A wireless network isn't just for phones anymore. It's possible to buy a wireless dog collar or a pill bottle with a Wi-Fi connection.
Wireless network providers have created some new gadgets that use their networks. In the second quarter, AT&T added 900,000 devices to its network, which is connected to about 6.7 million devices.
Among AT&T's new offerings is an intelligent pill caps designed to help patients take their medicine regularly. The Vitality GlowCap, which fits on a standard pill bottle, has a tiny light that changes color when the bottle is opened to remove a pill.
If a patient misses a dose, the cap's connection to the wireless network allows it to send a text message or phone call as a reminder. The cap also can send confirmations to relatives or medical personnel, and can provide reminders to refill a prescription.
A location-smart dog collar connects to AT&T's network to track a pet that has roamed beyond a virtual fence created by the pet owner. Like the pill bottle cap, the collar can send text, e-mail or other alerts to be distributed as often as the owner would like.
A digital photo display allows family members or friends to e-mail images to the device through a wireless network, and the photos are displayed on the gadget.
The new devices, some of which have not yet been marketed to the general public, are part of AT&T's push to support emerging devices. AT&T recently formed the Advanced Enterprise Mobility Solutions Group to accelerate the development of applications for business users, developers and independent software providers.
Other gadgets already have entered the marketplace. Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader comes equipped with AT&T 3G service at no additional cost. Apple offerings, such as the iPad and iTouch, also can access Wi-Fi and the 3G network
Verizon offers a portable "MiFi" device that creates a mobile hub for up to five Wi-Fi devices. We've test-driven one of these and found it to be dependable and remarkably fast.
The message from providers seems to be that if something's value can be enhanced with wireless access, someday it will be.