Mobile Futures: Technology Primer

Mobile Futures

[From here]

A while back, when I was still in the UK, I was working with a bunch of other dudes as the IPA Mobile Marketing Group - we were looking at mobile marketing, trying to put together some guidelines and a document that would help agencies get into mobiles and that.

The part I was asked to write was about Mobile Futures - a look at technologies of mobiles and some thoughts as to how they might be used in the future.

And a bit about advertising, when I could work out where to put it.

Sadly the document was never published - sometimes things just work out that way.

But I did write the mobile futures bit - stealing from various places.

So, in the ongoing spirit of retro future-gazing here on TIGS, I thought I'd let you have it.

It's a haphazard walk through trends, technologies and terminology that may be useful when navigating the year of mobile marketing, whenever it actually happens.

I've even updated it a little bit to look at app stores - because ultimately I think the role for brands will live somewhere in the realm of applications and utility, not simply putting ads on another screen.

You can get the Mobile Futures Technology Primer here.

For a more recent look at the mobile future just...around....the...corner see my Campaign piece and these two posts by Charlie.



[From here]

My mate Johanna wrote this great piece for the New Next in Media magazine about the most recent set of location based services - alliteratively plotting people, places and pictures with pinpoint precision.

Increasingly, when any spatially aware device is part of the flow, geotility is mandatory: making something useful for where you are right then.

Now, the most basic elements of geotility have been mapped - never get lost, never lose your friends, never miss an impromptu party, chart your lifestream through the real world.

OK maybe not that last one, but it's coming - your clickstream needs to be geotagged to optimise it, and soon you'll be seeing your own, specific reality being mined, to give you insight into your own life.

[You know your route to work could be 10 minutes faster?

Or - why not take a different route, a five minute detour means you will bump into an old friend.

Or - the bookstore on your way home has an event on today that matches your Amazon profile, why not pop in?

Or - you seem to spend your whole life going to and from an office, what about a vacation?

Insert brand as relevant. And that's the just the commuter tip of the personal data iceberg.

And yes it is scary. But as Kevin Kelly points out, the cost of personalisation is transparency.]

When you mix SPIME data with other things, you get new combinations - like the Geotwitter app for iPhones called Twinkle, that hooks you into a twitter group produced by proximity.

But, geotility also works in reverse - it's not just about where things are, it's about where I am.

Content is context dependent - in the same way Google tries to understand what you want, rather than what you are searching for, based on what you searched for last and what other people search for and link to.

Google is a context engine - it uses and provides context to illuminate.

Equally, the idea that when I'm mobile, what I really want is the desktop web experience seems flawed.

Sometimes I do, sure, but if I'm walking around rapidly, which my iPhone knows, isn't it more likely I'm looking for something specific?

When you Google the name of a bar or restaurant on your phone, aren't you most likely looking for where it is?

Schmap, which launches in public beta on Friday, is one solution to this. By adding in the Schamp code to your website, it basically gives it an iPhone sniffer, so when your page is hit by someone on the go it offers up the key location details for the lost.

In a way this continues the bitcasting idea - the larger body of content is bitcast and only the bits that are relevant are parsed for the end user.

As Kevin Kelly says, eventually all devices, all things in fact, are going to be hooked up to the same machine, with the web as its OS.

But we will still have lots of different devices, looking at different parts of the machine, for different contexts.

Feature Creep or Why You Shouldn't Give People What They Want

How many types of dry do you need?

Feature creep is term that came from software development where it was used to describe software that over-emphasizes new features at the expense of core functionality and design imperatives.

It contravenes the primary rule of the Unix philosophy for writing programs:

do one thing and do it well

But it has spread outside of software and is most encountered in technology products that build in so many features it actually makes the products harder to use.

It's a symptom of the paradox of choice - people think they want loads of features, because we think we like choice, but actually we hate it.

As James "Wisdom of Crowds" Surowiecki points out:

The strange truth about feature creep is that even when you give consumers what they want they can still end up hating you for it.

The solution is not to give consumers what they think they want:

We don't ask consumers what they want. They don't know. Instead we apply our brainpower to what they need, and will want, and make sure we're there, ready.

Akio Morita, Founder of Sony

Tagging the Real World


We are beginning to see a blurring of the distinction between on and offline, manifested in lots of different ways.

One of the most obvious is geotagging- attaching metadata to specific locations.

Yellow Arrow was one of the first, deployed with stickers and SMS. 

Socialight is a virtual system of stickytags your mobile can see.

Tagmaps uses geotags to create maps that represent how we see the world - a weighted tag map overlay shows what people collectively think the salient features of a locality are, in a way that normal maps can't - for example, normal maps don't understand that things are different at night.

And when you can point and click on the real world, what does offline mean?

Migration Frustration

[From pshab]

This week I've been mostly wrestling with a leopard.

As part of the transatlantic transition, I've also migrated to Macs - the first time I've touched one since Quark Xpress was a hot piece of software.

[I can hear your gasps of shock. That's right - TIGS has been IBM compatible all this time. Now stop being platformist.]

As a geek I'd been looking forward to the chance to become ambidextrous - I had assumed that as Macs are famously intuitive and user friendly and whatnot that I'd pick it up in a few clicks.

The reality has been slightly more painful.

Over many, many years of using Windows the interface metaphor, the translation of desire into action on the screen, becomes internalised. It's like driving - you no longer think about turning the wheel, you think "I want to go left."

Whilst the point and click mechanics of the OS are basically the same, there are enough differences to force me to have to think about it and its slowing me down to a learner's crawl, which has been driving me crazy.

It's perhaps analogous to learning to snowboard when you are already a confident skier. It's familiar but different and you're being forced to re-learn the basics when you want to shoop down the slope.

But I shall persevere, for I have drawn strength from an unlikely source: the sagacity of the Harvard Business Review.

HBR current issue highlights their pick of the breakthrough ideas for 08. It's a good round up, although there's nothing new there if you're a cutting edge blog reader: p2p economy, ARGs, the metaverse, avatars, China and so on.

One of their breakthrough ideas is the fact that gamers are ideal employees: with WOW in mind they point out they thrive on change, are used to working in teams, look for original solutions and think of learning as fun - overcoming obstacles, learning how to master the game engine, is the point of the game - good games are ones that manage this learning curve well.

So, I'm repositioning my with struggle with leopard as a game in the hope that I will trick my brain into a positive hedonic response as I climb the steep face of the curve.

I can't wait to level up.

Interim Times


When VOIP first hit the bottom of the hype cycle, I had a bunch of conversations knelling the death of the mobile network.

It was a pretty simple thought: peer to peer VOIP is free over the internet. So, if you had a handset that was WiFi enabled with a VOIP client installed, you could make calls [to anyone else that had a VOIP client on a handset or otherwise] for free, if you could find a free WiFi hotspot.

Now, this obviously didn't happen for several reasons, mostly because it is a massive threat to the mobile networks primary revenue stream and they own the consumer relationship, not handset manufacturers, especially in the subsidised UK.

WiFi still ain't free, mostly, although we are gradually moving towards it.

And not enough people are on Skype, which is necessary for the network effect [Metcalfe's Law] to kick in and make it really useful.

Having said that, some nice dudes sent me the new 3 Skype phone to play with. 

First of all, let's talk about the 3mobilebuzz for a second. This is clearly an 3 agency blog, developed as part of a social media outreach programme.

But that's not a problem - that's a good thing - because it's been done well, it primarily looks to aggregate conversations from around the web about the new handset, it's updated regularly, it's pretty open about its affiliation [3mobilebuzz is sponsored by 3. Comments and opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of 3] and they sent me a free phone, having read the blog and being very polite and personal and so on.

Now then, the handset. Like the O2 Cocoon before it, 3 have developed this handset themselves [since 3 have historically had issues getting hold of the best handsets this strategy makes a lot of sense, as does the Skype branding on the phone] and very nice it is too.

It follows the dominant technology aesthetic of our times, the imprint of Jonathan Ive's ergonomic whiteout - it's iPod like.

[It is perhaps a measure of how important this design is - anything that that is white now, especially but not only technology, can be described as iPodesque].

The phone does all the stuff a phone should do nowadays: take pictures with 2 million tiny dots in them, wake you up in the morning, send a 160 characters of text, and connect to the internet: the launcher application is a cool little web menu that takes you straight to facebook / youtube / google /ebay/ Msn Messenger - which is much easier that the still bizarrely annoying web mobile interface most phones seem to have. [Can someone please explain this to me]

And you can make Skype calls, using a data connection to the network. So it still costs you some money, but nothing like the obscene international phone rates that networks charge.

So, if you make phone calls to people in other countries regularly, you should already be using Skype, and this is an ideal phone as it combines the functions you want.

I've said before we live in accelerated times. And it's true - the world's technology has never advanced so quickly. But as I said in that post, it also leads to this constant awareness of what is to come just around the corner:

One of the cultural effects of this absurd acceleration we are currently experiencing is what I can only describe as this incredible weight I feel pushing back on us from the future. It's almost as though we are feeling the pressure from the future to catch up, which is what I think contributes to our fascination with what is to come and the existence of futurology as a science, of sorts.

It's this that I think also leads to the whole transhuman movement, and the obsession we have as planners with being 15 minutes ahead of culture.

In some ways we live in Interim Times - between yesterday and what we can always see just out of reach on the horizon. I blame Tomorrow's World.

Although we've always done this [50s futurology is famous for its depiction of robotic households - reflective more of the domestic obsession than the technology of the time] it's far more pronounced now as you can literally see things leaping forward, one iPod generation to the next.

This 3Skype phone, on it's web 2.0 reflective base [see picture], is the ideal device for these Interim Times, straddling the gap between the legacy mobile networks and pervasive internet future, whichever technology eventually allows us to blanket the world in bandwidth, which will completely change the way telephony works and is paid for, the kind of disruptive upheaval that destroys, and creates, entire industries in its wake.

But, in the interim, the 3Skype does a good job.

[UPDATE: There's been a comment discussion about the how free something is if you have to use the network for data calls - 3Mobile Buzz clarify the issue - it is completely free to use Skype - as in no data charges - as long as you've got credit on your phone.]

Mobile 2.0

[Image by Barnoid]

I've written an article for Contagious about some stuff that's happening on mobiles at the moment.

There are a few distinct trends developing - social location stuff that mobiles are perfect for, the evolution of mobile web so that it's indistinguishable from the desktop experience and new models for using it as a marketing channel.

I've called the the piece mobile 2.0, for which I apologise.

Floating Bed

I have a theory that we are rapidly approaching a point where current technology is going to hit science fiction levels - I call this the "Future is Now" theory, an expression I have clearly stolen.

Personally I can't wait. It's going to be very cool and very scary. If I were to make a vague attempt to make this relate to communications then it would be something about the consumer using technology to control how advertisers communicate with them, as MSN have just discovered.

But really I'm excited since I think Now has just become now.

This is the floating bed. It uses magnets. True it currently costs over 1 million Euros but it exists. It's real.

Even keeping in mind Amara's Law:

We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

I still can't wait for the hover boards.