October 1, 2014
A new smartphone app empowers deaf people to “hear” through coloured lights when a phone is ringing, and then have a conversation via sign language interpreters. The Telegraph reports.
The Convo Lights app works with Philips Hue, the Wi-Fi enabled light bulbs which can be made to change colour or turn off and on via a smartphone app. Hue is largely designed for aesthetics but Convo has given it new abilities by flashing the lights or displaying certain colours when an incoming phone call is detected.
Since the launch of Philips Hue last year third-party developers worldwide have created nearly 200 complimentary apps.
The new app from Convo, a deaf-owned and operated company providing video phone and translation services to the deaf community, allows users to create personalised ringtones of light to identify incoming callers, and adjust the brightness in a room to make sign language easier to see onscreen.
Convo also provides a service which allows deaf people to communicate over the phone with hearing people in real time via a sign language interpreter, which is built into the app.
September 29, 2014
A dumbphone-based SMS service makes it easy—and affordable—to study for Kenya's high-stakes tests. takepart reports.
Eneza, a tiny Nairobi-based social enterprise, has developed an SMS-based system that sends practice exams to kids whose families subscribe for the equivalent of 10 cents a week.
While broadband and smartphone technologies are out of reach of many rural Kenyan communities, “students who have less than $1 day [nevertheless] have access to SMS,” said the app’s developer, Nairobi programmer Kago Kagichiri.
Kagichiri said that in two years, Eneza has reached 35,000 subscribers throughout Kenya; they have access to practice exams and tutoring material in five subjects, as well as unlimited text messaging to complete the exercises and have results texted back to them.
The company claims children using the service saw their national exam scores improve by an average of 5 percent after one year. That figure rose to 11 percent when Eneza was used in cooperation with teachers, rather than individually at home.
Read full article.
Though only 10 percent of North Korea's population use Koryolink, the wireless carrier for the country that launched in 2008, the government has published guidelines on proper phone etiquette. As Slate points out:
It seems unlikely that North Koreans are loudly divulging personal information while riding on public buses or walking around, given the constant threat of being sent to work camps or even being killed for inappropriate behavior.
If the above seems extreme, remember that during the 100 day mourning period for Kim Jong-Il in 2012, citizens in North Korea were banned from using mobile phones, and those caught were to be treated as 'war criminals'.
September 27, 2014
Airline passengers will be able to use their mobile phones throughout flights after the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) ruled that they do not pose a risk to aircraft safety. The Telegraph reports.
Under current rules all passengers have to switch their mobile phones to “airplane mode” during take-off and landing.
But the EASA has now offered new guidance which allows airlines to change their own rules and allow mobile phones to be used “throughout the flight”.
It will be up to each airline to decide whether or not to allow the use of phones on board and each company will have to go through its own assessment process to ensure that their aircraft systems are not affected in any way by the transmission signals.
Once airlines have completed this safety assessment they will have to install additional equipment in order to provide customers with a signal because mobile phone transmitters cannot be reached from the high cruising altitudes that modern airliners reach.
... Mobile phone use had now been conclusively proved safe throughout all portions of a flight.
It will take at least two months for the first airlines to pass the new safety assessments, he estimated.
Read full article.
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September 26, 2014
The mobile revolution in Myanmar, a country that was once one of the most reclusive in the world, is kicking up a gear after Telenor confirmed it will launch its much-anticipated mobile service in the country this weekend. [via TheNextWeb]
The Norway-headquartered company is the highest profile operator to enter Myanmar (also known as Burma) since the country ended decades of military rule in 2012.
Telenor’s entry represents another important step towards democratizing mobile phones in Myanmar. SIM cards once cost $200 (or upwards of $1,500 during military rule) making them too expensive for most of the population. Qatari firm Ooredoo introduced $1.50-priced SIMs in August, prompting huge queues, and Telenor is following suit with the same low prices — meaning greater choice and increased availability.
Read full article.
September 25, 2014
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that a nurse or doctor should see a maximum of 10 patients a day. But according to Tetanye Ekoe, the vice president of the National Order of Medical Doctors in Cameroon, “the doctor-to-patient ratio in Cameroon stands at one doctor per 40,000 inhabitants, and in remote areas such as the Far North and Eastern Regions, the ratio is closer to one doctor per 50,000 inhabitants.”
According to UNICEF, out of every 100,000 live births 670 women in Cameroon die. UNICEF figures also state that for every 1,000 live births, 61 infants died in Cameroon in 2012.
“Many women are dying from child-birth related issues. Women are dying while giving life. And this is something we are really concerned about, but we also know that with the coming of mobile technology, there is hope for women in Africa,” Okwen says. With this system, it suffices to send an SMS or a simple beep, and all the actors involved in saving lives are mobilised.
“Most of the women in Africa today have access to a telephone. It could be her own, her husband’s own, or a neighbour’s. So if we had a way in which women could reach an ambulance using a phone that would guide the ambulance, it could indeed present hope for African women,” he explains.
Okwen says the project has benefitted “close to one hundred women in terms of information, evacuation, arrangements of hospital visits, deliveries and caesarean sections.”
The project has been dubbed “Tsamounde”, which means hope in the local Fufuldé language.
Read full article.
September 23, 2014
The aim of their experiment, described in a paper presented at last week’s Ubicomp 2014 conference, was to see if autonomous data collection could help indicate depression, loneliness, and stress in college students.
The researchers gave smartphones loaded with an app they designed, StudentLife, to 75 Dartmouth students and collected their accelerometer, microphone, light sensor, and GPS data for 10 weeks. The data collection was totally passive and offered no feedback to the students; the phones acted as silent black boxes, constantly sucking in data and calculating the results.
By tracking the amount of sleep subjects got, how many social conversations they had (measured by tracking microphone activity and filtering out lecture hours), and how much they moved around during the day, the Dartmouth researchers found a significant correlation between the results garnered from sensor data and self-reported surveys on mental health, as well as clinical definitions of depression.
Read full article.
September 18, 2014
ComSonics, a Virginia-based company, is developing a radar gun-like device with which police officers will be able to detect drivers who are texting. The gadget uses the telltale radio frequencies that emit from a vehicle when someone inside is using a cellphone. [via Autoevolution]
According to Malcolm McIntyre of ComicSonics, the technology of the new radar is similar to what cable repairmen use to find where a cable is damaged, from a rodent, for instance. They basically look for frequencies leaking in a transmission, McIntyre said.
September 17, 2014
For those in countries where Internet Service Providers and cellular carriers play hide-and-seek with respect to offering broadband internet, the Cosmos Browser for Android lets you browse the Web using only text messaging (SMS). The need to connect to the internet via a cellular or Wi-Fi network is eliminated. [via IBTimes]
All you require is an Android cellphone, the Cosmos Browser, and an unlimited SMS tariff plan from your carrier.
How does the Cosmos Browser operate?
The Cosmos Browser concept is based on a service called Twilio, which acts as moderator between user and the web service they requested.
All you need to do is key in the URL of your desired website in the Cosmos Browser, which sends a text message to Twilio that in turn forwards the requested URL as a POST request to the backend service (developer program).
September 16, 2014
In August, a widely reported report from comScore, a measurement firm, concluded that the majority of smartphone users in the United States download precisely zero apps in any given month.
One possible explanation is that people just don’t need that many apps, and the apps people already have are more than suitable for most functions,” speculated Quartz’s Dan Frommer at the time. New data from Localytics, an app analytics firm which tracks 28,000 apps across 1.5 billion global devices, lends some evidence to this theory.
According to Localytics, the amount of time people spend within apps has shot up by a fifth over the past year, helping app use alone outpace all desktop computer use. Moreover, people are launching apps more often, up from 9.4 times to 11.5 times a month.
September 15, 2014
The Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too caught up in messaging and tweeting to watch where they're going.
"There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cell phone may cause unnecessary collisions here," said Nong Cheng, a spokeswoman for the district's property management company. However, she clarified that the initiative was meant to be a satirical way to highlight the dangers of texting and walking.
September 10, 2014
For many Americans living below the poverty line, getting adequate healthcare is nearly impossible, resulting in low-income communities being underserved by the health care system. Understanding how to better serve these neighborhoods is a point of concern for medical researchers and community organizers alike. motherboard reports.
Take Parkside, a public housing complex on the eastside of Detroit that houses about 750 people, 90 percent of whom are black. Nearly half of Parkside's residents live below the poverty line. Many of the people who live there can’t afford proper health care, and community organizations like Friends of Parkside (FOP), which aims to improve the Parkside community through a variety of services, are looking for effective ways to conduct surveys to find out how they can help.
Researchers from the University of Michigan teamed up with FOP to address the issue using an often overlooked technology: texting.
Even if people can't afford to pay for their medication or buy things that we perceive as them needing, they will definitely pay for their cell phones and text messaging plans," Tammy Chang, lead author of the study, told me. "Why are we not using this resource? It's a low-tech, basically ubiquitous technology that we can use to tap into their thoughts and opinions about issues going on in their community."
... Chang explained: "What text messaging allows people to do is give their feedback in their time, in their own language—in a language they use to communicate in every other aspect of their lives."
Text messaging, in this context, has a democratizing effect in more arenas than just language. For one, it’s extremely cheap for both surveyors and survey takers. The University of Michigan researchers estimate that it would cost just $50 for a community organization like FOP to launch a text message-based survey campaign.
Read full article.
Motorists popped for texting-while-driving violations in Long Island could be mandated to temporarily disable their mobile phones the next time they take to the road. arstechnica reports.
That's according to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who says she is moving to mandate that either hardware be installed or apps be activated that disable the mobile phone while behind the wheel. The district attorney likened the texter's punishment to drunk drivers who sometimes are required to breathe into a device before turning on the ignition.
Newsday sayd Rice has already brought 82 texting-while-driving cases.
Across the country, 44 states ban text messaging for drivers. At least 12 states bar drivers from using mobile phones at all.
The vast majority of popular apps are guilty of basic failings over user privacy, a report has warned. [via the BBC]
The Global Privacy Enforcement Network(Gpen) looked at 1,211 apps and found 85% were not clearly explaining what data was being collected, and for what reason.
Almost one in three apps were requesting an excessive amount of personal information, the report said.
The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has backed the findings.
Privacy International told the BBC that users being left in the dark on data collection was "completely unacceptable".
"Sadly this type of smash and grab is now becoming an industry standard, where apps are taking as much information as possible and hoping users don't notice.
Read full article.
September 8, 2014
A gadget for text messaging without cell service sees a spike in interest from the pro-privacy crypto and Bitcoin communities -- even though that wasn't its creators' intention. c/Net reports.
goTenna -- a small Bluetooth-enabled rod packed to the brim with modern radio innards -- lets you create your own private, secure communication network for sending messages without cell service using your smartphone. Though marketed toward outdoors and emergency situations like hiking and disaster relief, GoTenna is getting a boost from the cryptography community. Levy, whose neighborhood gets little to zero reliable cell service, happens to represent both. He's among the more than 25 percent of GoTenna preorder customers who paid for the product with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
Read full article.
September 3, 2014
The family of Z3 devices can be combined with a PS4 controller to play console games. Owners will be able to attach the new devices to an existing PS4 controller via a special mount to play titles powered by the console's processors. Until now this "remote play" facility had only been offered to the firm's PlayStation Vita handheld console.
[via The BBC]
September 2, 2014
InSTEDD's iLab Southeast Asia (SEA), an innovation lab located in Phnom Phenh, takes on the illiteracy challenge. Joseph Agoada, Communications Advisor, InSTEDDc explains how they do it, for the Huffington Post.
... In Cambodia, programs delivering critical information via mobile texts to citizens were disrupted by scripting of the local language, Khmer. Many of the second hand phones that the vulnerable population used did not have the ability to type or show words in the Khmer script language, making texted information unreadable and unproduceable.
Through initial interviews with both end users and program implementing organizations, assumptions about the problem were generated about the illiteracy and readability problem, contexts became intimately understood, and potential solutions around use of voice systems were proposed, tested and improved upon. Out of that iterative process came VerboiceTM an adaptable open-source tool that made it easy for anyone, speaking any language, to create and run their own customized interactive voice response systems for mobile phones.
Since its inception in 2011, Verboice has been used to make over 2 million calls worldwide, and is being deployed by dozens of organizations across sectors, cultures and countries for projects ranging from health related reminder calls for maternal n in East Africa to an election information hotline in Southeast Asia. The technology acts an innovation building block that can be plugged-in or build on top of existing work and tools while operating in the background.
Read full article.
September 1, 2014
Despite a lot of investment and even more hype, mobile payments haven’t really taken off. While the idea of using a mobile phone or other device to quickly and securely pay for things sounds appealing, only between 3% and 7% of consumers in the US and Europe use their phones to buy coffee, books, or other physical goods in stores, according to Bain (pdf). Quartz reports.
Why? The system is still a mess. In the US, for example, no in-store mobile-payments system has reached critical mass—thanks to a complicated set of relationships between merchants, card companies, payment processors, mobile operators, handset makers, and mobile-wallet providers. Companies are so focused on claiming their share of the “value chain” that they’ve lost sight of the needs of the people who are actually supposed to be using these services. Payment providers have done such a lousy job with their early mobile products that Starbucks has emerged as a leader by simply doing its own thing.
Now Apple, which will reportedly announce its mobile payment system next week, has a chance to kickstart the market. And it might actually succeed. Because of its size, power, and—most importantly—its focus on the user, Apple is uniquely positioned to make in-store mobile payments work. Finally.
Read full article.
August 31, 2014
According to Jason Del Ray at Re/code, Apple has reached an agreement with American Express to work together on its new iPhone payments system.
According to sources familiar with the talks, Apple should make the announcement at its September 9 product event.
This is the second major credit card company to work with Apple for an iPhone payments system. At the end of July, Amir Efrati at The Information reported, "Visa had agreed to work with Apple’s payments product."
Neither report has tons of details on how Apple's mobile payment system will work. It seems like Apple will keep credit card information securely on the phone, and when it's time to pay for something at a store, the user will just place their phone against a payment device.
[via Business Insider]
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.
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
Back August 15.
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.