Wi-Fi as Ministry | Part 5
Using Near Field Communications (NFC) as Outreach
Another option to consider is the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) that is available on many Android devices. This technology allows for the transfer of media from a close distance (4 inches/10 centimeters or less) between two devices. Be aware that the transfer rate is slow, and may not be suitable for large media files.
The use of NFC is very common in third-world cultures. In this cultures, NFC is the preferred method of content transfer. If a third-world culture is your intended target audience, then it may be wise to consider the use of Android devices with NFC capabilities.
Having said that, many of these same devices also allow the use of microSD cards. The cost difference between an Android device or devices and the cost of buying microSD cards and loading content must be considered.
Additional Wi-Fi Devices for Outreach
There are other devices that may be utilized in the same ways as those mentioned here. One example is the HooToo HT-TM01 TripMate Wireless N Portable Travel Router, which performs similar functions as the AirStash and includes a battery large enough to charge other devices. There are certainly other devices that would also perform the functions mentioned here. The AirStash, BibleBox and LightStream have been mentioned and compared because:
- These devices have been tested for use in ministry contexts.
- These devices are readily available in many parts of the world.
- These devices have been used by several individuals or ministry partners who have experience with the devices (and therefore there is a network of support if problems arise).
A ministry may choose to use other Wi-Fi devices, such as the HooToo devices, and find that they work better than the devices listed here.
If an outreach event is intended to reach hundreds or thousands of people simultaneously, then none of these devices would be adequate (at least not any single device). To reach that many people simultaneously, an entirely different class of device would be necessary, but that is beyond the intent and scope of this article.
Choosing the Best Solution for Your Wi-Fi Outreach
Several different Wi-Fi devices are presented in this article. Each has been evaluated based on the criteria of cost, security, portability and ease of use (both for those sending and receiving the wireless signal). Hopefully this has given you enough information to make a wise choice about using Wi-Fi as an outreach tool. The following questions should assist in making a suitable choice for your Wi-Fi outreach needs.
- How many simultaneous users should be able to connect to the Wi-Fi device? As the number increases, there will be a greater need for the BibleBox or LightStream devices. Or, a ministry may need to consider having multiple devices (AirStash, BibleBox or LightStream) situated around the intended meeting or outreach area.
- How much security does the device need to contain for the ministry context? In certain settings, the AirStash may not have enough security measures, while the BibleBox or the LightStream would have more security measures.
- Do I need to have the capability to allow connections through BlueTooth wireless connections and/or to distribute microSD cards? The only system in this presentation capable of both BlueTooth and distribution of microSD cards is the LightStream device.
- Does a smaller Wi-Fi device matter most? If a minimal size is the most important criteria, then either the AirStash or HooToo Tripmate devices should be considered.
- What level of programming am I willing to do to make the Wi-Fi ready for my needs? The LightStream comes already configured for use, but requires a higher level of administration than the AirStash. The BibleBox requires the most user input (unless you are willing to pay the fee to purchase a pre-configured BibleBox).
eDOT can not answer these questions for your ministry context. These questions should guide a ministry into good choices for the ministry context they are seeking to reach.
Wi-Fi for ministry is a powerful means to evangelize and present discipleship materials in a modern, device-centered world. If you or your ministry sees a need to have resources available to reach people with the Gospel or to present discipleship materials through the devices that people already have in their hands, then these devices may be of benefit to you and your ministry.
Just joining the “Wi-Fi as Ministry” series? No problem. Here’s Part 1.
PortableApps is not technically a “Wi-Fi as Ministry” device. However, in light of the desire to be thorough in this review, PortableApps was suggested as a possible solution for outreach and ministry.
PortableApps (http://portableapps.com) is a computer on a memory stick. PortableApps allows programs (selected from the PortableApps site) and data to reside on a USB memory stick that you are able to take with you anywhere and use in any computer. A wide variety of programs (categories include file management, document creation and processing, web-browsing, and photo-editing) are available to use. Depending on the size of the memory stick used, a large amount of data can be carried on a very small device.
PortableApps relies on a computer (preferably a PC running Windows)–in this review called a “host computer”–to operate. That host computer must be set to boot first from a USB device, and must be restarted with the PortableApps USB stick inserted into a USB port. It is possible to run PortableApps on Macs and Linux-based machines using a version of WINE, which emulates a Windows environment. PortableApps is not available to run on a Chromebook. An option to download PortableApps in other languages is not obvious on the website.
• PortableApps is a per/user approach to computing and thus to outreach. The intended target audience with PortableApps is one person at a time. Given the need to be attached to a host computer, this could be a very costly option if intended to use as outreach.
• The individual using PortableApps has a great deal of freedom in selecting a USB memory stick to use. The higher the capacity (size) of the memory stick and the speed of the memory stick (USB2 or 3) will determine the amount of data that a person can store on the stick and how quickly the host computer can access that data.
• USB stick with PortableApps installed. This requires a host computer (preferably running Windows) to install PortableApps on the USB stick.
• A host computer set up to boot from USB devices.
Cost:The PortableApps program is free. There is a minimal cost for a USB memory stick, depending on size and speed. Bear in mind however, that somewhere there must be a host computer to support PortableApps and that host computer or computers must be maintained. This may not ultimately be a low-cost solution. If the intent is for multiple people to use PortableApps simultaneously, then the number of host computers that must be provided and maintained increases.
PortableApps does maintain a measure of security for the individual. Passwords can be set on the USB and the PortableApps software to prevent unauthorized access.
A USB stick is probably the smallest device listed here. Even the AirStash device is bigger than a USB stick.
Ease of Use:
This is a difficult question. Although many people are familiar with the concept of a USB stick, there would be a learning curve with the procedures to use a PortableApps USB device. Knowing that a restart of the host computer is necessary to make the PortableApps device work is not intuitive. Making a host computer boot first from a USB device is not difficult, but may require restarting the host computer and entering the BIOS screens of a computer. This may be beyond the comfort and technical range of end-users. Some companies may restrict the use of booting from a USB device for fear of corporate espionage or loading viruses onto a computer.
- Although the idea of PortableApps is sound (each person has a customized set of programs and content based on his/her needs); the implementation may be difficult. PortableApps assumes the availability of a host computer in order to work. Without a host computer, a user will not be able to access his/her computing environment. This may be a better idea for a business person who is traveling to remote offices that have host computers available, but not as a means of outreach.
PortableApps may have its place for employees wanting to maintain a familiar computing environment on a budget. Realize however, that PortableApps assumes the availability of a host computer. With the recent introduction of Amazon Web Services, which allows remote users to log into a familiar computing environment with any cloud-connected device, the need for PortableApps may be waning. As a ministry device, there seems to be little need for PortableApps. Most people have a mobile device that has as much or more computing power than PCs, and already has their favorite data stored within. Using PortableApps is not likely to assist in reaching people who already have a mobile device.
Comment | Share | Join the conversation
 Outside of the U.S. and Europe, Android tends to dominate the market of mobile devices due to lower cost of ownership and partnership which make entry-level devices available within those markets.
 Please note that this device has NOT been tested in ministry contexts. We have NO experience with this device, it’s features and it’s limitations. Of concern would be the ability to secure the device, so that a hacker would not be able to change or take over the device.
 If you or your ministry use a Wi-Fi device for ministry and believe it is somehow better than the options presented here, please inform us so that we can share in the efforts and experience of others.
 Pre-configured Bibleboxes are available through this link: http://biblebox.org/buy/.