August 25, 2014
Mobility data from an African mobile-phone carrier could help researchers recommend where to focus health-care efforts. [via MIT Technology Report]
A West African mobile carrier has given researchers access to data gleaned from cell phones in Senegal, providing a window into regional population movements that could help predict the spread of Ebola. The current outbreak is so far known to have killed at least 1,350 people, mainly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
... Mobile phones—which are ubiquitous even in poor countries—can play a key role. All cell phones “ping” nearby towers with a unique ID number to announce their presence. In this way, mobile carriers amass huge databases containing fine-grained information on population movements and social patterns.
The application to public health is compelling. Caroline Buckee, a Harvard epidemiologist who also worked with Flowminder to develop the West African model, has demonstrated how such data can show where people have gone after leaving a hot spot, suggesting where a disease cluster will crop up next.
Read full article.
August 21, 2014
The Swiss Postal Office will introduce SMS-based mobile franking as a permanent service on 1 September, after a one-year pilot project in which customers bought postage for over 100,000 letters.
The service available through all mobile communications operators will continue to cost CHF 1.20 per A Mail standard letter sent to a Swiss address.
Users text the keyword "STAMP" to the number "414". The code they receive must then be written down in the upper right-hand corner of the envelope and the letter posted in any letter box within 10 days. The code can also be requested through the Swiss Post smartphone app. Swiss Post has been offering WebStamp, a different service allowing users to print stamps bought online, since 2006.
[via Telecom Paper]
A Florida woman who was severely injured in a crash caused by her then-boyfriend in 2010, who was allegedly texting while driving, has won a $4.3 million lawsuit.
August 20, 2014
Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city. It is also one of the most crowded and densely populated. As a result, mobile phone signal often suffers from too many people trying to connect to one cell tower. The dense built-up environment doesn’t do phone reception any favors either. [via Quartz]/p>
MTN, one of Africa’s largest mobile operators, has an ingenious solution: The company is installing cell towers on streetlights in the crowded west and north and of the city.
The installation of a new cell-enabled streetlight takes about 11 hours, making it a much faster process than building a traditional mobile base station. However, the lamppost-towers also have a much smaller operating radius of 400 to 600 meters (1,300-2000 feet). Traditional towers can, in theory, extend their range over 30 kilometers (18 miles), but in practice tend to be located only a couple of kilometers apart in urban areas.
The smaller footprint of MTN’s streetlight means fewer people will be using the same tower, which should allow for fewer dropped calls and faster data connection.
Image and related article from BusinessTech.
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August 19, 2014
It sucks to lose your phone or have it stolen. Not only is it annoying and expensive having to replace the device, but even more worrying is what criminals can do with the personal data stored on it. [via Motherboard].
That's why London's Metropolitan Police Force, according to an investigation by The Register, wants to get everyone using a password on their phone. The Register reports the Met has been lobbying both phone manufacturers and government for over two years for such measures to be put in place.
Reducing crime is the driving force behind the plethora of new initiatives to help keep mobile phones more secure. Most recently, Forbes reported that a number of banks have begun to implement technology into their apps that can detect whether an authorised user is holding the phone by monitoring not only their PIN number, but the pressure and speed with which they type it. This would mean that even if someone knew the passcode required to enter your phone, they would need to closely mimic how you typically press the buttons; something they're very unlikely to know or to be able to imitate.
United Airlines has updated its iOS and Android app to enable international travellers to scan their passports on their own within 24 hours of departure using their smartphone camera. It is the first U.S. airline to offer customers the ability to scan their passports to check-in for international flights via their mobile device.
Demand for smartphone apps is waning, as users become more conservative about what they download. The Telegraph reports.
Almost one in three (31 per cent) of smartphone users in the UK do not download any apps on their device in a typical month, according to a report by Deloitte – a steep increase from less than one in five in 2013.
Of those that do, the average number of apps downloaded per month has fallen from 2.32 to 1.82. The report also found that almost nine in ten people never spend money on apps or other smartphone content, suggesting that demand for paid apps is even lower.
Read full article.
In his latest video essay, film maker Tony Zhou from looks at how a range of movies and TV shows are addressing one relatively new problem: how to depict text messaging. Fabulous.
August 18, 2014
A new exhibition at London's Science Museum celebrates 20 years since the first 'smartphone', the IBM Simon, went on sale.
[via the BBC]
August 15, 2014
Just five years ago, mobile phone penetration in Myanmar stood at 1%. By 2013, it had already shot up to 13%. The government wants to drive that number north of 75%.
Meanwhile, the price of a SIM card dropped from $3,000 to about $260. This month, Qatar’s Ooredoo, a mobile operator, started selling SIM cards for 1,500 kyat ($1.50).
Picture left, the outside of the Ooredoo store in Mandalay, a day after it opened.
August 4, 2014
July 24, 2014
Mobile devices accounted for nearly two-thirds of the social networking company’s revenue, which rose 61 percent over the same quarter last year. [via The New York Times]
Facebook, based in Menlo Park, Calif., said it had about 1.32 billion monthly users around the world in June, with more than a billion of those people using the service at least partly on mobile devices.
Revenue was $2.91 billion, up 61 percent from $1.81 billion during the same period last year.
Mobile devices accounted for nearly two-thirds of Facebook’s revenue, which at this point mostly comes from ads shown on the Facebook website and apps. However, the company is beginning to supplement that with ads on other sites.
... The company accounted for 5.8 percent of the world’s estimated $120 billion in digital ad revenues in 2013, and it captured 17.77 percent of mobile ad spending, according to the research firm eMarketer.
July 22, 2014
For the first time, more Chinese people are gaining access to the Internet with mobile phones than with personal computers, reports The New York Times.
The shift is significant, if expected, in China, which is the world’s biggest market for both Internet and smartphone users.
China had 632 million Internet users at the end of June, an increase of 14.4 million since the end of December, according to a semiannual report published on Monday by the official China Internet Network Information Center, which is known as CNNIC. Of those, 83.4 percent reported gaining access to the Internet with mobile phones, exceeding for the first time the 80.9 percent who reported using computers to go online.
Read full article.
July 19, 2014
Sidewalk collisions involving pedestrians engrossed in their electronic devices have become an irritating (and sometimes dangerous) fact of city life. To prevent them, what about just creating a “no cellphones” lane on the sidewalk? Would people follow the signs? That’s what a TV crew decided to find out on a Washington, D.C., street Thursday, as part of a behavioral science experiment for a new National Geographic TV series. [via Quartz]
As expected, some pedestrians ignored the chalk markings designating a no-cellphones lane and a lane that warned pedestrians to walk “at your own risk.” Others didn’t even see them because they were too busy staring at their phones. But others stopped, took pictures and posted them—from their phones, of course.
July 16, 2014
Music distribution via ringtones and ringback tones is an unstoppable trend in Africa despite other emerging avenues such as online streaming, says an expert. ITWeb Africa reports.
Mobile is 99% of the way music is going to be consumed and distributed in Africa," Yoel Kenan, the chief executive officer of B2B music distribution and licensing service Africori, has told ITWeb Africa.
... Kenan's theory is that there is a natural evolution of music consumption in Africa.
That is, it started with the use of music as a mobile phone ringtone or ringback tone. This is what he terms the first digital music revolution. Meanwhile, the second digital music revolution in Africa is to depend on the web with streaming services.
He added that, "We are focusing on the second cycle which is has not yet hit Africa. But it is starting to hit Africa. However, the first cycle of the digital music is not showing any signs of coming down yet."
Kenan attributed this stagnation to feature phones being a major tool in Africa and only a small percentage of people in Africa have smartphones that can stream music easily from the web.
In a study by Telecoms.com in January this year, the total African handset ownership is at 993 million people with only 112 million owning smartphones.
Read full article.
July 12, 2014
Nearly two years after the Israel Defense Forces promised otherwise, its Personal Message system for alerting civilians about incoming rockets is still not operational. [via Haaretz]
Developed at a cost of 400 million shekels ($117 million), the network is supposed to complement — and improve on — the sirens that send Israelis scurrying into bomb shelters when rockets are on the way. The principle is a simple one: alerts over smartphones and other mobile devices.
The system would be employed for all kinds of emergencies, whether rockets, an earthquake or an overturned oil tanker truck. The urgency has become evident in recent days as Hamas rockets have pelted southern Israel and have hit well north of Tel Aviv. The big problem: Many people in the center of the country say they don’t always hear the sirens.
On Thursday, the army announced that it had launched a very limited version of the service — what it described as the first stage of the system’s rollout. In that phase, the IDF would inform users once a day, based on their location, how much warning time they would need if a rocket were launched toward their area; for example, 40 seconds in Ashdod and 90 seconds in Tel Aviv.
“Citizens who have devices that support the system will receive a message by cellphone that will notify them of the time they have for a missile to strike,” the IDF said. “At this stage, the network will not operate as an alert system.” The system is compatible with Samsung, Sony, HTC and LG phones, it added.
July 8, 2014
In the city of Kasuga, education authorities have encouraged students to surrender their phones to adults between 10pm and 6am Though the board has support from local schools, there are no penalties in place for those who disobey.
This latest campaign by authorities in Kasuga came after discussions with parent-teacher associations concerned about smartphone use amongst teens.
Posters and leaflets have been sent to the city’s six junior high schools asking them to observe the ban.
Read full article.
According to The Telegraph, British Airways will turn away passengers booked on US-bound flights if their electrical devices will not switch on.
Holidaymakers and business travellers who arrive at airport security with uncharged mobile phones or other electrical items will be stopped from boarding planes bound for the United States and effectively treated like “terrorists”. British Airways said passengers who fail to turn on devices when asked will be immediately banned from their US flight and have to reschedule, even if they offer to abandon the item or send it on separately.
Britain’s main airline warned that even a new device bought in the airport lounge after passing through security will have to be charged up or the passenger will not be allowed to board at the gate. Any transfer passenger whose device has gone flat on the first leg will also be prevented from their onward travel unless they can recharge first.
Turning on an electronic device can show a security screener that the laptop computer or mobile phone is a working device and that its batteries are not hidden explosives.
The move caused confusion at airports on Monday.
July 3, 2014
According to Dr. Bastawrous at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine there are 39 million sufferers of blindness around the world. 80% are from low-income countries, and the majority are blind from diseases that are either curable or preventable. Dr. Bastawrous has been harnessing the power of mobile technology to deliver eye care in an innovative new way to these individuals. An installment of Digital Diversity by Ken Banks in National Geographic.
Peek is a smartphone app aimed at community healthcare workers which allows them to deliver eye care everywhere. The app is able to scan the eye to check for diseases as well as other problems. It works by looking at visual acuity, visual field, colour vision and contrast sensitivity allowing Peek to diagnose blindness, visual impairment, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other retinal and optic nerve diseases and crucial indicators of brain tumour and haemorrhage.
The app allows individuals with minimal training to conduct a comprehensive examination. By using a smartphone it replaces bulky traditional equipment which is expensive, fragile and often requires a continuous power source.
Dr. Bastawrous and his team are currently running multiple trials in Kenya within communities and schools. To ensure that everyone understands the benefits of the new technology, everything is being shared in simple, non-technical language.
June 26, 2014
The Moscow city government is asking citizens to weigh in on the fate of the Shukhov radio tower, a rusted icon of Soviet constructivist architecture that’s threatened with demolition. Designed by Vladimir Shukhov, the 92-year-old steel-lattice structure has been called Russia’s Eiffel Tower, but years of official neglect have left it badly in need of repairs. [via full article">Quartz]
Russia’s state broadcasting committee announced this spring that the tower would be dismantled and relocated, likely opening up the site to valuable development. Protesters, preservationists, and a starry array of international architects have petitioned President Vladimir Putin to reconsider, and restore the state-owned structure instead.
The vote, which began this week and runs until July 6, is being held on Active Citizen, an iOS and Android app released by the city last month. The app polls citizens on topics such as street-tree planting and changes to daylight savings time. On the question of the Shukhov tower, they’re being asked to choose between dismantling the tower and refurbishing it.
Read full article.
June 25, 2014
From July, anyone travelling in any of the EU member countries with their smartphone will enjoy a few less numbers on their bill. As part of new roaming caps coming into effect next week, the European Commission has cut the price of data downloads by 55 percent. This means the most you'll pay for a megabyte is 20 cents instead of 45.
Bitcoin has all the buzz right now. But there's another financial innovation that could have a far more meaningful impact on the lives of billion of people without bank accounts across the world. ReadWriteWeb reports.
In 2007, two years before the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto wrote the original proposal for Bitcoin, Safaricom, a Kenyan telecommunications company effectively controlled by Vodafone, launched M-Pesa, a service that let anyone with an active cell-phone line send and receive money instantly.
“Pesa” means money in Swahili, and M-Pesa, short for mobile money, has become synonymous with money in Kenya. M-Pesa transactions accounts for 40 percent of the gross domestic product. It has spread beyond Kenya’s borders to South Africa, Afghanistan, India, and most recently Romania. It doesn't require smartphones; it works on the very basic so-called “feature” phones that are common in the developing world. If you can send a text message, you can bank with M-Pesa.
M-Pesa has enabled millions of the unbanked to emerge from subsistence living into the makings of a middle-class life.
Bitcoin is the answer that Silicon Valley is putting forward for the 70% of the world that is unbanked. It’s easy to understand why entrepreneurs and investors are charmed by the technical elegance and openness of Bitcoin, which provides both a decentralized system for transactions and its own form of stored value.
Therein lie two key differences between M-Pesa and Bitcoin:
M-Pesa works with existing national currencies, making it far simpler to withdraw and spend.M-Pesa is controlled by Vodafone, whereas Bitcoin is an open technology.
Could M-Pesa be the AOL of mobile money—set to become big for a brief period, only to be overtaken by more open technologies? here are four reasons why this way of thinking about M-Pesa could be wrong.
Iraqis have been turning to an app which allows group messages to be sent between phones, without the need for an internet connection, in an effort to circumnavigate government restrictions. The BBC reports.
About 40,000 users downloaded Firechat last week, compared with 6,600 over the previous few months, the company says.
The internet has been blocked in some Iraqi provinces, as authorities seek to prevent militants from communicating. Access to social media sites has also been severely restricted.
Firechat allows users to take part in group chats with between two and 10,000 people, without the need for an internet connection.
Using a technology known as "mesh networking". A mesh network allows a single connection to the net to be shared between multiple devices, many of which can be removed without the network failing. The devices can still chat to each other even if the net connection is severed.
Firechat does not have access to the content of the messages. However, discussions are not private, and can be seen by anyone in the area.
June 23, 2014
WeChat is the latest messaging app to take a leaf out of Snapchat's 'ephemeral' book, introducing a new feature on its iOS app that lets you recall the last message you sent within two minutes. [via TNW]
All you have to do is long-press the message to activate a series of options, click ?Unsend? and the messagewill disappear from both your chat screen and the recipient?s. The feature also works on photos.
In the meantime, the iOS version of WeChat?s Chinese counterpart, has also received an update today that lets users deposit money into their wallet within the app, then transfer money to their friends or make payments directly without having to leave the app.
Read full article.
Life-size fibreglass cows, modelled on Worthy Farm's famous dairy herd, have been converted into 4G Wi-Fi hotspots.
They are powered by a bespoke 4G network, which will be installed on the 1,200-acre site by EE, the technology partner of Glastonbury Festival 2014.
Read full article.
The mobile phone text message may soon become a thing of past on the mainland, government figures suggest, reports South China Morning Post.
In the first five months of this year, mainland mobile users each sent an average of 39.8 texts per month, according to the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. That is a fall of 18.4 per cent compared with the same period last year.
Texts generated less than $3.5 billion yuan (22 billion Yuan) in revenue for mainland telecommunications companies in the first five months of the year, a 13 per cent fall compared with the same period last year. Mobile internet services brought in more than 100 billion yuan in revenue in the same period, a growth of nearly 50 per cent.
The first text sent using the short messaging service, or SMS, was received in 1992 on the mainland and towards the end of the decade the technology rapidly gained in popularity.
Read full article.
June 20, 2014
What if a schizophrenic patient could have the equivalent of a therapist in a pocket, watching for symptoms of a relapse?
That’s the promise of a smartphone-based system now being tested at a hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. The app, called CrossCheck, uses a suite of sensors to create a profile of a patient’s healthy behavioral and social patterns and can then raise an alert when the patient deviates from the norm.
Despite boasting 15 mobile money services, India lag so far behind other developing nations. Quartz looks into the reasons why.
In much of the developing world, mobile money is evolving. Initially just a means of making payments, it’s now becoming a platform for an entire financial-services industry. But one of the world’s biggest and poorest countries has remained immune to the attractions of mobile money. Despite the potential benefits, “the uptake has been limited,” says Graham Wright of MicroSave, a financial-inclusion organisation working in India. “And because of those challenges, the mobile operators are unsure about how much to invest in this business.”
Analysts think that mobile money transfers in India could be worth $350 billion annually (paywall) by next year. Yet the state of the industry remains small: Less money moves through wireless transfers in India than in either Pakistan or Bangladesh, both of which have smaller, poorer populations.
Read full article.
Texting: The quiet king. By daily use, it’s nearly three times more popular than phone calls.
Messaging is an everything network. It’s identity, it’s social, it’s intent (“hey do you want to see Spider-Man”), it’s location (“yo I’m in the theater”). It’s the purest form of social network, so simply social that we scarcely consider it a network.
Watch Over Me Watch Over Me is an ingenious app that turns the smartphone into a emergency alert system. It's just the latest mobile tool that is helping people reach out for help when they need it. Fastcompany reports.
Since launching a year ago on iOS and Android, Watch Over Me has attracted 140,000 users all over the world, with the majority so far located in Southeast Asia.
The premise is easy to understand: When a user feels worried about her safety, she sets the app to check in on her in a specified time period--say in the 30 minutes it will take to walk home late at night or drive home in a nasty storm. At 30 minutes, Watch Over Me pings the user three times at one-minute intervals. If the person doesn't respond, it sends an SMS or email with her current location to designated emergency contacts, who can then decide whether to notify the police (the SMS feature requires a monthly fee). On Android devices, it’ll also activate the phone’s camera and take a 10 second audio and video clip.
Watch Over Me, built on Twilio's SMS platform, adds to a growing number of mobile services that help people reach out when they are in need of help.
Read full article.
Google and Microsoft will add a "kill-switch" feature to their Android and Windows phone operating systems, reports the BBC.
The feature is a method of making a handset completely useless if it is stolen, rendering a theft pointless.
Authorities have been urging tech firms to take steps to help curb phone theft and argued that a kill-switch feature can help resolve the problem.
Apple and Samsung, two of the biggest phone makers, offer a similar feature on some of their devices.
The move by Google and Microsoft means that kill switches will now be a part of the three most popular phone operating systems in the world.
Read full article.