Archives for March 2012

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March 31, 2012

Designing a Smart-Phone Alphabet for the Illiterate

dsc_2796-1.jpeg Peanut farmers in India are helping to design a text-messaging app called EasySMS that could aid the many millions who can't read or write. MIT Technology Review reports.

quotemarksright.jpg... Computer scientist Hendrik Knoche at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) designed the new smart-phone interface for the farmers together with P.R. Sheshagiri Rao, a farmer in CK Pura who once worked as an agricultural scientist elsewhere in India.

Back in Lausanne, Knoche challenged his students to design a text-messaging application for illiterate users of touch-screen phones. The result, easySMS, lets users compose their own messages by highlighting single words from incoming messages, playing them aloud, and copying and pasting them into new messages. The application also contains a small dictionary of common words and phrases.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.


EasySMS app enables illiterate people to read, compose and send text messages - During the course of a mobile interaction design class in 2011 at Lausanne Switzerland's EPFL, students had to come up with an idea for - and design an application on mobile phones - to improve the livelihoods of people living in rural communities in developing countries.

Here is one of their projects: EasySMS which enables illiterate people to read, compose and send text messages. Read full article.

emily | 12:50 PM | permalink

Afghan Taliban use phones for propaganda

_59396482_kabulmobile.jpeg According to the BBC, Taliban insurgents are making use of widely-available mobile phones in Afghanistan as a propaganda tool.

quotemarksright.jpgThe group is sending video and text messages to deter the population from supporting the Afghan government or joining the security forces.

They also project their authority in the south and east by imposing night-time bans on mobile services.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of Afghans upload Taliban religious chants and ringtones as a kind of travel insurance to avoid intimidation in areas with a heavy insurgent presence.

The clips sent by the Taliban to subscribers include beheadings, real-life suicide bombings and roadside bomb explosions.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

Related articles.

emily | 12:44 PM | permalink

Obama campagin uses SMS to raise funds

Obama Biden 2010 Logo.jpeg The Obama campaign fundraising machine has debuted a new text message tool with encouraging results for the President’s bean counters. TIME reports.

quotemarksright.jpgOn Wednesday, the Obama campaign sent out an SMS message to cell phones and smart phones of tens of thousands of previous donors asking them to give more money. “Support Pres Obama in less than a minute,” the message read, “using our new secure system: just reply with the amount you want to give and we’ll charge your saved credit card.”

There is nothing new about asking for money via text message, but the technology behind collecting the money was a first for a presidential campaign. All potential donors had to do to give more money was to type a number into their phone. Write “25,” or “10″ and that amount of dollars was immediately drawn from their credit cards into the campaign’s coffers.

... A person familiar with Wednesday’s ask said that the response rate was more than 20 times greater than any text message solicitation Obama has sent out before. And the reason is simple: Even with an iPhone, it remains an arduous hassle to enter all the information that is typically required to buy anything online with a credit card. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 12:33 PM | permalink

March 30, 2012

China's mobile phone subscriptions tops one billion

China said Friday it had broken the barrier of one billion mobile phone accounts at the end of February, as more people in the world's most populous country ditch fixed phones. The AFP reports.

quotemarksright.jpg... However, the figures do not indicate how many mobile phone users there are in China, as companies and individuals may have two or more subscriptions each.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 2:05 PM | permalink

Bump Pay iPhone app exchanges money by tapping devices together

BumpPayApp.jpg Bump Labs joined the mobile payments craze yesterday when the startup launched its Bump Pay app for iPhone that allows people to exchange money by tapping their phones together. Computerworld reports.

quotemarksright.jpgTo use Bump Pay, a user types in how much money he or she wants to send and then bumps phones with the intended recipient. Bump's software determines which two phones collided. The app then transfers funds from one user's PayPal account to the other's. Both users must have previously downloaded the app and linked it to their PayPal accounts.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 1:25 PM | permalink

Cell Phone Ban Study Shows Reduction in California Fatal Car Accidents

California has seen a significant reduction in fatal car, truck and motorcycle accidents since a new state law banned hand-held cell phone use in 2008, according to study results recently released by the state Office of Traffic Safety. [via US Politics Today]

quotemarksright.jpgBased on an analysis of state crash records before and after the ban went into effect, the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) at UC-Berkeley found that vehicle accident fatalities decreased by 22 percent while deaths caused by drivers using hand-held cell phones went down an impressive 47 percent.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 1:14 PM | permalink

'Zombies' on cellphones raise awareness of distracted driving

INWI-Logo.jpeg It looks like the set of Hollywood's latest zombie movie, but if you look closely, the zombies are on their cellphones.

They're all part of the California Highway Patrol and state Office of Traffic Safety's "It's Not Worth It!" campaign to get California drivers to put down their cell phones.

The second annual National Distracted Driving Awareness Month kicks off April 1.

Watch video via News10.

emily | 8:24 AM | permalink

Mobile firms bleed billions to fraud and bill errors

Mobile phone firms are losing $58bn a year worldwide to billing errors and fraud, a report says, according to the BBC.

quotemarksright.jpgJuniper Research found operators were "leaking" revenue because the complexity of networks made fraud and errors harder to spot.

The problem is worst in Africa and the Middle East, where 15% of revenue is lost annually, compared with 1% in Europe and about 2.8% in North America.

The mobile industry is estimated to have generated $920bn in 2011.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 8:20 AM | permalink

Study: Texting enhances HIV therapy compliance

1messagereceived.jpg Weekly mobile phone text messaging may help patients with HIV adhere to antiretroviral therapy (ART) that is often associated with difficult side effects, according to a study published online March 14 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Modern Medecine reports.

quotemarksright.jpgHigh-quality evidence suggests that weekly text messages may enhance ART adherence, so investigators reviewed 2 randomized controlled trials from Kenya including a total of 966 adult patients with HIV. One trial compared short weekly text messages against standard care. The other trial compared short-daily, long-daily, short-weekly, and long-weekly messages against standard care.

Patients receiving standard care in each study received a mobile phone but did not receive any study-related mobile communication.

Those assigned to intervention in the first study were sent brief text messages, such as, “How are you?”, and were expected to respond within 48 hours. In the second study, patients assigned to intervention received daily or weekly short text messages, such as, “This is your reminder,” or daily or weekly long text messages, such as, “This is your reminder. Be strong and courageous. We care about you.”

At 48-52 weeks, combined data from both trials demonstrated that any text messaging was associated with greater ART adherence, weekly texts of any length were associated with adherence, and short weekly text messages were associated with adherence. In the first trial, short weekly texts were also associated with viral load suppression at 52 weeks.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:15 AM | permalink

March 29, 2012

Opening the Discussion of Data Privacy in mHealth

Mobile-Security2.jpeg During New America’s Mobile Disconnect talk on February 9th, Katrin Verclas, Co-Founder and Editor of, brought up an interesting question about data privacy in mhealth – what is being done to protect patient data in mhealth projects in developing countries? Global Broadband reports.

quotemarksright.jpgIf you are gathering sensitive health data over completely clear text and insecure SMS, somebody’s HIV status, sensitive information protected by HIPAA standards in this country, completely unregulated by development organizations, they don’t self-regulate. Countries certainly don’t have any privacy or data protection stipulations…If we are talking about mobile telephony and mobile phones in development, we need to talk about how we protect the data that we are gathering, the information that we are distributing…”

Data privacy is an important, yet undiscussed topic. As Katrin mentioned, an individual’s health information is extremely personal, especially because it can be used against the person to make them a social outcast. But there is little talked about how patient information is being protected, especially the structure and framework of data protection on a large scale. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article. Image from Technorati.

emily | 5:10 PM | permalink

New plastics could endow cellphones with self repairing surfaces


A new genre of plastics that mimic the human skin's ability to heal scratches and cuts offers the promise of endowing cell phones, laptops, cars and other products with self-repairing surfaces, scientists reported March 27.

The team's lead researcher described the plastics, which change color to warn of wounds and heal themselves when exposed to light.

Read full article in Science Daily.

emily | 4:59 PM | permalink

Smartphones Account for Half of all Mobile Phones, Dominate New Phone Purchases in the US


Almost half (49.7%) of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones, as of February 2012. According to Nielsen. This growth is driven by increasing smartphone adoption, as more than two-thirds of those who acquired a new mobile device in the last three months chose a smartphone over a feature phone.

Other key findings released today include:

-- Smartphone penetration has increased significantly over the last year, from only 36% a year earlier in February 2011

-- Android leads the smartphone market with 48% of smartphone owners, and Apple has a 32% share of U.S. smartphones

-- Of those who recently acquired a smartphone, 48% chose an Android handset and 43% bought an iPhone

Read full press release.

emily | 4:52 PM | permalink

EU reaches preliminary deal on future-proof roaming solution for mobile phone users

Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the Council and the European Commission have reached a preliminary deal on new EU Roaming rules, following the European Commission's proposal of last year.

From 1 July 2014, customers will have the option to shop around for the best deal and sign up for a separate mobile contract for roaming, which may be different from their domestic mobile provider, whilst keeping the same phone number.

Each time the customer crosses a border, his or her phone will switch to the network of the roaming provider which they have chosen, without any further action on their part. Customers will also have the option to directly select a local mobile network for data roaming in the country they are visiting (more details below).

... This is the first time the European Union has tackled the high cost of roaming at its root, by introducing pro-competitive structural change into the heart of the market.

Read full press release.

emily | 8:04 AM | permalink

March 28, 2012

Economics Journal: What Connects Cellphones and Toilets?

ALeqM5jR5SwZK0nI3onXt5R3aYmi7EZoUw.jpeg A thoughtful piece by Rupa Subramanya for the WSJ on Indian households that opt to buy a cellphone but not invest in a toilet.

quotemarksright.jpgWhat does buying a cellphone have to do with not having a toilet? If a household opts to buy a cellphone but not invest in a toilet, does that really reflect a cultural bias against good sanitation? It would be hard to see how one could legitimately draw this inference.

... For one thing, a cellphone has a very low infrastructure cost. You don’t even need to live in a fixed and permanent structure to own one. And the maintenance cost is low as well. Once you have bought the hardware, which for the most basic models is only a few dollars, the cost of recharging a prepaid connection can literally be a few cents, depending on your usage. Contrast that to the cost of installing and maintaining a toilet. The average cost of an “improved latrine” (basically a pit with a protective slab around it) ranges between $20 and $40, or anywhere from 5 to 10 times the cost of a basic cellphone. That’s assuming you even have space to install it. For the many millions of people who live in slum dwellings, typically unfinished structures with at most a corrugated metal roof and flimsy walls, there simply would be no place for a toilet.

Are we then to fault someone living under such stark conditions for investing in a cellphone? In fact, it’s well established in development studies that the productivity gain to someone from owning a cellphone can be huge. So, too, of course is sanitation. But given a household’s circumstances, they do what they can, given their budget and living conditions.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

Related articles and UNU Study: Greater Access to Cell Phones than Toilets in India

emily | 11:22 AM | permalink

Conceptual Mask, Would Charge iPhone With Your Breath

s-RUNNING-large.jpeg Here's a new way to charge your cellphone, wear a mask and power up just by breathing. The Huffington Post reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThat's the world that João Paulo Lammoglia, a Rio de Janeiro-based industrial designer, imagines.

Lammoglia designed a mask, appropriately called AIRE, that uses small wind turbines to convert an individual's breath into electrical energy, making it so that any act of breathing -- even while sleeping or running -- would theoretically charge your gadget.

Don't hold your breath for this just yet, though: Lammoglia said that for now, it's just a concept. "At this moment, we don't have the technology for it," he told The Huffington Post.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more and view more pictures here.

emily | 8:52 AM | permalink

March 27, 2012

Europe Changes Tone on Telecommunications Initiatives

European-Commission.gif By creating the world’s dominant mobile phone technology standard in the 1980s, Europe and the companies that worked on the effort, like Ericsson and Nokia, played a major role in the birth of the global wireless industry. But three decades later, industrywide initiatives are no longer in vogue in Europe. Quite the contrary. The The New York Times reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThis month, the European Commission’s powerful competition directorate, whose antitrust investigations can lead to hefty fines, said it was examining a series of meetings that had been held since late 2010 by the chief executives of the five largest mobile operators in Europe to see whether they had colluded on standards.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 8:16 AM | permalink

NYC-area air travelers could face cell phone fines

According to ABC News, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wants passengers who don't turn off their cell phones or tablets before takeoff to pay up or go to court - with fines up to tens of thousands of dollars for behavior that causes flight delays.

quotemarksright.jpgPat Foye says he hopes the initiative will persuade fliers to change their behavior. He says police answered about 400 calls last year at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports to deal with unruly passengers.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:08 AM | permalink

Hospitals Warn Smartphones Could Distract Doctors

greysurgery.jpeg Apple's iPads and rival devices are finding a happy home in hospitals and medical practices. But as with driving, distractions are threatening safety — in this case, patient safety. NPR reports.

quotemarksright.jpg... Most of 1,000 iPads and 1,600 iPhones at Beth Israel are owned by the doctors themselves. That makes it hard for the hospital to dictate which apps they can have on their devices. In a recent survey, 55 percent of medical technicians nationwide said they used their cell phones during procedures and nearly half admitted texting.quotesmarksleft.jpg


As Doctors Use More Devices, Potential for Distraction Grows (NY Times, Dec 2011)

quotemarksright.jpgResearch on the subject is beginning to emerge. A peer-reviewed survey of 439 medical technicians published this year in Perfusion, a journal about cardio-pulmonary bypass surgery, found that 55 percent of technicians who monitor bypass machines acknowledged to researchers that they had talked on cellphones during heart surgery. Half said they had texted while in surgery.

About 40 percent said they believed talking on the phone during surgery to be “always an unsafe practice.” About half said the same about texting. The study’s authors concluded, “Such distractions have the potential to be disastrous.”quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:00 AM | permalink

March 25, 2012

Fingerprint-checking smartphone patent filed by Sony

_59263317_finger.jpeg Unwired View picked up on patent filed by Sony that would allow smartphones to scan their users' fingerprints through their screens as an identity check has been patented by Sony. The BBC reports.

quotemarksright.jpgIt describes a range of ways to build "light-transmissive displays" to allow sensors to look out of the screens.

It says an unidentified material would obscure the sensors so users would only see graphics telling them where to place their fingers.

Sony has not given any indication of when it might introduce the feature.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

Related articles on fingerprint recognition technology for cell phones blogged by textually over the years.

emily | 9:46 AM | permalink

Security: Cell phone services in Balochistan suspended on Pakistan Day

According to the Express Tribune, The Pakistan government shut down cell phone services in Balochistan on Pakistan Day, an action that some officials claimed was taken to keep a check on militants in the province.

quotemarksright.jpgPakistan Peoples Party MNA Ayatullah Durrani denied that the shutdown was due to security reasons. “The government blocked cellular services for replacing the old system with new communication transfer.”

“PTA has been directed to replace the system as soon as possible,” he said.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:37 AM | permalink

Lawmakers ask app makers for privacy information

iphone-apps-billion-tbi.jpeg Lawmakers sent letters on Thursday requesting information from more than 30 popular iPhone applications developers as part of an inquiry into how software companies collect private consumer data.

quotemarksright.jpgRecipients of the letter, including Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Path, were asked to provide information about the user data that is collected when consumers download their apps -- and how that data is used.

The apps inquiry is part of a broader tide of interest gathering on Capitol Hill around Internet privacy issues. The app makers have until April 12 to respond.quotesmarksleft.jpg

[via The Chicago Tribune]

emily | 8:29 AM | permalink

Physicists Can Detect If You Are Texting While Driving

Physicists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory can now look at how your text output is being affected by your driving, and can accurately predict if you are texting while driving. Physics and Physicists and tricityherald report.

quotemarksright.jpgPeople who are texting "time-share" their attention between driving and texting, Watkins said. They look down briefly and then up again to check the road.

When Mike Watkins compared the keystrokes from driving and nondriving texters, the differences were consistent and quantifiable, he said. Drivers text and pause and text again, without the rhythm of usual texting.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Study: "Autonomous detection of distracted driving by cell phone" M.L. Watkins et al. 14th International IEEE Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITSC), 2011.

emily | 8:22 AM | permalink

March 24, 2012

Mobile Phones are Getting Smarter in Rural Africa

etxt.jpeg Imagine you are in Yokadouma, a rural community in eastern Cameroon with little electricity and inaccessible roads. You have an old, inexpensive mobile phone with which you can only make and receive calls. All Africa reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe good news is that it is now possible for that phone to be smarter - to send and receive e-mails, check a Facebook account and chat online, even without internet access.

ForgetMeNot Africa, owned by Lon-Zim and ForgetMeNot Software, developed the Message Optimizer (MO) service in March 2009 to enable telecommunications operators to provide messaging services to customers at no extra cost, without any new applications or phone upgrades. Popular chat services such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Windows Live and Gtalk are all incorporated into the MO.

"Message Optimizer turns every mobile phone into a mobile computing and mobile authentication device," states ForgetMeNot Africa. The MO allows "more and more of our subscribers to get access to the internet without having to purchase expensive smartphones," according to Douglas Mboweni, the chief executive officer of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, a mobile network.

How does the MO deliver messages without the internet or a personal computer? First, a mobile phone subscriber sends an SMS to a given short code. The message is received in the mobile company's message centre, which then forwards to ForgetMeNot Africa's internet servers. The servers process, route and deliver the message to the subscriber, who can then respond.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 10:41 AM | permalink

March 21, 2012

Global Mobile Phone Survey Reveals Men Care Most About Price and Women Care Most About Function and Design

people-on-phone.jpeg Vuclip, a mobile video service, today unveiled the results of a wide reaching global survey of consumer preferences in regards to mobile phones. In February 2012, Vuclip received survey responses from more than a half a million users from 188 countries. The survey uncovered key trends in mobile device preferences and purchase intentions. [Vuclip press release]

quotemarksright.jpgThe research shows that women care more than men about the function and design of the mobile phone they use.

-- 37 percent of women responded that the device features were their top consideration, with the screen size coming in second place with 21 percent of women responding it was their most important consideration. Only 18 percent responded that price was their top consideration.

-- For men, the primary consideration was the price, with 33 percent responding that this was their top consideration.

-- 32 percent of consumers have no specific plans to replace their handsets within the next 12 months but that 29 percent of respondents currently plan to replace their mobile devices within three months. Those most likely to replace their handset in this timeframe are users in the under 18 demographic and those 18-25 years old.

-- In regards to brand preferences and loyalty, nearly 90 percent of Apple users reported that they intend to purchase an Apple device in the future.

-- Only 60 percent of BlackBerry users reported a future intention to purchase a BlackBerry while 37 percent of consumers globally want to purchase a Nokia device as their next mobile phone.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Full press release

emily | 11:35 PM | permalink

'Doing the Internet': How Young People in a Slum in India are Using the Internet on their Cell Phones

bl02_hyvrk_SlumFree_620662e.jpeg Drawn from interviews with twenty randomly selected young people in the Hafeezpet slum of Hyderabad, the study looks at how they use the mobile web. reports.

quotemarksright.jpgIn the study, young people describe in their own words how they access the Internet with their mobile phones, discussing the fun of discovering new games, music, and videos. Participants who discovered new music or games would share them with friends, and those with higher-end phones would pass along discoveries to those with lower-end phones. The participants referred to using the web on their mobile phones as "doing the Internet," as it was viewed as a social and entertaining activity.

Interesting findings:

-- The researchers found that for fifteen of the twenty interview participants, their first experience with the Internet came through a mobile phone.

-- Mobile phones helped the participants get access to the Internet without depending on Internet cafes, giving them a chance to explore the Internet however they wanted.

-- Most of the participants were not using the phones for any specific "development"-oriented reasons, but using their phones for entertainment helped participants become familiar with mobile and computer-based technologies, opening the door for using technology in other ways.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 6:56 PM | permalink

World of Warcraft may go mobile

world_of_warcraft_logo.png Developers of the popular video game World of Warcraft say they are considering porting the title to smartphones and other mobile devices as subscriptions fall, reports the BBC.

quotemarksright.jpgThe firm revealed in November that WoW had 10.3 million subscribers, down from a peak of 12 million in 2010.

... The developer's senior producer John Lagrave told Eurogamer that the biggest reason his team had not released a mobile title allowing gameplay was because of the problems involved in shrinking the interface.

"Maybe we'll stumble on the great way to put WoW on the phone - maybe we won't, but we're certainly looking into it.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 6:41 PM | permalink

Use of ‘Conflict Minerals’ Gets More Scrutiny From U.S.

An iPhone can do a lot of things. But can it arm Congolese rebels?

That is the question being debated by a battalion of lobbyists from electronics makers, mining companies and international aid organizations that has descended on the SEC in recent months seeking to influence the drafting of a Dodd-Frank regulation that has nothing to do with the financial crisis.

[via The New York Times]

emily | 6:32 PM | permalink

Cell Phones Cannot Crash Airplanes

cell%20phone%20on%20airplane.png CellAntenna’s CEO contested that cell phones sold after 2000 do not interfere with airplane navigational equipment, and cell phone use during takeoffs and landings cannot crash airplanes.

We actually know this to be true, because if airport security forbids and confiscates contact lens solution bottles over 100ml, would officials really take the risk of letting passengers take their phone on board, trusting them to turn it off?

quotemarksright.jpgFAA rules dictate that airlines force passengers to turn off cell phones during takeoffs and landings because of interference problems with navigational equipment. This ruling went into effect when tower operators complained that cell phone use on airplanes was generating havoc on systems, as cell phones contacted more than one tower and caused interference.

Older models of cell phones, like cell bag phones, emitted larger transmissions. This has been corrected in this century, as cellular carrier software has experienced upgrades and small, low-energy pocket and smart phones have become prevalent. The FAA has not updated its rules to accommodate such cell phone progression.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Marketwatch press release. FAA Guidelines on Wireless Devices on Airplanes

emily | 6:03 PM | permalink

New Pew Report on Teens, Smartphones & Texting

For U.S. teens, cell phones (especially text messaging) are a key way to stay connected with friends and other people in their lives, according to new research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported by CNN.

quotemarksright.jpgPew found that 63% of all teens say they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives, including their parents. Also, nearly half of all teens send and receive text messages with friends daily.

Only about one in four U.S. teens currently uses a smartphone, says Pew, in contrast to about 46% of U.S. adults.

Study also finds that 39% of teens never exchange e-mail. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 5:50 PM | permalink

March 18, 2012

Slow blogging this week from Bangkok


Blogging will be slow this week, visiting Bangkok.

emily | 6:30 PM | permalink

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