Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

No exciting services allowed...

In my latest assignment, I'm up to my eyeballs in specifications. I've been going over all the specs relating to IP Multimedia System (IMS) and Push-to-talk Over Cellular (PoC) (...why that lower case "o"?) The general subject area is genuinely interesting....

Well, to me it's interesting because I can see all kinds of interesting possibilities for new services. If you regularly read this blog (thank you if you do) you will know that I am an "ideas man". I look at technology and see applications, as do many of you I'm sure. Although, not everyone...

Today, when I read about IMS in Communicate magazine, I thought that I was reading about something entirely alien to my perception of the technology (and the specs). Being a telecoms magazine, of course the "c" word - convergence - was in evidence: FMC - fixed mobile convergence, as if this was the be all and the end all of an IMS world. That may be one avenue of potential, but no mention anywhere of exciting new services, or the possibility of exciting services.

The spec of one vendor's solution in this general area contained the statement "no 3rd party applications supported". They may as well have written "no exciting services allowed"....

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Meet me by the Nike poster...idea #48/100...

It seems a sensible idea to have a shared meeting service on mobiles so that any group, no matter how small or large, can arrange meetings. I don't mean office meetings, as that probably takes place via Exchange/Notes. It would be possible for an individual user to belong to as many meetings as they like, as inviter or invitee.

In my book, I mentioned such an idea in the opening chapter (viewable in edited form here). I thought to include the idea of time arbitration, so that invitees can "vote" for their preferred time (and place), which doesn't necessarily mean everyone has to pick the exact same time. Arbitration rules could pick the "mean" time (or allow the inviter to overrule/dictate), but also allow for variance, thus accommodating late-comers etc.

The service would include the selection of the meeting place, which is important. These should be selectable from preset options, recent meeting places, popular meeting places, favourite meeting places (individual and group favourites), personal meeting places (e.g. "my house") etc.

I would hope that popular meeting places would prove useful. I have often tried to set up meetings in towns not too familiar to me and struggled to find the ideal meeting point. It would be great to select from a list, like "coffee shops" and pick one.

The popular meeting places would be ranked in order of popularity, but not just from the presets. Users could specify their own meeting places and these could be made public, so that others can benefit from local knowledge, like the existence of well-known features, such as a water fountain or monument etc.

Connecting this to a previous meme on "air-tagging" (street logos), it would be interesting to include the possibility to meet at certain logo points, real or virtual. These could potentially be marked in the application with geographical annotation (e.g. GPS co-ordinates or street name) or left un-marked, so that only those "in the know" would know where to meet.

There is also a likely connection with the emerging theme of active posters, such as being delivered by the likes of Hypertag to promote new kinds of advertising engagements. It would be interesting to see advertisers exploit this possibility. Putting it crudely, one could imagine "meeting at the Nike poster", where the incentives might be to download the latest Nike-sponsored media from the poster.

A while ago, I researched the concept of active walls, where users swap virtual notes. This too might arise around the active poster concept. The connection with meeting places is obvious.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Killing time with a genius...idea #47/100...

I hate that phrase - "killing time". It ought to be banned. Time is much to valuable to think about killing it. Strange how that expression, despite its use of the ugly word "kill", is a polite way of saying "wasting time". This is a whole class of mobile applications - "time killers", or "time wasters". Someone in marketing has to work on that phrase and.....kill it off!

The only expression worse than this, with the same word, is "killer app". The phrase isn't the problem, so much as the whole mindset that often goes with it. People often ask "what's the killer app for 3G?"

Who knows? It's like asking, who's going to win the lottery. We only know after the event and all speculation is practically meaningless. Killer apps - all of them - are random events. They only appear non-random after the event (with hindsight bias) Meanwhile, most of us have to focus on the more mundane world of producing services that don't kill (or cannibalise for that matter).

Forgive me for wasting your time by using three paragraphs (and now four) to get to the point. Let me kill the suspense...

I do like the idea of spending time productively, even those otherwise unplanned or uncontrollable moments where "killing time" becomes "necessary". I have often thought about mobile video content and decided that I would like - and be prepared to pay for - access to tiny documentaries (doculets?) about genius people, ideas, theories and moments.

Not only is it spending time productively (of sorts), but also "buying" time that I probably won't have to watch full-length documentaries, or read books, about such topics.

If it hasn't happened already, then I'm convinced that it will come..."Genius TV" on a mobile in your pocket...

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Tannoy announcements over cellular...idea #46/100...

I was thinking about my mobile as an alarm clock. As mentioned earlier, 60% of people take their mobiles to bed with them. Blogger "Digital Evangelist" brought to my attention some of the more sultry perils of this trend.

With push-to-talk allowing for "barge" calls, whereby an audio source (usually voice) can blurt out of the loudspeaker (if auto-answer is switched on), I thought about using this for announcements at wake-up time.

There are the usual suspects, like national news, but I'm more interested in the possibility of local announcements. For example, traffic news. Not the generic kind, but announced from a company who gets its more meaningful traffic reports from arriving employees, especially when accidents have caused blockages.

The other one is the local shop. Sometimes they offer special deals that are worth stopping-by for.

This made me think about the general benefits, or uses, of such broadcast announcements, like old-fashioned blasts from a tannoy. I wonder if we will see this emerge with the development of PTT, especially at the community (neighbourhood) level. For example, will I expect to see a PTT group name published in the local grocery store? Perhaps a variety of groups, such as the "sell-offs-at-the-end-of-the-day" group.

It seems such an easy way to reach a lot of people - a new kind of communications empowerment for communities. The wake-up call variation needs a slightly different approach, because the media needs to be timed to the wake-up period and not a live broadcast. This is just a storage and scheduling problem.

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White whales and trolls...

I am re-reading Beowolf to my kids and we have also started Moby Dick. These are fantastic stories. My kids, like most kids, love stories. I also make up stories, although this is a lot more difficult than reading from a book.

When traveling anywhere in the car, kids get bored easily. Who can blame them?

What I'll be looking for from downloadable media, played through my car stereo, is good old-fashioned stories for kids. If kids could pick their own story and pay-per-story (well, I'd be paying of course), we'd all be happy. I'm sure there are lots of others like us.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Heart to heart...

Earlier, I posted about using mobile phones to convey emotional attachment, without using verbal communication. A while ago, I also posted about the possible use of mobiles as bio-feedback devices to attenuate stress through concious control of heart-rate variance.

I am now wondering if these two ideas can be connected. Is it possible to entrain one heartbeat with another through a bio-feedback loop involving two people?

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My latest pic on your phone...idea #45/100...

In the world of SIP-based telephony, the initial connection ("invite") to participate in a call can include a reference to an external resource via a URI. This can be used, for example, to fetch a photo of the calling party.

On the other hand, with the powerful open API of the photo-organising site Flickr, the URI could be a link into their photo database. In theory, any photo could be extracted from the database, according to however the caller wants to announce themselves.

One possibility is simply to send the latest addition to the caller's Flickr album. If you're calling a friend or family member, this might be a fun way to share images.

This might be a trivial example, but, just as Flickr users find all kinds of imaginative ways to share images, then I'm confident that merging images with calls won't pose any obstacle to their creativity.

This type of application demonstrates the possibilities in a world of open APIs and open connectivity. What I have just proposed would not take long to implement and is a real possibility. In the world of closed telecoms platforms and fenced services (unlike Flickr), such ideas would be for the likes of telecom engineers to implement (which they wouldn't do).

What excites me is the variations of possibilities. Making calls, or otherwise connecting, will become a highly personalised and customised experience, no longer bound by the shackles of unimaginative uniformity police (bean counters) who have ruled the roost for too long.

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