a look to John‘s use of Karma:
Meet John (8:30 AM) – John is constantly on-the-go and needs to stay connected. With Karma, John can bring Wi-Fi with him, wherever he goes. And earn free data by doing so. Let’ s have a look at how Karma works.
Fully Charged. Ready to go – Today, John has an important business trip. Before heading to the airport, he grabs his phone, laptop, tablet and of course, his Karma hotspot
Meet Lisa (11:30 AM) – Lisa arrives early to the gate to get some work done, but is struggling to find a Wi-Fi connection, she immediately sees John’s open Wi-Fi signal and connects.
John shares with Lisa (11:31 AM) – John’s login page pops up and Lisa creates her own Karma account. By doing so, Lisa receives 100MB of data for free, With Karma, data is stored in Lisa’s account, and it’s not tied to John’s hotspot. This allows Lisa to use her own data on every Karma Wi-Fi she connects to. Something we like to call: Bring Your Own Bandwidth.
Share more. Earn more – John is notified that Lisa has connected to his Karma hotspot. Remember: data is never shared, only the connection. For sharing his connection with someone new, John receives 100MB of data, added directly to his account. John continues to share, as he knows his Karma can hold up to 8 connections simultaneouslyLisa’s account and it’s not tied to John’s hotspot. This allows Lisa to use her own data on every Karma Wi-Fi she connects to. Something we like to call: Bring Your Own Bandwith.
Time to recap (10:00PM) – John returned home from his business trip and visits his dashboard. Here, he can check out how much data he’s used, add some more, or just pat himself on the back for how much free data he’s racked up today.Time to recap.
The more John shares his Karma, the more data he earns. That’s Social Bandwidth. That’s Karma.
Karma, which was launched using Clearwire network, has struck a deal with Sprint thus offering to its users a better and wider coverage. The company’s objective is clearly to create a shared bandwith community: more hotspot, more free connection, better Karma! The company CEO stated in an interview “As Karma grows, the chance of encountering a Karma connection in the wild will increase, allowing it to build that community across major cities and eventually across the country,” van Wel said. In December 2013, Karma had just hit 50,000 users and it had given out a total of 10,000 gigabytes worth of free data.
To conclude, Karma is a perfect example of the trend: Better For Us. The concept of “social bandwith” perfectly illustrates the idea of connection between human beings. Karma offers its users the opportunity to use digital technology to collaborate, share and in the end create a positve and generous impact on a community of connected people.