Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mobile Citizen Reporter

An interesting application genre seems to be emerging for mobile terminals: applications for submitting news data directly from smartphones to media houses' databases. Company called Fromdistance has its own solution in two flavors: for professionals and citizens. This solution includes a free smartphone client and a mediator server that delivers content to different publishers in the format they want. Citizen version seems to be in use in Finland, it would be nice to hear some statistics about the usage: how many users there are and how media houses feel about "mobile citizen reporters".

Nokia is creating their own application in a collaboration with Reuters; their solution seems to be targeted more to professional reporters, but they believe it is also usable at executive level.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Application inventory service

This is again a new entry under the growing topic
Services that somebody should implement...

If you are a smartphone user, count how many 3rd party applications you have installed to your device? For my device the count was 35 (and growing). How do you keep those applications up-to-date? How do you know that there is an update available? How do you find new applications from all the time increasing catalog?

What about this: a (community maintained?) service where publishers can upload their applications for free delivery. Solution consists of a smartphone inventory client and a website for delivering applications and for providing suggestions for users. Smartphone application can send an anonymous list of user's applications and their versions to the server, which then compares reported application versions to its database. If versions differ, user is prompted whether an update is wanted or not. Publishers can upload their new application versions to the service free-of-charge.

Benefits for users
  • no need to manually check from different sites if there is a new application version available for some installed application
  • application recommendations based on user's current application list ("users who have installed application X have often installed application Y")
Benefits for developers
  • no need to implement an in-house solution for automatic application updates
  • good and cheap channel to deliver applications
Benefits for service owner
  • Business. Sell ads to service and put ads to inventory client. Ads can be targeted based on user's location, language, installed applications, terminal model etc.
Whoever runs this service might want to affiliate with licensing solution providers so that also commercial applications could be easily delivered through this service. When user buys a license for application that has been downloaded from this service, developer/license provider pays a small fee.

If you want to see a good implementation how an application can update itself, take a look at my favorite application, Nokia Sports Tracker.


Kick start to mobile development

I've got some happy news for all the companies with cool solutions wanting to target Nokia's devices. Nokia has a nice developer program called "Launchpad" with great membership benefits, including free copy of a developer tool, 50% discount for additional developer tool licenses and access to the Nokia's famous "Discounted Devices Program" to buy discounted devices for development and testing purposes. Full listing of membership benefits is available from Launchpad website. All this is available for your company with annual fee of 800 euros; this is a good deal, you can easily cover the membership fee with the membership benefits.

One more thing

Launchpad offers benefits to its members, I offer benefits to my readers.
When you register your company to launchpad and use 
discount code "mobilitics" 
you will get a nice 25% discount and the membership is yours with 600 euros. Here is the membership application form, just remember to enter the right discount code when prompted to do so.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Reaching out from the box

In December 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review Coyne present a methodology how to generate new ideas in familiar settings. In short the idea is that instead of trying to think "outside-the-box" people should think "inside-the-box" - just refine the box so that you get fresh and structured ideas. In the paper they give some questions that you can ask to make a product better and find new ideas how to improve it. Here are two examples of questions you can ask:
  • Which customer uses our product in the most unusual way?
  • Who uses our product in ways not expected?
This article came to my mind when I today read Nokia's latest press release that included statistics how phone sharing is emerging. Quote from the release:
More than 50% of respondents in India, Pakistan and nearly 30% in Vietnam indicate that they share, or would share, their mobile phone with family or friends - a figure which contrasts consumer behaviour in more mature markets.
In western countries mobile phone is one of the most personal products, from some study I found a result that if a british teenager forgets his home keys, that's not a problem and he will not return to take those. If he forgets his mobile phone, he will immediately return home and pick the phone.

What all this has to do with HBR'a article referred above? According to Nokia there is a huge number of people wanting to use mobile phones in such a way that (my guess) is unexpected from the network operator's and device manufacturer's point of view. In the press release Nokia tells that they have some innovations that take into account users' need to share the terminal but I'm sure that both terminal manufacturers and network operators could practice some structured "inside-a-new-box" thinking here. Perhaps start with the questions from above?


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nokia phone and Apple Leopard

Some time ago my wife bought a MacBook (very nice device indeed!) and this weekend I tried to enable bluetooth modem connection between that and her Nokia E90 phone. I found that Nokia has a dedicated page for Apple support and even better, a tutorial how to use mobile phone as a modem. I have no idea what is wrong (maybe tutorial was for older MacOS version?), but I wasn't able to create modem connection with the steps described in the tutorial. The best I could do is to see bluetooth connection opening, but network was not brought up. So I just started to browse through the different settings screens and finally the connection opened.

Here is what I did: 
  1. I downloaded iSync plugin, installed it and paired E90 and MacBook together (btw: iSync was easy to get running).
  2. I opened system preferences from Finder and then Network settings.
  3. Click the small "+" at the lower left corner of the network settings screen to add a new device
  4. Small dialog opens, select your bluetooth device from the drop-down menu and give it a descriptive name
  5. Set telephone number to *99#
  6. Open the extended settings for the new network interface
  7. Switch manufacturer to Nokia and type in the correct APN value (this depends on your operator) and save the settings.
  8. This is it, now I was able to create a new bluetooth modem connection

Monday, January 14, 2008

Death of Mobile Terminal...

...and rebirth to gateway.

In the most recent episode of Nokia's technology podcasts Nokia's CTO Bob Iannucci delivers an idea that I have been trying to put to words but unfortunately hasn't been able to do so. I have been trying to think mobile phones as servers that can provide all kinds of services to other devices (e.g. user's position) and people (e.g. immediate access to person who has access to terminal) - in a way thinking mobile devices as data producers instead of data consumers. That hasn't been completely hopeless way to see mobile possibilities from a new angle but I have felt that something certainly has been missing.

Today I listened Bob Iannucci's podcast titled "The Future of Mobile" and there it is! We can stop thinking mobile devices as "terminals". Instead devices are "information gateways between the real world and the information world". Couldn't agree more with Bob. He gives an example how phone/terminal/gateway camera can be used to take a photo from a barcode which opens a browser page displaying more information about the product. Here mobile phone is the gateway between physical world (barcode) and the information world (website) in a such way that it blurs the boundaries between those two worlds. 

This idea makes my imagination fly, I hope it does the same for you, too.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Things to watch carefully this year

Here are some topics that I feel this year will be hot and worth following closely. If you can combine any of those together you might create a winning solution...

Social networking and mobile terminals
The success of Facebook and other social networking tools says it all - people want to share moments with their friends. What kinds of new mobile tools there will be that enable people publish their social data stream to their friends? Which of the current solutions will come out from the competition as a winner? What kinds of new innovations we will see that use the possibilities of mobile device in an unusual way?

Everything goes green or greener
Discussion about global warming, ecological footprint, traffic's carbon dioxide emissions, rising price of energy and similar issues will continue and all this will slowly start to have a deepening effect on our everyday life. Now in younger age groups mobile phone is already the most valuable possession and thus mobile channel has strong influence on people. Mobile phone is always with the user and using the phone to [your solution goes here] people can become more aware of the ecological consequences of their everyday choices.

Device fragmentation, browser and widgets
We got S60, S40, mobile Linuxes of all kinds, UIQ, iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Palm, Brew and so on... Anyone who is concerned about creating a solution for mobile world must now be more careful than ever when determining the system architecture. Installable application or browser? Native implementation or virtual machine based (Java, Python etc.)? XHTML or rich internet application? Store data locally or on a server?

Recent improvements in mobile browsers and networks have made browser a good choice for mobile applications and availability of mobile widgets will even increase attractiveness of browser solution. Still there will be some use cases when native application will be more attractive.

I remember the day back in 2001 at Barcelona when Nokia released their first camera phone and I got wondering why somebody would like to have a camera in a telephone? Has somebody been watching too much episodes of "Get Smart" or James Bond? Then Nokia's marketing division started their work and now everybody is taking "imaging phones" for granted.

So, don't underestimate the power of marketing in creating customer demand. Now Nokia has invested over 5 billion euros on acquiring Navteq's solution and this year we must see new solutions utilizing that investment. After a couple of years a terminal without GPS and mapping is an oddity and in location based services there are big possibilities for the whole mobile ecosystem. Car navigation is just a beginning, I guess. You don't now yet what is the solution that is absolutely necessary next year and you just cannot live without...


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sports Tracker goes Facebook

Funny. Just last week I was excited about Sports Tracker's website and the nice integration between that and the smartphone application. I thought that was nice but how about this: now we can integrate Sports Tracker with Facebook. I'm impressed.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Keep on movin'

I prefer solutions to applications. I enjoy using easy solutions. I enjoy Nokia Sports Tracker.

Sports Tracker is nothing new, it has been around like a year or so. It started as "an application" which in my vocabulary means something that is "nice to demo but not used after two weeks". Some time ago application was upgraded to a solution, meaning that Nokia added a nice website and integrated that to the smartphone application. Now uploading exercise data from terminal is easy, you can see your routes plotted to a map and - one more thing - smartphone application automatically geotags, finds and uploads also photos taken during the exercise.

Maybe next version could have an option to remind user every now and then that a little more exercise would be a good idea. After all, when people are reminded of the benefits of being active, they become active. Also remember that virtual world is not a replacement for real activities.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Personal Innovation Manager?

Do you know a solution for my needs? Problem description and use-case:
I read websites, books and articles; I watch TV and listen radio; I have conversations and meet interesting people. Because of that I get new ideas.

Now my problem is that I haven't found a suitable method for keeping track with all this. I'd like to have a solution to keep a record of all the items above and also about the ideas that they have generated. Slowly that would grow to a big mind map and I could be able to track ideas down to their roots and find interesting relations: "often when I speak with N.N. I start developing a new application, but when I meet M.M. I start reading business literature and go planning". You got the picture?

I have tried different tools to do this, but haven't found the right solution that is so easy and quick to use that I really could use it in everyday life.  Of course the optimal tool would be web based (because I use multiple computers every day), it must have a mobile interface (either an optimized browser page or a native application)  and I must be able to share ideas and sources with my friends. All this could be quite quickly implemented by a talented web developer and hopefully monetized by ads. 

Still not interested? What about a free community version as above, but also a professional version of the same system with more features? One of these extra features could be a dial-in service that allows an user to have a personal number to call. When user calls to number he can record a voice note and attach that to an idea; then later he can listen audio notes and continue working with those. This would be a very nice feature for people (like me) who get ideas when outside the office and paper is not at hand. Just save Personal Innovation Manager to you speed dial list and you are done - works with iPhone as well, no smartphone needed.  Of course number can be premium priced to keep your business going. 

If you know this kind of a solution, let me know. If you like the idea and setup a service like this, just drop me a message - I'm happy to be a beta tester...


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hello world!

As any respectable computer science book has taught us, the only way to start a journey to some unknown destination, like new a language, is to say Hello World!

Previously I have been blogging about similar issues at Forum Nokia, but I feel that I need another, not-so-technical blog also. What I see is that there are lots of technically oriented resources available in the net, but those sites typically answer to question "how can I do this and that for platform X". Hardly ever I find sites that are trying to get answer to question "what should I implement for platform X".

Here is something to think about (source:Elisa): there were 50.000 3G users in Finland at the beginning of year 2005. At the end of the year 2007 1.000.000 users were having 3G terminals. Having growth like this must mean myriad of new services for people willing to do thing easier, right? Well, not really. Why is that? What is wrong?