Wireless Wonders

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

Friday, July 08, 2005

ICE - In Case of Emergency

Picked this up from Steve Flaherty (Keitai Culture)

Following the disaster in London . . .

East Anglian Ambulance Service have launched a national "In case of Emergency ( ICE )" campaign with the support of Falklands war hero Simon Weston.

The idea is that you store the word " I C E " in your mobile phone address book, and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be contacted "In Case of Emergency". In an emergency situation ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to quickly find out who your next of kin are and be able to contact them.

For more than one contact name ICE1, ICE2, ICE3 etc.

Spread the word...

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London terror and mobiles...

One minute we are celebrating the Olympic-bid triumph, the next we are in shock. The attacks on London are cowardly and barbaric and my thoughts and prayers are with all those affected. I hope that the criminals responsible are brought to justice.

The use of mobiles during yesterday showed us how integrated and essential they have become in our lives. Many of the photos of the events unfolded came from mobile-phone cameras. The BBC were asking for photos and video clips, providing numbers for receiving MMS messages. I first heard about the attack via BBC alert on my Blackberry.

There were reports of the mobile phone system being jammed. This is a perhaps the wrong word to use, as usually it means a deliberate denial of service, which is what I thought the initial report was indicating. However, it seems that the system was "overloaded". Technically, the GSM network should not fail under the load, it should just operate to capacity, but perhaps there were failures. It is not clear.

I tried to contact my brother-in-law, who is a regular London Underground commuter. He heard the news early enough to avoid the commute. I couldn't reach him on a call, but he was able to receive a text message OK.

Perhaps it is time that the mobile phone systems were enhanced to include crisis-management features. There are a number of possibilities.

It should be possible to include a "roll call" feature into the system so that users can be "hailed" and be able to confirm that they are OK. Radio and network resources could be reserved especially to allow this mode of communication only, or to give it priority.

During the crisis, anyone trying to call into cells in the affected area could be played an announcement to indicate that the system is overloaded. The network could take over by issuing roll-call messages on behalf of callers.

Calls could be time-limited, so that the throughput of calls is increased. It should also be possible to queue users to avoid the added problem of repeated call attempts. This again would allow a higher throughput and more efficient management of the network resources.

If the called party is not in the affected area, it should be possible for the network to play an announcement indicating to the caller that the person they are calling did not appear to be in the affected area when the crisis emerged.

In short, during a crisis, the mobile network would bring "crisis management" protocols into play and manage how the network is used in order to maximize its effectiveness.

Returning to my Olympics post of two days ago, which started to examine how mobile technology could be deployed in the 2012 London Games, clearly the issue of safety and crisis management should be given top priority and I hope that the operators and management committees are able to address this issue.

These are just a few of the ideas that came to mind, although I hope that such measures are not needed in the future and that this country does not experience any more attacks.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

London Olympics 2012...

London have won the bid to host the Olympics in 2012, beating Madrid Paris to the post. Well done the London bid team!

That's 7 years from now, which is nearly five generations of silicon (in "Moore-Years"). That's also about 4-5 handset replacements from now, on average for users in the UK. That's well into the 3G era (10 years) and a few years into the 3.5/4G era (HSPDA and WiMax).

Potentially, all kinds of smart things can be done on mobiles for attendees, athletes and officials in the 2012 Olympics.

One thing is for sure is that it will be possible to watch the games from devices, including instant replays. Furthermore, these could be made interactive and on-demand. No doubt, push-to-talk will be heavily used by officials and athletes alike, which will be a prevalent service by then....

Some users might even have wearable displays by then and be able to watch the action both with their eyes and through umpteen selectable cameras....

I think I'll dedicate a series of my 100 ideas postings to The Olympics...

...I've also asked various colleagues in the industry and hope to post a summary later...

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Women and phones (again)...

I've tried before, in various circles, prompted by Tom Peter's obsession with the topic, to ask the question "is there a women's phone?" I don't mean one with flowers on, though apparently that might work, so think Siemens with their SL75:

"Soft contours and a cheerful floral motif lend femininity to this clamshell-style mobile phone."

(Then again, Siemens lose 1 million a day in their handset business.)

A similar question is being asked in computer games circles, where the dominant market has been young men who like shooting, racing and stealing things. In a recent games convention, the keynote speaker said that to be as big as Hollywood, the games industry had to ape Hollywood and cater for a wider audience, including women.

But, he (not a she) didn't say what designing games for women might mean. There's not much about the subject either in Tom Peter's latest book about design.

What I did find recently, by accident, was this interesting piece by games designer Chris Crawford, who, by all accounts, is a bit of a gamer legend. One suggestion is that women prefer interactions that are fundamentally social, as opposed to men's preferences for physical, like banging, firing, steering things etc.

The social interaction idea really got me thinking, and then I also read Artists and Technologists, which is also a fascinating read, and I think relates to the topic in hand. Here, Chris examines some of the fundamentals of interactivity with computer-generated worlds. He notes that most games require the user to build a spatial model of what's going on, and comments:

"Folks, we've got to drop this maniacal obsession with spatial reasoning. The human mind is capable of many kinds of reasoning: spatial, social, linguistic, syllogistic, analogistic, aesthetic, and numeric. There is no reason for our games be so narrowly focussed.."

So, can we posit an alternative mode of interaction with the mobile phone that is different to our current mental models (whatever they are) and one that is inherently feminine? Moreover, is that a good thing to do anyway, and would also appeal to a wider audience?

In a chapter "The future of Mobiles in the 3G Era" that I recently wrote for a forthcoming book ("Thumb Culture"), I divided mobile interaction into four themes (verbs), "The four Cs of Connectedness", which are communicating, consuming, communing and controlling. I didn't think to explore the gender-potential of each theme, which may or may not be a valid thing to do, but perhaps I should revisit my thoughts here.

The dominant interaction model of a mobile phone relates to communication, mostly talking. In my chapter, I suggest that the essential person-to-person (P2P) nature of mobiles will remain a dominant overarching theme, but we need to think in more broad terms of a super-category of personal Exchange. We ought to be thinking of models of interaction that are are about exchange - of ideas, contacts, thoughts, tastes, news, money, lists, preferences, opinions, interests, intelligence, intentions, and knowledge and so on, whatever digital form these take.

Communing is essentially an outcome that emerges out of these modes of exchange, although there are certain design directions that we can take to make communing more likely to happen.

The point is this. Just like Chris is arguing for a rethink in the games world, we need to think of alternative modes of interaction that draw on other faculties of the human psyche, besides the need to talk. Chris implies that the interaction verbs are a place to start. If we give users a joystick, they are limited from the outset to very narrow set of expressions - "up", "down", "left", "right" and "fire".

Is he onto something here? From the outset, we have modelled mobiles on the age old interaction of "receiver up" (green button), "receiver down" (red button) and "dial" (digits). Now we have joypads on phones too. We can use them to go "up", "down", "left", "right" and "fire".

Operators seem to have an even narrower set of expressions: "call" or "data". What's that? It isn't even a verb. Can we do "data"?

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Built to order...idea #69...

Previously, I asked the question "is it possible to set up an instant company to make a new cool mobile phone?" I think the answer is yes, but didn't elaborate.

Today in a discussion with a friend who's MBA case-study is related to the challenges of a build-to-order plant for the new Mini-Cooper, a new question was aired:

"Is it possible to make a built-to-order mobile phone?"...
or, instant company redux...
"Is it possible to set up an instant company to make a built-to-order phone?"...

Why not?

And I don't mean changeable face plates.

With modular design, a whole range of parts ought to be interchangeable, including:

1. Keypad
2. Background colour LCD (top and inside)
3. Camera resolution/position
4. Peripheral connectors (mini-USB)
5. Bluetooth/WiFi options
6. Clamshell cover type/hinging direction
7. Colour trim and mouldings
8. Default config of external buttons
9. Memory size/type
10. Operating system
11. Installed apps
12. GPS

All this would be configurable via a web-based ordering system, like Dell's.

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Monday, July 04, 2005

The 4th and mobile freedom...

It's the 4th July and Americans celebrate their independence from the Brits. The Americans gave us the mobile phone, courtesy of Marty Cooper et al. The mobile is arguably an icon and tool of independence, or freedom - at least from wires in any case. You decide what else. It probably wouldn't have succeeded if The British still ruled (read later). So, we should thank the Americans for our mobile freedom.

'The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!' That's what William Dawes shouted as he took his midnight ride in 1775. But nobody paid much attention.

When Paul Revere took the same ride at the same time carrying the same message as William Dawes, he mounted enough support to defeat the British in Concord and begin The Revolutionary War.

This story is magically retold in Gladwell's book "Tipping Point". Revere's message went "viral". He had connections and he knew how to make his message heard. Dawes didn't. Viral communications is now the latest intellectual fad that has thousands of would-be entrepreneurs fooled into thinking their 3-cent instant-business is going to go ballastic.

All Dawes needed was text messaging and a well-populated address book linked to a good social-networking website. He could have been the hero of the moment, especially if Revere was one of those old-fashioned types who shunned technology in favour of old-school grit and determination.

Could the mobile phone liberate?

Certainly not from crazy ring-tone annoyance and other "invasion of decency" complaints mounting against it. It brings out the best of hypocrisy in us. We can't do without it, but don't like the constant bother of ringing and text-beeps - and, even more telling, we can't stand it when our calls go unanswered, no matter how often we hit "divert" when a call barges in.

However, perhaps its most telling contribution to the history of mankind, and freedom, is not within in our techno-spoilt Western shores, but has yet to unfold in other lands.

Bill Gates talks about giving everyone on the planet a computer (i.e. a copy of Windows) but perhaps he hasn't noticed that the mobile phone is going to beat him to it. Projections and reality are headed that way. And, the growth in some countries is 40%, including some African countries.

It is here, so Ajit Jaoker argues on his blog, that the mobile phone (actually, he argues, "mobile commerce") will do more for Africans than Live-8 ever could. He might be right.

So, who's going to provide the technology for this nascent African revolution? Well, it seems the Americans, no matter how much people want to fling mud at them for this-that-and-the-other affront to global harmony. Motorola's "Africa Phone" project is attempting to bring a mobile phone to the market for 20 dollars.

Now, no technology story would be complete without mentioning a romantic British contribution to its evolution, which, of course, has to end in the obligatory commercial failure despite its technical Brunel-esque brilliance. Moreover, the ship has to sink off the shores of America. I could go on here forever....

In case you didn't hear via viral text doo-dat, Sendo, Britain's only mobile phone maker hit the dust last week. Without doubt (they're British), they had some really good technology, including their instantly-customisable phone kit. Motorola bought Sendo, or at least their R&D team, just to get their hands on it.

Commentators, like Guy Kewney, have suggested that Sendo's technology will fit well with the Africa Phone project.

Bush might do little at the G8 towards saving the planet, but Motorola might. Come to think of it, G8 sounds like the name of one its new phones. If not, that's idea #70/100 please...(and idea #71, before any other Brit in his shed beats me to it, is to power the phones by wind-up mechanism and idea #72 is to make them out of non-toxic and non-greenhouse-gas inflammable materials for re-cycling as fuel. Patent applications are in the post.)

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