Category Archives: phone

When mobile phones become networked sensors

The Coming World of Mobile Sensors does a great job illustrating how mobile phones will impact our future. We’ll soon think of mobile phones not only as communication devices but also as sensors. This talk on Sensor Networks at the Lift conference first changed the way I think of mobile phones back in February 2007.

Imagine mobile phones as sensors constantly recording your geo-location, speed, altitude, temperature, nodes in proximity etc. Let’s ignore privacy concerns for a second. The data could be anonymized for example.

Data for personal use only

Even if the data is not shared with other devices some interesting applications are possible, e.g.

  • Personal diary of locations – searchable
  • Tracking of commute time – recommendations for best commute time
  • Weather history – searchable
  • Live blog geo-tagged photos as you take them

Data shared with nearby nodes

Now let’s allow the mobile devices to communicate with nodes in their proximity:

  • Personal diary is now also aware of who you were with at any given moment
  • People you keep running into but haven’t met can be introduced automatically

A German startup called aka-aki built a social network on top these two ideas. Your Bluetooth enabled phone tracks other phones in proximity. It basically keeps a trail of who you cross throughout the day. Another way to meet interesting people. Love it!

Data shared between all nodes – centrally aggregated

The real power of mobile sensors emerges when they’re networked together and the nodes have access to all the data (e.g. aggregated centrally). This totally changes the applications that are possible:

  • Real time traffic for your commute (I’ve written about this before)
  • Real-time weather in all locations as well as weather forecasts
  • Heat maps of sensor density indicating events

What other applications can you dream up?

Know your audience – and spell check your creative!

I recently received a newsletter from AT&T thanking me for choosing AT&T and stressing how lucky they are to have me as a customer. This was immediately followed by an invitation to visit a store! No special offer, reward or anything. But that’s not the point here.

The headline reads “lucky. gl├╝cklich. chanceaux.”.

Congratulations on being international! The French translation is obviously wrong and should be “chanceux” unfortunately. I’m the first one to admit that foreign languages are tricky but screwing up a one word translation takes some skills.

Why German and French? What about Spanish and Chinese?

What I don’t get is why they picked German and French. This would make perfect sense in Switzerland but not in the US. Spanish and Chinese would have been more powerful in addressing important local populations. Note: The newsletter closes in Spanish with “Muy afortunado!”.

Further reading: I wrote about another AT&T marketing blunder not too long ago.

The Real Yellow Pages, Really?

I just heard the AT&T ‘real yellow pages‘ commercial on the radio which reminded me that I wanted to write about the corresponding billboard campaign a while ago. Who came up with the idea that anyone cares about the ‘real’ yellow pages? I’ll give up ‘real’ for ‘relevant’, ‘accurate’, ‘up-to-date’ or ‘easy to use’ anytime. Consumers don’t care about real in commodity products.

Why does AT&T still care about their printed yellow pages? Are the listing fees/ads generating a significant amount of revenue? According to AT&T their pages are referenced 4 billion times annually. I wonder what the corresponding CPM is. And do businesses compare this to running their own search result ads?

In fact, who is still using yellow pages? With the Internet at your finger tips with more complete and current information it’s hard to imagine still sifting through a paper copy. Granted there is an online version at yellowpages.com but I prefer yelp.com or local.yahoo.com that include consumer feedback, links to the official web site and a map.

The ad campaign should have been built around ‘complete’, ‘comprehensive’ or ‘most referenced’. Make the consumer feel like she’s missing something by ignoring these yellow pages. Reserve ‘real’ and ‘original’ for fashion and luxury items.

Cell Phones Going Mobile

I’ve seen a trend here in the U.S. (a slow evolution, can’t tell when it started): More and more people start calling ‘cell phones’ ‘mobile phones’. Is this the States catching up with the rest of the world? ;) Or is this limited to the Silicon Valley?

In related news: I accessed Yahoo! Mail on my RAZR for the first time (actually twice this weekend). I was stuck somewhere and had to look up some information. Useful although a little slow (I was using the browser). We still have a long way to go with the mobile phones. I know that mobile applications are going to be big (ask the kids) but don’t quite get it yet myself…

It is still early days for mobile applications. And the market is very complicated with the variety of phones and providers. I hope Yahoo! keeps investing in this field even if the returns are small right now. It will be really hard to enter the market later.

Buying A New Mobile Phone

My Nokia 6100 died today. It’s been through a lot in the few years that I owned it. I’m really sad to see it go as it served me well.

Now the big problem is what kind of phone to get. In principle I only use it to make phone calls, send SMS and write stuff down in the calendar. But I could see myself using a camera and maybe even surf the web or read email (you know, like the kids today).

It must be small and light with decent battery life. At least tri-band. Bluetooth would be cool in case I get a new computer and want to hook it up. IrDA for backwards compatibilty. EVDO? Not necessarily. And I don’t really like flip phones (too fat, antenna sticking out).

As I’m with Cingular, my choice is limited to this. I hear people raving about the RAZR, Q, Sidekick 3 and Treo 650 but I’m not really convinced of any of these. So here is my short list based on what’s available online at Cingular.

- Nokia 6061: Only dual band, flip phone
- Nokia 6102i: 850/1800/1900 MHz (900 is missing), IrDA, EDGE, Bluetooth, Yahoo! IM, 128 x 160 Pixels
- Sony Ericsson Z525a: Quad band, Bluetooth, IrDA, Yahoo! IM, antenna is not sticking out, 128 x 160 Pixels
- RAZR V3: Quad band, Bluetooth, antenna is not sticking out, 176 x 220 Pixels

Heading over to Yahoo! Tech to see what others are saying about these phones. Maybe Cingular has more at their stores?