photo credit: Charlotte Gilhooly I’m an early adopter, or possibly a serial alpha tester. I’m always willing to give something new a go, especially when it comes to new ways to get around my city, London. I was first off the block to get an Oyster card – a fantastic innovation that has transformed Tube and Bus travel, in my opinion. I was an early customer of the “OnePulse” combined Oyster-Visa-contactless payment card – less than fantastic, but that’s the subject of another post. So it should come as no surprise that I was one of the first to sign up for the new “Cycle Hire” scheme in London – cheerily called “Boris’s Bikes” by the press. (Us Londoners know they’re really Ken’s bikes but “Ken’s Bikes” suffers from a lack of aliteration so “Boris’s Bikes” it is.) They probably had enough work to do just launching the service and getting basic e-commerce systems up and running to worry about mobile app development and I’m aso guessing they didn’t have the expertise in house (though that’s just a guess). Many companies and organizations launching new services, particularly in government, might be in similar situations. They could have decided to bag mobile all together, but that would have been shortsighted. Clearly, this is a service that needed a mobile component.  So, as reported in the Guardian, TFL decided not to roll their own mobile app associated with the service but rather opened the field up budding mobile developers. They did so by releasing their data as an API to the …

Boris’s Bikes and Open Data Read more »

Since upgrading my iPhone to the 2.0 software, I’ve dived into Apple’s app store and I’ve been making a point of trying out apps from across the store but focusing on content creation tools (such as the excellent WordPress app which I’m using to write this post). At the same time, I’ve continued to make use of all the great iphone webapps and mobile Web sites I’ve come to know and love. Increasingly, across many platforms (not just iPhone) application developers and content providers will  face this choice: to build a webapp or to build a native app. There are advantages to both approaches, and some work that’s just getting started that I believe will significantly change the face of mobile development over the next 2 years. The rush of content and application developers to develop iPhone apps has been impressive and somewhat predictable. The app store is the next big thing. Google, Microsoft and others are now jumping on the bandwagon (probably much to the dismay of the folks at Handango who can rightly claim they’ve been doing an app store since before app stores were cool). Many of the apps in the Apple app store are really good and could not (currently) be written as web apps because they either take advantage of device capabilities (such a location) or because they need direct access to graphics or sound capabilities (3D gaming) not available to the browser engine. However – discounting this need to access the platform functions, there’s nothing about, say, the iPhone Facebook …

Mobile Web Apps will Beat Native Apps Read more »

Open Business Model Panel at Mobile 2.0 Europe moderated by Mike Butcher It’s the final panel at Mobile 2.0 Europe, featuring panelists from Blyk (Leif Fågelstedt), Admob (Laurence Aderemi), GetJar (Ilja Laurs), Bango (Ray Anderson) and Fjord (Chris Liu) and moderated by an ebullient Mike Butcher. The theme of openness has been a central one here in Barcelona. Everyone seems to agree that openness is good, but nobody can agree quite what openness means or what should be open and what can remain closed. The iPhone, for example, has been held up as a beacon of innovation, but the iPhone is also closed in a number of respects, especially around native application development. Interesting comment from Chris of Fjord – do we need a “Microsoft” for Mobile (i.e. a single vendor who can dominate the operating system space)? Ray Anderson’s response (which I agree with) is that that common platform could be the Web (and I would add, mobile Widgets which run on top of a runtime environment). Coming back to the iPhone, the thousand+ mobile Web applications in Apple’s directory should be a indication of this trend. The only problem with Web apps is – no access to device capabilities (camera, location, PIM etc…). But this is coming. Both Ilja and Laurence have spoken up on the power of mobile advertising to help bootstrap mobile innovation. We haven’t heard too much from Leif about open business models — they are pretty focused on their basic “voice and text” proposition. My question was: will mobile (Web) …

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Update on the Barclaycard OnePulse. Apparently, getting an application out to me in the mail is too difficult for these guys because I haven’t received it yet. I also don’t quite understand why I have to re-apply for this card. Instead, shouldn’t I, as a valued Barclaycard customer living in London, have been offered the opportunity to upgrade/whatever to the OnePulse card? Big campaign behind this OnePulse thing all over the Tube (see inset: “Welcome to the Future.”) I don’t feel very welcome in your future, Barclaycard. In fact, I’m on the verge of canceling my existing card and writing the whole thing off.

Some get it. Some don’t. It’s not always who you expect. Today I marched down to the FedEx store to send my ailing Powerbook 12″ laptop off to be fixed / upgraded (that’s another story — hopefully to be documented here upon successful completion). Anyway I get down there (114 Strand), stand in front of a desk that says “shipping” and am ignored by some people sitting at a desk and talking right behind the desk. Were they employees? Not sure. There were a lot of people in there but it wasn’t obvious who the customers were and who the employees were. Anyway, finally someone looks up from what they’re doing and runs over in a harried kind of way to ask how they can help me. Pulling out my bag, I say “I’d like to send something to the States.” “Oh. You’ll have to come back tomorrow because the last pickup has already left.” Let’s go over this in detail. 1. The last pickup has left? This is a FedEx store for crissake! And it was like 4 pm. 2.  I have to come back tomorrow? What’s that about? Why couldn’t the guy simply say “well- out last delivery has left but I can take it from you down and make sure it gets out first thing tomorrow.” That actually would have been acceptable (though I still think the last pickup from a FedEx store should be late evening) but the guy didn’t even give me that option. I stormed out of the store after …

Customer Service Read more »

Just came across this news item this morning. Very interesting news, I think. I saw these guys present at Future of Web Apps and I have to say it’s a great application of “user generated content” — in this case, user generated metadata – and “leveraging collective intelligence.” It’s also a good news for the UK startup scene.

Well – it’s more like a Victorian Walkman, but I still though it was cool. This pocket-sized device (manufactured in 1926) unfolds into a miniature phonograph. Amaze you friends, confound your enemies! It was on display on the upper deck of Tower Bridge as part of an exhibit of Victorian musical automata including some other early phonographs and phonograph recordings. The collection is presented with great gusto by a “Mr. Bagpipe” (a gentleman sporting a rather unlikely beard). Your last chance to see it is tomorrow, the 25th. Definitely worth the visit, especially (but not exclusively) for those with small children.

Here’s an interesting trend: I am seeing more and more laptop usage in the Tube these days. To the New-Yorker in me, it would be unthinkable to get out my laptop and start typing away on any kind of public transport — the rest of the passengers in the car would start fighting over who got to keep your hard drive. But hey — this is London and people are little more polite I guess. Anyway it got me thinking about how to bring WIFI connectivity underground. I figure you could do it with a kind of wireless mesh network set up in the tunnels. The Tube drivers know when to stop and go because of signal lights that are placed set distances from each other along the track. You could put a network node on each signal light and voilá — ubiquitous connectivity underground. I wonder if this could be done with “off-the-shelf” equipment?

The London Science Museum is featuring an exhibit called “Dead Ringers?” which highlights the problem that discarded phones pose to the environment. By their count, 1712 mobiles a day are upgraded, and if not properly recycled they can leak poisonous materials. It’s a great little exhibit but unfortunately it didn’t do enough to highlight how people can recycle their phones now. For example, at Vodafone (in the U.K. anyway) there is actually a program in place to accept phones for recycling at any Vodafone store where any money made goes to the Autistic Society. One of the coolest things in the exhibit though was a showcase of some technology under development to make phones bio-degradable and/or easier to recycle. Of particular interest to me was an exhibit of a prototype Pasta-based circuit board. Personally, I find this very exciting because it combines two keen interests of mine: mobile technology and Italian food. Lots of other cool stuff on display as well – I highly recommend checking out their site and visiting the exhibit.

Wow! I think I tapped some kind of latent market demand, because Mobile Monday London looks like it’s really set to take off. So far 61 people have expressed interest in the event and joined the Yahoo group we are using to get organized. We had a good organization call today to get things moving and it looks like we’re going to have a very interesting kick-off meeting on the 7th of November. If you’re interested in attending, please join the Yahoo Group to get all the details.