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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 11:36 GMT
Pub offers snaps and shots
Beer and phones, BBC
Set up your shot...
Owners of camera phones now have one more thing they can do with their expensive handset.

The Progress Bar in North London has installed a wireless hub that lets people send their pictures to a large screen so everyone in the pub can see what they have been snapping.

Although only installed earlier this month the ability to create a live gallery of pictures is already proving popular with patrons.

The bar is also planning to use the gadget to let customers know about upcoming events and might even use it to send digital vouchers to regulars giving them discounts on drinks.

Beer and bluetooth

The gadget sitting behind the bar in the Tufnell Park pub that makes all this possible is called a Meshbox and is the creation of technology whiz Jon Anderson.

The 250 Meshbox crams a wi-fi and Bluetooth access point, Linux server, web browser and instant message software into a small box and no more than 32 megabytes of memory.

Screen in Progress Bar, BBC
...and see it on screen
Fitting the Meshbox with a wireless keyboard and monitor turns the 500Mhz device into a basic PC.

Conrad Palmer, owner of the Progress Bar, said the idea of using the Meshbox appealed to him because: "I'm a bit of a geek myself."

He added that many of the lunchtime and afternoon patrons of the Progress Bar arrive toting laptops and it made sense to give them wireless access to the net so they can work and drink at the same time.

He said the evening crowd was full of music, media and technology types, some of whom own camera phones. Mr Palmer said the screen made it easier for them to share images with friends they cannot send a multimedia message to.

Mr Palmer is now considering putting a second Meshbox in the other Progress Bar in Islington.

Patrons send images to the Meshbox using the Bluetooth short-range radio technology that all camera phones have onboard.

They can send images snapped in the pub itself or ones they took earlier and are stored on their phone.

Images are shown as a slideshow and any deemed 'inappropriate' can be removed by sending a delete message to the Meshbox when the offending image is on screen.

Progress Bar interior, BBC
The screen is in a corner of the bar
Files, sound clips and text messages can also be sent via the Meshbox to patrons.

Mr Anderson said this ability to quickly send things to customers could prove popular with music venues, galleries or shops.

Group text

But he added that he did not just create the Meshbox to let media types have more fun with their phones.

It is also meant for small companies and community groups to let them swiftly set up a wireless network that does not need endless management and monitoring.

"It's very low maintenance," he said, "you can just put it in as part of the infrastructure."

As its name implies the Meshbox also comes fitted with smart networking algorithms that recognise other computers using wireless and work with them to form an ad hoc data network.

"It self organises even up to large groups of more than 100 machines," he said.

Many people believe that mesh networks made up of many separate wireless nodes could eventually create pervasive networks that keep people connected.

One of the first organisations to buy and test the Locustworld Meshbox is in Kingsbridge in Devon which has turned to the technology to provide high-speed net access for townsfolk.

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