I WAS RAISED on camping. My parents used to take us around France, staying under canvas. And for the past 18 years, every year I've been to at least one music festival. When I was a child, it really was the ultimate getaway. At the time of that first camping holiday, there were no mobile phone networks. Today, the idea of "getting away from it all" would make most people baulk, separating them from phones, tablets, fitness trackers, internet, social media, traffic news... and so on.
This year, I was lucky enough to get tickets for Glastonbury Festival. It's not my first visit there, but it comes at a time when the growth in wireless, connected gadgets and the so-called Internet of Things has exploded.
Traditionally rumours used to sweep across the site about news events that may or may not have happened whilst festival goers were trapped in their muddy bubble. Today, networks actually provide extra capacity in order to ensure festival goers can check any facts on the internet in seconds.
But the rise of technology in green pastures goes deeper than that. And so this year I took it upon myself to investigate the realities of "getting away from it all" in the 21st century. Not just mobile phones, but all the other ephemera that goes with it - wearables, cameras, glamping equipment, and lest we forget, how the heck to keep it all charged up when in the middle of a field.
The Wednesday before Glastonbury I was about to leave, so let's assume that everything is fully charged, while I introduce you to my core kit for the investigation. The very fact that this "core" kit exists goes against the whole Internet of Things ethos, because to me, The Internet of Things is about everything connecting to everything else without a hub. In that sense we've fallen at the first hurdle. But secure in that knowledge, let's press on.
My main device was an HTC One M8. The entire team took to this phone on release. It's handsome, rugged and fast. The lack of an interchangable battery remains my only criticism against what is my favourite Android phone to date. It's sitting in a Tech 21 Impact Tactical case which is made of a fancy-pants type of material designed to absorb shocks, like being dropped in the mud. The HTC One M8 is also one of the first phones to accept 128GB micro SDXC cards, and in honour of this, there's a Sandisk Ultra UHS-I filled with music fitted snuggly.
A secondary device, the Tesco Hudl was primarily there to allow me to experiment with remote media streaming. Whilst we weren't brimming with enthusiasm for the Hudl on its release last year, I personally think it's an OK little product for its price range. It's due to be superceeded by a newer model later this year, so let's consider this its last chance to shine.
The Hudl doesn't have its own 3G connection, so we took a Three MiFi device too. It's not the 4G model, but it does have HSPA+ which the company claims is almost as fast. We'll see about that one as the trip progresses. It certainly isn't offending me with its size. We did all the pairing back at basecamp so we were ready for the off.
Back at the house was a Western Digital Mycloud EX2 server, which holds all my documents and media. I want to see how it fares over a remote connection. Also keeping an eye on things for me while I was gone was a Samsung Smartcam which I can tap into to see if everything is alright. If I've forgotten to record any of the coverage, I can remote into my Sky TV box and set it using the app.
And so, with my knapsack on my back, and a huge rucksack and a trolley and a wheelie suitcase.... off I went, ostensibly to see some bands, but really to see just how far we've come from the idea of getting away from it all.
In future installments I'll be looking at if we really need all these wearables, how camping became glamping, and asking if all of this means that, if we truly can't be without it, the technology we own has started to own us.
And so to Somerset. See you at the cider bus.
In the next installment: The discerning tech head's connected campsite. µ
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