Archives for July 2003
July 31, 2003
In a thoughtful and emotional article for the NY Times, Katie Hafner looks into wired kids going off to camp. Counter to the notion of a sleep-over camp, where children go for weeks without speaking to their parents as they master a sense of independence, parents and offspring alike have come to expect a constant connection.
Yet the shift toward staying in touch is a double-edged sword. "Every time you reopen that connection, it intensifies the feelings of homesickness," said Marla Coleman, president of the American Camping Association and co-owner of Camp Echo in the Catskills.
And although cellphones are taboo at most camps, they still find their way into many a duffel bag. Of related interest, a previous article in textually.org, No cell phones at summer camps, on how a new criteria has come up when parents look into camps, is this camp "plugged" or "unplugged".
Home appliance company, Electrolux says that it is currently developing an appliance that allows consumers to monitor refrigerator contents with digital images.
Able to take pictures inside a fridge through a Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) capable device, the Food Manager System will provide mobile phone users with an instant inventory of what food they have through a digital snapshot taken of the interior. The appliance currently only exists as a concept model but is expected to be used commercially in the future, according to Cellular News.
According to 3G, In its new report, "Mobile Data Solutions for Businesses: maximising revenue and take-up", Analysis Reseach predicts that around 40% of people with a business mobile phone (21 million Europeans) will use mobile email in 2008, compared to less than 1% today.
Over the same period, the annual mobile service revenue generated by email will increase from EUR49 million in 2003 to EUR2.9 billion in 2008.
July 30, 2003
The UK based mobile content company, Amplefuture says that it delivered the first commercial, cross network, Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) on the fourth series of the reality television program, Big Brother. Up until now, no one could send an MMS alert across all 4 of the major networks in the UK.
Alexandria Mendelson, Amplefuture's Commercial Director spoke of the service; "This service has changed the nature of mobile alerts. They have moved from a simple short text message to a full editorial medium, showing the latest action in high quality pictures", according to Cellular News.
Philippine residents turned to texting and swarmed radio stations with angry calls hurled against Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and President Arroyo “for terrorizing Davao,” a day after junior officers of the Armed Forces mutineed against the government and accused the two of creating terror to access the antiterrorism fund of the United States, reports abs-cbnews.
For insight into how powerful SMS can be in shaping public opinion (particularly in the Philippines - dubbed the texting capital of the world) and mobilizing people, read reference article on how «Technology Changed the Philippine Political Dynamics» written by Helen S. Andrade-Jimenez, for which she was awarded the 2001 Citi Journalistic Excellence Award (CJEA).
Kenyan farmers and subscribers to KenCell Communications will no longer need to travel to markets to find out commodity prices. An SMS service will allow them to inquire about current prices of maize, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages and onions, reports 160characters.org.
Dublin Bus timetables can now be accessed by SMS. How does it work?? Travellers simply send a text message to a short code with the word BUS followed by the bus route number. Users then receive a response containing times for the next 3 buses in each direction, or include the word TOMORROW for the next day's service. [160characters.org]
Switzerland's Federal Railways, the CFF, offers the exact same kind of service. It's fabulous.
Of related interest and a Blast from the Past
This service was mentioned in Ananova last fall. The Kinchbus company runs a service which enables passengers to discover exactly how far away the next bus is, giving them just enough time to get to the bus stop. Passengers send a text message it to a given number. Within 30 seconds the arrival time of the next bus is transmitted back to them by text message, thanks to satellite receivers installed on each bus.
In searching my website netsurf.ch for the English bus company story, I fell on a page summarizing the Summit Opening of "TELECOM 99", with keynote speeches by both Bill Gates and Larry Ellison. And Larry Ellison, actually spoke of a favorite wireless aplication, hooked up to the Internet: "This will tell you exactly where your bus is. No big deal in San Francisco when you're waiting outside in a gentle breeze, but in Helsinky, in January, this could save your life."
An entirely bogus SMS is circulating in Australia advising of a US $30,000 lottery windfall and instructing recipients to log on to a website with a username and password contained in the message,
According to smh.com, the lottery spam follows a rash of nuisance text messages hitting British users - many of them tempting recipients into calling 1900 numbers with romantic or raunchy messages.
So far the messages have been text only, but with picture messaging becoming widely available, it is only a matter of time before visual temptations will also be used.
"Will the cellcam make phone sex even better than the real thing? Lord but it is a good time to be a pervert. Instant private cellphone pics and video clips? Sent to anyone, anytime, anywhere, instantly, while doing anything, for pennies apiece? Aha". An extract from a Nerve article via Smart Mobs via Xeni Jardin for boingboing.
July 29, 2003
Add this to bad cell phone manners, golfers are calling from their cell phones. Just when a putt is lined up, a cell phone will ring from the next tee. Someone is conducting a business deal on the golf course. Sound familiar? It's becoming a common practice, according to Record Online. Some golf courses forbid them, but not all of them. "But the real problem is players can't afford to slow down. When the play isn't moving as fast as some golfers would like, patience is required, a quality that some adults just don't have". Good manners either.
In another related story, and far more consequential than just bad etiquette, a ringtone may have cost Brian Davis a stroke on the 16th hole, during the last British Open. The English golfer missed a putt to save par after someone's phone began ringing, according to the Chicago Sun-Times,
The Toronto Star reports on a Canadian-born encarcerated convicted criminal, using a cell phone smuggled into the penitentiary -- investigators concluded a woman had smuggled the cellular phone into the prison hidden in a body cavity --, to organize a cocaine run from Miami to Canada. Partners on the outside paid for his cell phone bills through phone cards.
He even planned a dramatic jailbreak according to the police and prosecutors. Officials learned of the convict's owning a cell phone by listening in on his calls from the prison's pay phone.
With the increase in mobile phone users, the menace of sending vulgar or threatening messages via the SMS is on the rise, reports Express India. The senders shield behind almost-assured anonymity because some cellphone companies are reluctant to reveal the identity of clients, fearing loss of business.
The harrowing time faced by a woman journalist of this Express India last week is a case in point. The scores of suggestive SMS' in the span of a week were being sent by a customer of BPL Mobile.
Her efforts to get the name and address of the sender from the cellphone company fell through. Even after a complaint was lodged with the Cantonment Police Station, the company officials refused to co-operate.
Incidence of threatening behaviour and bullying by SMS has been reported elsewhere around the world, but usually involving children. In The Lothians (Scotland), text messages now account for more than half of the threats of violence or intimidation reported to the police. cf 70% increase in threatening behaviour by SMS and Bullying by SMS, a real problem.
The BBC outlines BT's re-entry into the UK market for mobile phone services, less than two years after selling off its mobile subsidiary MMO2. "BT Mobile Home Plan" will launch in the Fall and target families who want to buy multiple handsets from the same operator.
"Families who sign up for Home Plan will receive a single bill for all their mobile use - and they will be sent alerts if one family member is spending too much. BT Retail Chief Executive Pierre Danon said: "We believe that BT is the first company to recognise that customers are not just indviduals, but parts of families".
From Moco News: Walt Disney is in early discussions with several wireless companies and handset makers to offer cellphone services under various brand names it owns, including ESPN...Disney is particularly interested in new phone technology that could allow the sending of video images and audio clips via wireless handsets.
3 UK, the video mobile company, has partnered with lastminute.com, Europe's leading online travel agency, to launch a unique service on its network. allowing 3 customers to search for great deals on lastminute.com holidays and lifestyle products and research travel information from their 3 video mobiles, reports 3G.
July 27, 2003
Encouraged by the success of a confidential scheme introduced in February in Melbourn and Harston (UK), South Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust (NHS) has extended it to Linton and Sawston.
By contacting the Health Text-Messaging service anonymously, 11 to 16-year-olds can get advice on sexual health, drugs, alcohol and even relationships, according to Cambridge News.
Other campaigns/health advice text messaging services offered elsewhere:
-- Dare To Say No!: A text messaging campaign launched by the European Union this year, to warn teenagers about the dangers related to smoking and tobacco. Launched April 1st in most European countries, it will continue until 2004.
-- SMS campaign against cannabis: The British Lung Foundation (BLF) sent out 30,000 texts messages early March, to young adults to raise awareness that smoking cannabis can be harfmul to their health.
-- A French government ministry, La Mission Interministérielle de lutte contre la drogue et la toxicomanie en France (Mildt), sent out 20'000 SMS last Spring, inviting young people to visit their website on drugs and alcool prevention.
-- A wireless service in Singapore (where mobile penetration is greater than 75 percent - it's 51 percent in the US) encouraged young citizens to talk about sex last Fall, in a Sex in the Air campaign initiated by Action for AIDS. The service encourages subscribers to send sex-related questions by SMS to an international panel of doctors and health educators, with answered returned within 48 hours.
July 26, 2003
According to an article in Yahoo News, Malaysian Muslim men are able to divorce their wives by SMS, quoting a religious adviser to the government in the New Straits Times.
The article continues: "Hamid Othman, adviser to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said divorce via SMS or short messaging service was in accordance with sharia law if it was clear and unambiguous, SMS is just another form of writing".
Islamic law permits a man to divorce his wife by declaring "I divorce you" three times.
Muslim divorce by text message came up in 2001 and was widely written up. The BBC reported on this same Hamid Othman -- then already adviser to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad -- condemning this, saying that government would not accept such a practise, as such text messages would be "an irresponsible act, dangerous and should not be tolerated. We have adequate laws to curb rash moves by Muslim men to divorce their wives without justification".
According to CNet, Gulf News reported 16 cases of divorce by SMS in Dubai between April and June 2001. In one case, a man sent his wife a message reading: "Why are you late? You are divorced."
Update 07/27: "The manner of pronouncing divorce through short messaging system (SMS) is an insult to women although the Syariah Court has ruled that it is permissible, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil said", reports The Star. The same outcry followed this issue when it came up in 2001.
Is all this really news or old news being mistakenly picked up by other papers? Why would Hamid Othman, the officiel who is quoted, not mention that this issue came up two years ago?
Techdirt reports on an announcement by Verizon Wireless that they have located a bug that can let anyone read any text message sent to a Verizon Wireless subscriber - including the telephone number and the full text of the message.
Verizon SMS Bug information is available at ThreeZee.com.
July 25, 2003
Motorola and Nextel Communications look set to make a cell phone walkie-talkie feature called "push to talk" (PTT) available to dialers internationally, as rivals struggle to launch their own services inside the United States, according to Business Week.
Jordanian carrier Fastlink will be the first company in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region to use push-to-talk (PTT) technology.
With PTT, callers need only push a single button to connect to another cell phone. It happens in less than a second, as with walkie-talkies. Because there's no time spent dialing or making a connection to a network, calls are shorter and less expensive than usual. It's won favor with corporations with mobile work forces that can benefit from such instant communication.
Recently the Economist published an interesting article on PTT, but from a different perspective, questionning whether PTT would end up being used in America the way SMS is used is elsewhere, further widening the gulf between America and the rest of the world in wireless use. cf Doing the walkie-talkie.
If Europe and the Middle East go for PTT, then the cell phone market and the text messaging feature will be an entirely different ball game.
Cellular News reports on a mobile phone able to warn against fire, leakage of methane or other types of toxic gas. The alarm-telephone has been submitted to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for patent.
"In the future, the mobile phones might also include biosensors, which will warn about the presence of bacteria, viruses, toxins, micro-organisms, radiations, nuclear particles and explosive powder."
Both the Dear Abby and the Apartment Life chronicles of the Washington Post have questions related to cell phones. Cell manners complaints at a graduation for Dear Abby and in Apartment Life, a reader wonders if he and his roomates should forgo a land line phone and rely on their cell phones. Some good advice: "For the person considering ditching his land line phone - just be sure the building you rent doesn't have one of those entry buzzers that hooks up to the telephone. Or at least be sure you'll be able to know when people are there and let them in."
Given the option, most Americans will opt for cheap, voice-only cell phones over the do-it-all, more expensive handsets, according to a recent study by Jupiter Research that doesn't bode well for the industry, reports Wired.
Japan's three major mobile phone service providers plan to share with one another information on spammers who send unsolicited e-mail messages, by creating a blacklist of malicious businesses that send spam, according to NE Asia Online.
Motorola will offer a cell phone using software from Microsoft Corp. later this year, according to USA Today.
"If Microsoft can establish itself as a dominant force, it could mean big changes in the way cell phones are sold, says Probe Research analyst David Chamberlain.
Today, most consumers shop for phones based on brands like Nokia and Motorola. Symbian's software can be customized so each manufacturer's cell phone is unique.
Microsoft's software is more standardized. If it's widely adopted, cell phones could become like PCs — all very similar, with Microsoft at the core, Chamberlain says".
China, the world's largest market for cell phones, is aggressively developing a homegrown technology that can run the next generation of mobile telephone networks, challenging the traditional dominance of American and European companies, according to The Washington Post.
"If China develops its own 3G standard, it could save on the royalties it would otherwise have to pay foreign firms for their gear -- a tab that reportedly runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars. And if China's standard gained favor abroad, its companies could then collect royalties from foreign counterparts. Not least, Chinese firms would probably enjoy built-in cost advantages given the scale of their home market. "
To the long list of woes caused by talking on a cell phone while driving, here is a new one. In Florida, fire trucks are complaining cars are not moving out of the way fast enough, costing emergency crews valuable time when they need to rush to an emergency. "People don't stop for us. They don't hear us", says Lieutenant Joe Gugliuzza of Fire Protection and Rescue in Lee County. Rolled up windows, air conditioning, music and cell phones distract drivers, according to NBC-2.
July 24, 2003
Parents can now bar their children's mobile phones from accessing adult content using a new service available from Bango.net. Simply by texting go bar to the number 89080, they can prevent the user of that phone from accessing adult pictures and videos or violent games, according to Moco News.
The Bango service uniquely identifies each user coming to its system so any phones barred from accessing unsuitable content will be prevented from doing so.
According to New Media Zero, the mobile network operators are all said to be working on plans to introduce such systems, with O2 and Vodafone having publicly outlined their strategies, but none has yet been launched.
The adult content industry on mobile looks set to explode in the next three years. A report from the IT research company Visiongain forecasts that profits from adult content transmitted to mobile phones will reach an annual £4 billion by 2006, out of a total annual adult market of £70 billion.
Elsewhere... from Ireland
Another technology company, Telcotec, has launched a product, The Content Guardian, designed to protect 2.5G and 3G mobile phone users from unsolicited and pornographic content. Acting as a content filter, it enables operators to block pornographic images and a limited amount of spam.
Mobile operators in the UK currently take as much as 40% of revenues raised via reverse billing. Although some charities have brokered a lower rate for specific campaigns, there's no standard charity rate for SMS, according to New Media Zero via Moco News.
In other countries, though not the rule, there have been examples of fund raising campaigns by SMS where the entire proceeds were donated to the charity and in some instances, the fund raising was closely associated with the mobile operator himself (very recently, Telekom South Africa solliciting phone wishes on the occasion of Nelson Mandela's birthday, or Australia's Telestra's fund raising campaign in 2001 as part of a national awareness campaign to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Mobile clients were urged to download a "Red Nose" logo (the campaign was coined "Red Nose Day") and the proceeds were donated to SIDS Australia.
For more on fundraising by SMS, check out SMS and Charities category in textually.org.
Mobilmag has an article today on Apeera, Inc, a French company which has developed a solution for mobile network operators, enabling mobile phone users to share applications such as mobile games, pictures, cartoons or personal files with their friends and colleagues via their mobile phones.
This company got a quite a few write-ups in the French press last year and there's a good article in English in the BBC.
-- For more on peer-to-peer wireless technology, there is an interesting essay in the TheFeature.com entitled «Monster Mesh: Decentralized Wireless Broadband» by By Kevin Werbach, published January 21, 2002
-- Swiss University EPFL has an ongoing government funded project on this subject called terminodes.org.
-- Howard Rheingold in «Smart Mobs» has a related chapter "Mobile Ad Hoc Social Networks" on pages 169 through 174.
-- And here is a desktop application called PocketPeer, allowing users to share, search and download files between computer to computer and from computer to mobile phone or PDA."