Archives for August 2003
August 31, 2003
I'm guest blogging on Smart Mobs for a couple of weeks. Here's a related SMS story posted this morning.
In it's first foray into public relations via SMS messaging, the Thailand government will offer free text-message updates (in English and in Thai) on October's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok, drawing 21 world leaders including US President George W. Bush. [Link to story] / [Smart Mobs permalink]
August 30, 2003
-- 40 percent of those surveyed said they are interested in push-to-talk (P2T)
-- 45 percent said that P2T was the most compelling mobile application currently on the market. [Fierce Wireless]
Most spam articles related to cell phones focus on unsollicited text messages being sent to users, but an interesting article by Ross Rubin for Wireless Ziff Davis looks at another hasard, checking your mail on your wireless device. Most anti-spam measures are service-centered, meaning that a user is safe on their desktop or notebook, but not on their PDA or cell phone.
"Furthermore, fighting spam has special challenges on a handheld or advanced handset. The first of these is that the e-mail client is not Outlook, Microsoft's extensible and popular program for which many client-side spam-fighting tools have been developed. Some are also available for Outlook Express, the even more popular e-mail client that Microsoft is phasing out. However, few if any tools are available for the kinds of proprietary clients often seen on the leading mobile platforms of PalmSource, Microsoft, Symbian and Good. That eliminates innovative approaches like the collaborative spam-fighting service SpamNet".
August 29, 2003
Officials at Fife Council Scotland are hailing as a success, an experiment in which tenants behind on their rent payments were sent reminders by text messaging, according to the BBC.
Out of the 200 tenants sent SMS messages adivising them their rent was overdue, the response rate was of 40%, with five responses arriving within 10 minutes of being sent.
The Council is considering extending the service to telling tenants about repairs and other appointments.
There was a previous post in July, on text messaging used for debt collecting in South Africa, where it proved more successful than conventional telephone calls or correspondence, with response rates increasing as much as 200%.
"Possibly debtors who receive a personalised SMS gets a feeling of being tracked down with no place to hide as a cellphone is generally always in close proximity to the user, almost an extension of their person,” says Delmé Hawkins, manager of SMSmalls, a locally developed product that provides a bulk SMS service in South Africa."
August 28, 2003
Push-to-talk (PTT) could be the biggest upgrade to mobile phones since wireless service first became affordable a decade ago, according to Mike Langberg for the Silicon Valley.
This is a great explanatory article for anyone unfamiliar with Push-to-talk technology.
"With push-to-talk, also known as PTT, callers organize a group of co-workers or friends. By pushing a button on your phone, everyone in the group can hear you simultaneously and immediately, without having to hit the green ``answer'' button".
Mobile Tracker reports on what could be the next big thing in cellular networks—modified balloons that double as cell towers. "A single balloon could service an area as big as Oklahoma due to the fact that they will fly at an amazing 100,000 feet up. This could really speed up network expansion to remote areas. There is one downside though, the balloons only last a day".
The BBC's Watchdog programme made history this week, becoming the first British television programme to gauge public opinion by text message. The groundbreaking research, which shows that half the British public think the MMR vaccine is safe, has been developed and tested by research agency MORI, according to Daily Research News Online.
"Using text messaging as a research technique also gives Watchdog access to a much wider sample of people than alternative methods such as Internet polling. ‘Three-quarters of the British population use a mobile phone, compared to less than half who use the Internet, and text messaging is more socially inclusive,' explains Down. ‘Texting is also much more immediate – and you can do it anywhere!'
The spread of rumours of arrests by pagers and text messaging following the riots that rocked Mumbai on Monday has become a matter of concern for the Indian police. Senior police officials felt such rumours could have led to communal disturbances in the city besides hampering police investigations, according to Cities Express.
For more on rumours spread by SMS, see SMS and Politics category in textually.org.
The BBC covering The Game Developers Conference Europe in London, describes some of the mobile games being showcased, with insights into the sort of things keeping Japanese thumbs busy. They include virtual pets which are fed by photos, pronunciation puzzles and games that are the quality of PlayStation.
Cameraphone gaming and Educational games:
"Other games also make use of the camera on handsets. Mr David Collier -- of Namco, one of the most successful Japanese mobile game publishers -- demonstrated a game which creates a fighting character based on your photo.
It interprets your image to give your character speed and power. You can then send this to a friend's mobile to do battle.
Another game uses a phone's microphone for educational purposes. The game is intended to help children with their pronunciation and works by comparing what they say with a sample on the handset2.
Setting its eyes on India's growing mobile phone user base, China's largest mobile phone manufacturer, Bird, today entered the Indian market with the introduction of four cellular handset models, according to Mid Day.
Sounds like nothing to write home about, but this caught my eye: These modes include three SMS remote control functions which operate from a distance; retrieval of missed calls, unread SMS messages, and phone switch-offs activated. Cool!
According to Per Helmersen, Senior Research Psychologist at Telenor, Norway's two MMS service providers, MMS use has exploded in Norway this Summer - 160,000 messages in May, 550,000 in June and 1.35 million in July - making Norway the leading MMS nation in Europe. Norway has a population of 4.4 mill. and a mobile penetration of 84% (ITU, 2002).
Telenor and NetCom, have extended the free MMS trial period for their customers through October (started in June).
The new Nokia 2300 launched yesterday at events in Moscow, Russia, and New Delhi, India is the first Nokia phone to enable users to filter out junk text messages from unwanted numbers.
Other features include helping users monitor their mobile usage such as an in-call timer for checking the duration of a call, as well as an SMS counter to keep track of the number of text messages sent or received. Other features include picture messaging, an FM radio and an internal hands-free speaker for group communication, according to 160characters.org.
A Brazilian telephone company is offering a helping hand to Latin lovers who are lacking inspiration with animations of sexual positions based on the Kama Sutra flashed directly to their mobile phones.
For 33 cents, customers of Tele Norte Leste Participacoes' TNLP4.SA TNE.N wireless arm Oi can download one of 40 animations which come with a short explanation and gauge of difficulty, according to Reuters via Moco News.
Soon, you will be able to detect if the person you are talking to on your mobile phone is telling the truth or not.
Mobile-phone software developer AgileMobile.com announced it is developing a lie detector application designed for advanced smart phones. It's a real-time program that measures stress caused by lying in a person's voice and then displays the information via a graph on the users' mobile screen, according to RCRNews via Techdirt.
The company points out that this application is for entertainment purposes only.
August 27, 2003
Amongst the recommendations made to Palestinian militants forced to go deeper underground after Israel has warned that they are marked for death: shaving off their beards, slipping into women's robes and turning off their cell phones, reports Charleston Net.
An interesting note posted by Dave Farber reflects on terror situations in Israel and recommends keeping cell phones turned off.
James on MMS Memo, publishes a (rare and baffling) negative review of Nokia's N-Gage which he received in a newsletter, the author of which James feels, has missed the point that that online ubiquitous gaming is in fact - nothing short of a revolution.
""First, the device is huge, comparable in size to an older-model Nintendo joystick. Second, you can't put the device flush against your face to talk, but must hold it almost perpendicular to your head. Third, and perhaps most damaging, the N-Gage is expected to cost consumers $299 -- that's $200 more than a Game Boy Advance, and far more than most heavily subsidized cell phones cost these days. Finally, expecting people to play networked games over the current cell-phone network (where max speeds in the United States hit 30 to 40 kilobits per second) is simply ludicrous."
Mobile gaming is seen by many as the next big thing, as phones become more powerful and come with colour screens, according to speakers at the Game Developers Conference Europe on in London this week.
"Games for mobiles should be considered different from those played on a PC or a console like the PlayStation 2. And they must be designed to appeal to people with a few minutes to kill, waiting for a train or bus.
After enabling viewers to vote by SMS in immensely popular programs such as Pop Idol, Fame Academy and Big Brother, the next step in interactive gaming will allow viewers to shoot, kick or punch other people on screen over a mobile handset, reports the BBC.
There already are shows in Finland and the Philippines where people can become part of the action on screen.
From Finland: "WaterWar is multiplayer TV program of Finland. The programme is shown in the afternoon on a small youth channel which has between 5,000 and 10,000 viewers.
In the game, two teams battle each other for a few minutes using water pistols. A player sends instructions to their character in a text message. Up to 50 people are playing at any one time, with others waiting in the wings to join in.
Despite its niche appeal, the show has provided a lucrative source of revenue for the TV channel. Mr Smith said the average player sent 26 texts at a cost of around 50 pence each.
In the Philippines: Gamechannel.tv, has taken the concept a step further. It offers a range of multiplayer games with a presenter in early evening slot.
The Katapult game on gamechannel.tv is played via SMS. "It's all about ego as there are no prizes" said Mr Smith, with people lured by the opportunity to get their name on the top of the leaderboard".
August 26, 2003
This appears to be the first case of extortion by text messaging. $70,000 were demanded of the father of an abudcted Vietnamese young lady, Lin Phun, with a warning the captive would die if the kidnappers found out police were involved, reports News.com.
"I have your Lin Phun. Now go and tell her dad I want $70K for her release by 6pm today."
The message came after Ms Phun had been missing for two days. The mobile phone was traced back to the culprits and police began surveillance of their appartment.
Ms Phun was killed within a short time of the ransom demands despite her kidnappers vowing her release within two hours of receiving the money.
"A system like Simpay means retailers can use one system to sell to users on all participating carriers. But this system, and others like it, raise as many questions as they answer. First off, what's the incentive for retailers and consumers to use something like this in the face of something as simple as reverse-charge or premium SMS? For simple purchases of mobile content like ringtones or graphics, premium SMS is a simple, powerful solution. Why replace it with something needlessly more complex?"
The Yankee Group report entitled "Latin American Handset Market in Transition" predicts handset sales will reach annual sales of 22 million new units by 2003. From 2004 until 2006, annual sales will vary from 19 million to 22 million new units, reports Cellular News.
US Senator Charles E. Schumer has proposed requiring every cell phone provider give first priority to emergency personnel and urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to improve service for all cell phone users during emergencies, according to Cellular News.
"Schumer said that while cell phone calls will surpass land line calls in New York within two years, cell phone networks already can't handle high call volumes after a major disaster. Almost all cellular networks can only handle 25 to 30% of their customers making a phone call at any one time, and the FCC does not currently put specific requirements on network quality or capacity.
Even worse, most police, firefighters, and first responders do not get priority for their cell phone calls after disasters because only one cell phone provider in New York has implemented the plan to do this that the Federal government put in place almost two years ago.
Schumer found that T-Mobile is the only cell phone provider with a working plan in place to give emergency providers first priority to place cell phone calls during emergencies".
While society relentlessly pulled families apart during the past century, new technologies are binding us together again in this one. The fact is, today — through Internet technology and cheap wireless communications — our kids never really leave home.
"Cell phones, instant messages, digital cameras — maintain tight bonds between college students and their parents even if they are far, far away from each other. And that's a good thing — or is it? Alcestis Oberg and Laura Vanderkam for USA Today give us two sharply contrasting views.
The positive side : Some sociologists are concerned that the lack of face-to-face contact in an Internet society might disrupt Americans' social patterns, and make us emotional cripples. But in family life, these experts are mistaken. Colleges and jobs in distant places used to rip families physically apart, making face-to-face communication impossible. As a result, parents and children felt isolated and rootless. Now the 21st century's technologies are removing those feelings of isolation.
The flip side: Students fells smothered by parents who have hyper-parented them since birth and aren't about to stop just because their child is, technically, a grown-up. Cell phones and instant messaging have only made it worse, making it easier to hold on".
There are two million diabetics in France, of whom 10 percent have type 1 diabetes.
To facilitate transmission of glucose information between patients and physicians, France Telecom uses the Orange GSM cellular network to send data to a secure server that contains patient files. Physicians are thus able to easily check the files and send appropriate medical advice to individual patients via SMS text messages, according to a France Telecom press release.
Initial tests of this service began with a group of ten patients in Grenoble over a three-month period. Given the positive results, clinical trials involving several dozen patients and five attending physicians at the Grenoble and Toulouse university hospitals began in April 2003.
Just as travellers thought that cell phones had finally saved them from outrageous phone rates when staying in a hotel, The Daily Record exposes a mobile phone jamming scam in Scotland.
The devices emit radio waves which wipe out the signal to mobile phones, rendering them useless. Mobile phone users have no idea their signal has been sabotaged, they simply think the area has no network coverage.
Thanks to businessman Ronnie McGuire, hotels, restaurants, bars and bed and breakfasts in Scotland are being flooded with high-tech phone jammers imported from Taiwan. McGuire promotes them on glossy leaflets, which state: "Harassed by mobile phones or hotel phone system not being used?"
Even a local hairdresser bought two "because his staff was texting each other all the time."
While staying over in Scotland, caveat emptor.
August 25, 2003
Mobile services provider Vodafone claims it is providing a "first" to Dutch mobile users in offering SMS and MMS interoperability with all three other Dutch mobile operators. Through the newly-launched service, customers can send MMS messages directly to and receive MMS messages from KPN network users; the network's interoperability with Telfort and T-Mobile began earlier this year.
"Vodafone customers can use the camera on their Vodafone live! handset to take pictures. They can add text and/or sound and send the result as an MMS message to other Vodafone live! customers. Now it is also possible for Vodafone customers to view MMS messages from KPN customers directly on their mobile and send them MMS messages in return."
In a rare accident in Amsterdam last week, a mobile phone exploded in a woman's face causing burns to her face and neck. According to The Register, the phone switched itself off when the woman dropped the phone and then exploded when she turned it on again.
A spokesman for Nokia confirmed that while the phone was made by Nokia, the battery was not. Nokia intends to carry out an investigation into the incident but has warned that some replacement batteries, while cheaper, lack some essential safety features. Nokia was aware of "three or four" similar incidents of exploding mobile phones over the last six months or so.
Other such incidents reported around the world:
-- The first case tracked down of a cellphone fault causing an explosion occured in Taiwan, injuring its owner, and reported by Cellular News. The woman appeared on ETTV television channel saying: "The phone heated up and I could feel the heat coming from my bag, but I did not pay attention because I was eating. A few minutes later it exploded. The hot debris burned my arms and feet."
-- An incident in Norway was reported by Belgian newspaper Le Soir, in November 2002, when the Nokia handeset of a 15 year-old boy exploded in class. His cell phone was equipped with a non Nokia battery. No one was hurt.
In February this year, Cellular News reported that Nokia had admitted that cases had been reported of non-original mobile phone batteries overheating in the European, African and Asian regions, causing damage to both batteries and Nokia phones.
James on MMS Memo, shares his experience of playing chess with a real person in Italy, on his Nokia 3650. "GPRS Chess is still a little rough around the edges, as you'd expect from a beta version (0.71B), but its good enough that you can appreciate the amazing opportunity for ubiquitous online gaming.
August 22, 2003
During last week's massive power blackout in the Eastern US, mobile phone service was unavailable for many -- but according to this article, text messsage services remained largely functional:
"Even when phone calls fail to get through, text messages can make their way over the networks.
'Text messages make more efficient use of cell networks,' said Mike Irizarry, chief technology officer at Chicago-based U.S. Cellular Corp. 'They can get through when you can't make a call.'
And there's the rub: While most wireless phones can send text messages, most people don't have a clue how to use them. It 'is quite popular with young people, but most adults don't use it,' Irizarry said."